Monday, December 08, 2008

U.S. Civil War History Lesson

Sunday, Paul and I were in Newport News Virginia at an Oyster Roast. This was the Eye of the World's informational gathering and meeting at the James River Marina. This was their first kick-off fund raiser event for the Eye’s educational expedition. The picture above is of Adam Domanski presenting the planned joint adventure and educational project. Adam an NC State graduate student is one of the Eye’s adventurers, along with my son Alan, and their friend Anna.

While there, we spent a couple of hours visiting the Newport News Mariners Museum; we really needed a couple of days. We had known that there would be an exhibit about the USS Monitor, a Civil War ironclad warship. She is most famous for her participation in the first-ever naval battle between two ironclad warships in 1862, the Battle of Hampton Roads, in which the Monitor (Union) fought the ironclad CSS Virginia (Confederates).

This was a bit of news to me. I’d always heard it as the battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack. I even remember when Alan was a very young boy and built a model of both the Monitor and the Merrimack. The exhibits works to correct this statement of history, after all, the Museum is in Virginia. It seems the Merrimack was the original sailing ship that was refit and provided the hull to the then newly named ironclad, the Virginia. The infamous battle resulted in a draw, but forever changed the future of warships.

We did not know that the museum was the USS Monitor Center, including it's conservation laboratory, viewable by visitors, where the recovered turret, engine, and other artifacts of the Monitor are being preserved after it's recovery off the Hatteras NC coast in 2002. The whole presentation at the museum was quite interesting, and well worth the visit.

There were other exhibits as well. Unfortunately we only had time to take a quick look at there International Small Craft Center. Over 75 vessels are on display documenting the diverse ways in which people around the world have set out to sea. Of particular interest, and a wonderful surprise were the two historic animal skinned, skin-on-frame kayaks, and one baidarka. Unfortunately, this came at the end of our visit, and I had no time to photograph them or find out much information about them. A great reason to go back for a visit.

1 comment:

DancesWithSandyBottom said...

From wikipedia...

"CSS Virginia was a ... ironclad warship of the Confederate States Navy during the American Civil War (built using the remains of the scuttled USS Merrimack)."

"Perhaps because the Union won the Civil War, the history of the United States generally records the Union version. In the aftermath of the battle, the names Virginia and Merrimack were used equally by both sides, as attested by the newspapers and correspondence of the day. Some Navy reports and pre-1900 historians misspelled the name as 'Merrimac,' which is actually an unrelated ship. Hence "the Battle of the Monitor and the Merrimac". Both spellings are still in use in the Hampton Roads area."

Mindful that no encyclopedias has a zero rate of errors, Wikipedia is a good and convenient starting point for delving into all those intesting questions about the iron men, wooden ships, and ironclad monsters in that famous battle at Hampton Roads.

Time spent at the Mariners Museum in Newport News is an even better starting point! It's a wow.