Volume 26, No. 12 – December 2013
Volume 26, No. 12
Our fun-filled Annual Holiday Party will be on Wednesday, December 11th at 7:00 PM. I hope to see all members attend. Please feel free to bring a guest. The Round Table will supply a meat and cheese platter. However, all members are asked to bring an appetizer, salad, entrée, casserole, or dessert. Please be sure to bring your raffle contributions. They do not have to be Civil War related. Small gift certificates are always appreciated. A big "thank you" to Harold Teltser for his generous donation of a $25.00 Publix gift card. Make sure you buy your raffle tickets and here’s hoping you hold a winning ticket. Of course, please be sure to bring a check for your 2014 membership if you have not already done so. Finally, everyone should help to clean up and return the room the room to its pristine condition. If everyone pitches in, this will only take a few minutes.
Gerridine LaRovere, President
December 11, 2013 Program
Robert N. Macomber is an award-winning and internationally recognized author, lecturer, and TV commentator. His Honor Series of naval thrillers cover the career of a fictional American naval officer, Peter Wake, which starts in 1863, during the Civil War. From 1882 to the end of his career in 1908, Wake serves in America’s first espionage agency, the Office of Naval Intelligence. Mr. Macomber’s novels illuminate the U.S. Navy’s critical role in the expansion of America from a continental country into a global power. The Honor Series has readers across North America and Europe, and has garnered acclaim from critics, authors, and readers. The tenth book in the series, Honorable Lies, set in 1888 Havana, came out in October 2012 to rave reviews and was an amazon.com best-seller. The newest novel, Honors Rendered, set in the South Pacific in 1889, came out in September 2013, with a 40 event book tour from Maine to Key West. Eleven of the 22 novels planned for the Honor Series published to date are: At the Edge of Honor (2003 Patrick D. Smith Literary Award for Best Historical Novel of Florida), Point of Honor (2004 John Esten Cooke Literary Award for Best Work in Southern Fiction), Honorable Mention, A Dishonorable Few, An Affair of Honor, A Different Kind of Honor (American Library Association’s 2008 W. Y. Boyd Literary Award for Excellence in Military Fiction--The highest national award and monetary prize in the genre), The Honored Dead, The Darkest Shade of Honor, Honor Bound, Honorable Lies, & Honors Rendered (published in September 2013). As well as the aforementioned awards, Macomber is the recipient of the 2001 Florida Genealogical Society’s Outstanding Achievement Award for his non-fiction magazine and newspaper work on Florida’s maritime history, was selected as Florida Monthly Magazine’s Most Intriguing Author of 2006, and named Grand Marshal of Florida’s 2013 Edison Pageant of Light Parade.
Mr. Macomber annually lectures around the world as guest author aboard ships such as Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, the Silver Sea Line, and the Seabourn Line. He has been a naval history lecturer for the American History Forum and the Civil War Education Association, and has spoken at historical and academic venues around the United States. His lectures span 43 maritime and literary topics. He has appeared in many Florida PBS maritime history documentaries, and has been a featured author at state, regional, and international book festivals. In addition to his other work, Macomber is a defense consultant, an annual lecturer in the Distinguished Military Author Series at the Center for Army Analysis at Fort Belvoir, Washington D.C., and has been a Distinguished Lecturer at the U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. European Command in Germany, and for the Supreme Allied Commander Europe at NATO Headquarters in Belgium. He has also lectured at the Office of Naval Intelligence, the West Point Society, the Military Officers Association of the United States, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and various other government and military organizations.
As attendees at his previous 9 talks to the Roundtable, whatever Macomber chooses to discuss will enthrall, enlighten and entertain us. Don’t miss this annual event!
November 13, 2013 Program
Dr. Francis J. DuCoin, a consultant at the U.S.S. Monitor Center at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, led us through the thrilling raising and salvaging of USS Monitor. Dr. DuCoin first gave us the background of the famous battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (originally U.S.S. Merrimack). The French (1859) and the English (1860) had already launched “all iron” ships. In addition, explosive shells developed and used by Russia in the Crimean War meant wooden hulls were doomed. At the beginning of the war, the Northern navy had bungled the destruction of USS Merrimack, which sank at anchor in Norfolk, Virginia. Its boilers and engines had been saved. Stephen Mallory, the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, realized that the South could never build a wooden-hulled navy to compete with the Northern wooden-hulled navy. Instead, he recommended to President Jefferson Davis that the South refloat and retrofit USS Merrimack as a “casemate” ironclad. [A "casemate ironclad" carries all of its guns on the top of the ship but fires through fixed gunports. It is an "intermediate" step between traditional broadside frigate and modern warships with moveable turrets.] Conversion began May 30, 1861 and was completed on March 8, 1862 (282 days). The converted vessel was christened CSS Virginia.
The Northern Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, knew what the South was doing and was desperate to match the threat. Welles had three options and appointed a three-man commission to help him decide:
(1) USS New Ironsides, which used both sail and engines. This would be the most heavily armed vessel in the world but would take another year to launch.
(2) USS Galena, which had a rubber lining under the iron cladding. Cornelius S. Bushnell, a New England ship builder and its designer, was a friend of Welles and a good lobbyist who got a bill through Congress to finance its construction. It participated in the Battle of Malvern Hill, where the many shot holes in its hull exposed its defective design.
(3) USS Monitor, the brain child of John Ericsson (July 31, 1803 - March 8, 1889), who was already at odds with the U.S. Navy because in 1844 a cannon he had not designed on USS Princeton, which he had designed, blew up, killing both President Tyler’s Secretary of State and Secretary of the Navy. Ericsson was not at fault, but was ostracized by U.S. officials. The commissioners, when shown Ericsson’s plans, scoffed that the “cheese box on a raft” was unstable. Ericsson proved them wrong. Monitor took only 118 days from conception to launch! Ericsson’s secret was to subcontract the construction, to use mostly items “off the shelf” and to use a sort of “PERT” chart. All but 18 inches of Monitor was under water – the kitchen, sleeping quarters, engine room, etc. Ericsson even had to invent a toilet that would work under water! The revolving turret was the first ever built. Over 80 different patents were involved.
On March 8, 1862, Virginia, commanded by Flag Officer Franklin Buchanan, CSN, slowly chugged into Hampton Roads on what was nominally a trial run. Buchanan may not have planned to attack, but an article in the New York Times about the launching of Monitor accelerated his plans. On the surface, his ship was badly outgunned (10 guns to over 100 guns on the four wooden-hulled U.S. ships attempting to blockade Norfolk). The first day of the battle was the worst defeat for the U.S. Navy until Pearl Harbor. After sinking two Northern vessels, CSS Virginia retired slowly to Norfolk. That evening Monitor showed up. A "famous" painting of the battle hung in the U.S. Capitol for 25 years. No one liked it and it was taken down. The painting is now in storage at the U.S. Naval Academy. The only problem with the painting (other than its excessive size–6 x 12 feet--and poor artistry) is that hardly anyone on either side (and certainly not the 10,000 would-be spectators on shore shown in the painting) saw the battle! Clouds of smoke from the soft coal burned by Virginia and from the clouds of powder from each shot shrouded the scene. The second day of the battle was a technical "draw" with both sides claiming victory. What is clear, however, is that Virginia failed to break the Union blockade. Some students of the Civil War believe that if Virginia had broken the blockade, England would have at least recognized the Confederacy as a "nation" or might have even entered the war on the side of the Confederacy, and that likely would have meant a Confederate victory. We may have came within one day of being two countries.
The solid shots may have dented their hulls, but the vessels suffered little or no damage. The picture at the left shows dents on the Monitor’s turret, some from the Virginia and some from Confederate shore batteries at Malvern Hill. Lt. John Lorimar Worden, U. S. N., the Commanding Officer, was the only casualty when a stray shell fragment penetrated the view port through which he was peering. Monitor fired 40 times (used 41 shells because they double loaded one time). Virginia retired to Norfolk and eventually was scuttled when the Union army captured Norfolk. After several months supporting McClellan’s Peninsular Campaign, Monitor sank on December 30, 1862, with 16 sailors aboard).
DuCoin now turned to the search for the wreck of Monitor. In 1953, the US Navy abandoned the wreck. In 1973, scientists aboard Duke University’s research vessel Eastward located Monitor, under 220 feet of water approximately 16 miles South-Southeast of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The discovery of Monitor was announced jointly by Duke University and the North Carolina Department of Archives and History on March 7, 1974. On January 30, 1975, the Secretary of Commerce designated the remains of Monitor and a column of water one nautical mile in diameter surrounding the vessel as the first U.S. National Marine Sanctuary. U.S. Navy interest in raising the entire ship ended in 1978 when it estimated that salvaging the entire wreck might cost in excess of $70 million. Nevertheless, research continued and artifacts continued to be recovered, including the ship's 1,500-pound (680 kg) anchor in 1983. The growing number of relics required conservation and a proper home so on March 9, 1987, the 125th anniversary of the battle, Interior Secretary Donald Hodel, designated Monitor a National Historic Landmark and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in charge of all U.S. marine sanctuaries, selected the Mariners' Museum as the custodian of all Monitor artifacts.
Divers recovered an anchor, a propeller, a compass, an engine and a ship’s clock (stopped at 1:05 AM!). The turret had come off and was upside down, half buried in sand. It was not recovered until 2002 along with part of the hull on top of it. The divers also discovered two skeletons in the turret, triggering the military protocol for such an event. Ever since, military forensic scientists have been trying to identify the Union sailors and find living relatives. Reconstructing the skulls, which prior to this took a lot of time and expert forensics, was accomplished in three weeks at a total cost of $48.50 by a dentist friend of Dr. DuCoin! The remains of the two sailors were buried with full military honors Friday, March 8, 2013 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, 151 years to the day after the battle began!
Dr. DuCoin then turned to the work being done in the Mariner’s Museum to preserve the many artifacts recovered from the seabed. In the 1990's, NOAA decided that it could afford to recover and display only the most significant artifacts. To date some 210 tons of artifacts have been recovered. of which the most important are: the turret (upside down), the engine (also upside down) and the Dahlgren guns and gun carriages.
The revolving gun turret is the most famous feature of USS Monitor. While the ship's designer, John Ericsson, was not the first to envision a revolving turret, his design for Monitor was the first completed turreted naval vessel to be built. The turret is 21 1/2 feet in diameter and nine feet tall. It was constructed of eight one-inch-thick iron plates that, with the exception of the first two layers, were bolted together so that they could be easily replaced if needed. It weighed about 120 tons and was able to rotate with the help of two steam engines that used a crank to turn four gears.
Ericsson’s naval steam engine was also a pioneering project. Naval steam engines of the day were massive machines that sometimes were several stories tall. The pistons that drove the propeller shafts of these monsters usually moved up and down, adding to the engines’ size. Ericsson’s pistons moved horizontally, which greatly reduced the height of the engine. He also reduced its width by devising pistons that didn’t have to travel as far to produce the power needed to drive the ship. The result was a relatively compact engine that was entirely below Monitor’s waterline and thus well-protected from enemy gunfire.
Monitor had two XI-inch Dahlgren, smooth-bore cannons that weighed nearly nine tons each. Although most warships had many more cannons, Monitor's rotating gun turret made it possible for only two cannons to be capable of firing in almost any direction without turning the ship. These cannons fired solid shots weighing 140 pounds with 15 pounds of gunpowder. After the battle one cannon was engraved "Worden Monitor & Merrimac" (in honor of Monitor's commander), and the other was engraved "Ericsson Monitor & Merrimac" (in honor of the ship's designer). After the turret was raised in 2002, conservators began the long process of excavating the fragile cannons from the turret and stabilizing them. The cannons were removed from the turret in 2004 and placed in conservation tanks They are currently undergoing extended electrolytic soaking (see picture at left) to remove chlorides from the iron. This process will take approximately five years, after which the cannons will be on display in the museum.
The restoration of the corroded iron of the turret is a 15-to-18 year project. However, not all the artifacts require extensive treatment: when Monitor's turret was excavated in 2002, 24 pieces of silver tableware were discovered. Of these recovered artifacts, the handles of five pieces were engraved with either the names or initials of crew members and officers. Other artifacts recovered included a butter dish, which was stolen from Monitor when it was opened to the public after the battle. Apparently the thief’s family felt guilty about this because it was donated back to the Navy in 1880!
Dr. DuCoin’s talk was so well-received that several audience member want him invited back when restoration is further along.
Last changed: 12/04/13