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Personal Artifacts

The Lost Monitor Boys | Discovery of Remains | Personal Artifacts | First Look

Several artifacts were recovered from the immediate area around and under the two sets of skeletal remains. These included “pocket contents” consisting of a hard rubber USN comb, badly corroded coins and a pocketknife. Additional artifacts associated with the two individuals included small glass buttons and large hard rubber USN buttons.

A wedding ring was found on the left hand of Monitor #2's remains. Courtesy Monitor Collection, NOAA
 A wedding ring was found on the left hand of Monitor #2's remains. (Courtesy Monitor Collection, NOAA) 

The glass buttons were of a type associated with enlisted men’s frocks (cuff and/or placard buttons) and the hard rubber (gutta-percha) USN buttons are associated with enlisted men’s over coats or outerwear as well as the hard rubber USN issue comb.

Monitor #2 was wearing a gold ring (wedding band?) on his right hand, but no markings were present to aid in identification.

During the subsequent archaeological excavations, NOAA archaeologists and Mariners’ Museum conservators have found within the turret artifacts specifically associated with four of the 16 men who perished. All are pieces of silver or silver-plated tableware, and all are of different patterns, indicating that they had likely been brought from home by the individual officers or crewmen.

A Mariners’ Museum conservator holds one of the silver spoons found in the turret. Courtesy The Mariners’ Museum.
 A Mariners’ Museum conservator holds one of the silver spoons found in the turret. (Courtesy The Mariners’ Museum) 

Among them is a spoon bearing the initials “NKA.” Norman Knox Attwater, Acting Ensign, came on board the Monitor in November 1862. He originally hailed from New Haven Connecticut and was acquainted with William Keeler’s father in-law. There is also a fork with the name “G.Frederickson” engraved upon it. George Frederickson, Acting Ensign was on the Monitor from the very beginning. Initially rated as Master’s Mate, he had been promoted to Acting Ensign in November 1862.

Three pieces of tableware recovered to date bear the initials “SAL” as well as the letters “USN.” Samuel Augee (or Auge) Lewis, was the 3rd Assistant Engineer, arriving to take up his commission in November 1862. Paymaster William Keeler wrote on November 17th of the new officers on board, “Then in the place of Mr. White we have a Mr. Lewis from Baltimore, a mere boy, nearly a cypher in our little society.” A large silver spoon bears the initials “JN.” This spoon is more than likely the property of Jacob Nicklis, a 21 year-old sailor from Buffalo, New York.

Conservators and historians are still unsure how these pieces of tableware came to be in the turret. In all, there are over thirty pieces, along with the remains of a drawer and a chest. It is possible that one or more of the men were trying to bring the ship’s silver chest with them, and then thought better of it. It is also possible that the chest fell into the turret sometime after the sinking. They are, however, poignant reminders of the loss suffered by the Monitor’s crew.


These are before and after photos of personal items found in turret near the sailors’ remains. As you can see, the “after” photos are not much different. These items are made from materials that do not easily corrode. Therefore, they were stable while submersed in the ocean and their appearance did not alter much.

comb before

comb after

Before and after photos of a sailor’s comb. The comb was typical of the type issued by the US Navy. (Courtesy The Mariners’ Museum)

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button before

button after

Before and after photos of sailor’s button. These buttons are most likely from an enlisted man’s coat. (Courtesy The Mariners’ Museum)

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