VIDEO: Saluting an ironclad


The story of the epic sea battle between the ironclad ships the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (the former USS Merrimack) during the Civil War has fascinated history buffs for generations.

Ceremonies were held last weekend to mark the 150th anniversary of the loss of the Monitor at sea Dec. 31, 1862, off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The ship sank in 230 feet of water at 1:30 a.m. in heavy seas while the USS Rhode Island was towing it.

The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va. — home of the Monitor Center exhibit of historical artifacts and interactive displays about the ship — recognized the anniversary Dec. 29, offering visitors behind-the-scenes tours of the conservation lab and a chance to take close-up photos of the Monitor’s armored gun turret. Guests also heard a lecture and attended a memorial ceremony for the 16 of her 63 crewmembers who died in the sinking.

The Coast Guard also conducted a ceremony, laying wreaths 16 miles offshore at the wreck site Dec. 30.

Click play to view the ceremonies and the ship.

Click play for a history of the USS Monitor.

“The Monitor is one of the most significant ships in U.S. history,” said Kevin Saunders, deputy chief of the enforcement branch of the Coast Guard’s 5th District, in a release. “It revolutionized naval architecture and warfare. The sailors on the Monitor displayed legendary bravery, and it is a reminder to all who work on the sea that nature can be ferocious.”

The 172-foot ship displaced 1,003 tons, largely because of its 1-inch-thick iron plating. All but 18 inches of the hull were under water, giving the ship a 10-foot, 6-inch draft.

A 400-hp vibrating-lever steam engine could propel the Monitor to 8 knots.

The wreck was found in 1973, and recovery efforts began in 2002 with the raising of the turret.