Wednesday, December 30, 2015


JFK+50:  Volume 6, No. 1813


Cape Hatteras, North Carolina (JFK+50) 153 years ago today, December 30, 1862, the Union ironclad U.S.S. Monitor* sank in a storm off the coast of Cape Hatteras.

Nine months earlier, the Monitor fought the Confederacy's Virginia in the Battle of the Ironclads off the coast of Hampton Roads, Virginia.  That battle, which lasted four hours, ended with neither ship gaining an advantage or sustaining serious damage.

The Virginia, originally a Union frigate called the Merrimack that had been captured and converted to an ironclad by the Confederates, was a stark contrast to the Monitor, designed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson, which had a flat iron deck with a cylindrical turret in the middle.  The Battle of the Ironclads ushered in a new era in naval warfare and signaled the beginning of the end of wooden warships.

Winston Churchill wrote...

"The combat of the Merrimack and the Monitor made the greatest change in the sea-fighting since cannon fire by gunpowder had been mounted on ships about 400 years before."

The Monitor had been dispatched to the coast of North Carolina to join a fleet being prepared for an attack on Charleston, South Carolina, but the vessel was not suited for duty on the open sea.  The storm caused a major leak around the gun turret which led Commander J,P. Bankhead to order "abandon ship." Sixteen of his sailors, however, perished.

*The U.S.S. Monitor was launched on January 30, 1862 from Continental Ironworks in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY & was fitted with 2 massive 11 inch Dahlgren guns.  Because the revolving gun turret was round sitting on a flat deck, the vessel was described as looking like a "cheesebox on a raft."


"On This Day In History:  December 30,"

"U.S.S. Monitor:  A Cheesebox on a Raft," by Olav Thulesius, Civil War Magazine, November 2006, and Civil War Trust,

U.S.S. Monitor 
United States Navy, 1862