This month marks the 150th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Monitor back in 1862, less than a year after its launch. As the most recent newsletter of the John Ericsson Society New York (JESNY) points out, the Monitor had a short life but left a long legacy, with Monitor class vessels actively deployed as late as World War II.
And the story of Ericsson’s ship is not yet finished. A mile-wide cylinder of water from the ocean bed to the surface where the ship sank off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC to the surface has been declared the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Pieces of the ship are now on display at the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News. Most recently, the remains of two sailors have been discovered in the debris that filled the ship’s gun turret over the century and a half it lay at the bottom of the ocean.
When Shannon Ricles, Coordinator of Education and Outreach for the Monitor Sanctuary, was asked why a quick check of the ship’s manifest wouldn’t help with identification of the sailors, she responded with an interesting tidbit: Many Civil War sailors used fake names to enlist. That way, if they didn’t find their new job to their liking, they could disappear more easily!