|The Lost Monitor Boys|
The Lost Monitor Boys | Discovery of Remains | Personal Artifacts
On December 31, 1862, 16 men perished that stormy New Year's Eve when the USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C. Official reports of the incident listed four officers and twelve enlisted men as lost. The Rhode Island brought onboard the remaining 47 Monitor sailors, who were affectionately known as the Monitor Boys. As the Rhode Island crew shared their warm clothing with the survivors, the ship began the journey back to Hampton Roads.
Upon arriving at Fortress Monroe, the survivors rushed to send letters home to assure their families and friends that they were safe. George Geer sent two letters, one to his wife Martha, which was brief and bereft of detail:
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| ||Fireman George Geer. (Monitor Collection, NOAA)|| |
U.S. Steamer Rhode Island
Jany 2 1862 [sic]
I am sorry to have to write you that we have lost the Monitor, and what is worse we had 16 poor fellows drownded [sic]. I can tell you I thank God my life is spaired [sic]. Besides the 16 we lost one boat that was sent from this Steamer with 11 semen [sic] in is missing. We have crused [sic] two days for them, and have given them up for lost. I have not time to write you any more, but do not worry. I am safe and well. Write to Troy and let them know I am safe.
Geo S. Geer
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| ||Paymaster William Keeler. (Courtesy The Mariners' Museum)|| |
A second, longer letter went to Geer's brother, which had more harrowing details of the sinking; details Geer wished to keep from his wife in order not to worry her. In contrast, William Keeler spared no detail in his letter home, telling his wife "The Monitor is no more…what the fire of the enemy failed to do, the elements have accomplished."
Who were the Lost?
After a complete accounting of the survivors, it was determined that four officers and 12 enlisted were among the missing. Among the enlisted personnel that perished, were three African-Americans. Some initial research conducted on the Caucasian enlisted personnel is noted after each name.
ATTWATER, Norman Knox, Act. Ensign
FREDERICKSON, George, Act. Ensign
HANDS, Robinson, Woolen, 2rd Asst. Eng.
LEWIS, Samuel Augee, 3rd Asst. Eng.
COOK, Robert, 1st Cl. Boy
HOWARD, Robert H., Officer's Cook
MOORE, Daniel, Landsman
Caucasian Enlisted Crew:
ALLEN, William, Landsman , born in England, 5’-10”, 24y.o., ships #70
BRYAN, William, Yeoman, born in NYC, 5’- 7 ½” 31y.o. , ships #39
EAGAN, William H., Landsman, born in Ireland, 5’ – 6”, 21y.o., ships #73
FENWICK, James R., Quarter Gunner, born in Scotland, 5’ – 5”, 23yo, ships #48
JOYCE, (Joice) Thomas, 1st Cl. Fireman, born in Ireland, 5’ – 9- ½”, 23yo, ships #35
LITTLEFIELD, George, Coal Heaver, born in Saco, ME, 5’ – 7 ½”, 25yo, ships #67
NICKLIS (Nickles), Jacob, Seaman, born in Buffalo (?), NY, 5’ – 7 ½”, 21yo, ships #61
WENTZ, Wells (John Stocking), Boatswain's Mate, born in Binghamton, NY, 5'-8", 32yo, ships #43
WILLIAMS, Robert, 1st Class Fireman, born in Wales, 5’ 8 ½”, 30yo, ships #4