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Robert McNamara

Newspaper Sunday: Sinking of USS Monitor

By January 6, 2013

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A vessel that made naval history, USS Monitor, had its short but glorious career come to an end when it sank in the early hours of December 31, 1862. News of the loss of the Monitor began appearing in newspapers in the following days.

The Monitor was only afloat for a year. But it had changed the way the world thought of warships when it faced off against CSS Virginia in March 1862. The Confederate ironclad Virginia, built on the refitted hull of the USS Merrimac, was destroyed a few months later when the Confederates retreated from Norfolk, Virginia, where it was based.

The Monitor spent the summer of 1862 patrolling in Virginia, and it was being towed to a posting farther south when it flooded and sank in rough seas.

Note: The following links lead to excerpts of news stories; on the excerpt pages you may click on the "persistent link" to view the entire page of the newspaper at the Chronicling America site of the Library of Congress

  • New York Tribune, January 5, 1863: Headlined "Loss of the Monitor," a story gave the first details as well as a list of the missing men and officers. And it also presented the history of the famed ship.
  • Cleveland Morning Leader, January 8, 1863: The assistant surgeon of the Monitor survived and reached New York City, where he provided details of the disaster. His account traveled via telegraph to newspapers across the North.
  • Washington National Republican, January 29, 1863: Weeks later, a story circulated about the crew of a small boat sent out from USS Rhode Island to the Monitor. The rescue party reached the spot too late, finding "no trace but an eddy apparently produced by the sinking of a vessel." The men in the boat then became separated from the fleet and were also assumed lost, but were later rescued by a passing ship.

More: USS Monitor: Vintage ImagesPhotos: Arlington Funeral for USS Monitor Sailors

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