USS Monitor (1862)

Engraving of the launch of Monitor, 30 January, 1862. Originally published in Harper's Weekly, now in the collection of the US Naval Historical Center.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

USS Monitor was laid down 25 October, 1861, as part of the Union's response to rumors about the Confederacy building one or more ironclad warships. USS Monitor was designed by John Ericsson, actually some years prior, but due to Ericsson's falling out with the Navy, had never been submitted. She commissioned four months later, 25 February, 1862, and was armed with a pair of 11" (280mm) smoothbore Dahlgren guns in a single turret amidships. Monitor was designed for coastal operations, and not for work on the open sea. However, she was immediately dispatched to Hampton Roads, Virginia, to counter the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, and was nearly lost en route during a storm, because the Navy ignored Ericsson's directions for waterproofing the ship. Arriving during the night of 8-9 March, Monitor found the Virginia's handiwork from the day's battle. The next morning, Monitor intercepted the Confederate ironclad, and fought her off, preventing the destruction of the Union blockade. Monitor remained in the area for the next several months, unsuccessfully participating in the attack on Drewry's Bluff, where her guns couldn't elevate enough to hit the hill-based fortifications. Monitor was sent to join the attack on Charleston, South Carolina, in December, but was lost at sea in a gale off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, because, once again, the Navy didn't follow Ericsson's directions for waterproofing. The wreck was located in 1973, and several important sections have been salvaged, including her propeller, turret, and engine.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: Monitor was given the nickname "The Yankee Cheesebox on a Raft", due to her low profile and large turret.

Bonus Fact: Monitor's wreck was likely depth-charged during World War II.