Wreck of the Monitor


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 24, 1863

Welcome to our online archive of Harper's Weekly newspapers. This collection is available for your study and research. These old newspapers allow you to gain new insights into this important period in American History.

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General Sherman

General W. T. Sherman

Monitor Wreck

Wreck of the Monitor

Battle of Galveston

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Civil War Telegraph

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Signal Station


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Wreck of the Monitor

Wreck of the Monitor

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Emancipated Slaves

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Shreman Biography

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Brute Butler

Brute Butler






[JANUARY 24, 1863.


[SEE PAGE 51.]

I were to be always trying to be like somebody else—and I was cross and ran away."

"Then it was Missy who would not say good-by. That was not good manners in Missy."

"But, Dixon, I don't like being lectured!"

"I reckon you don't get much of it. But, indeed, my pretty, I dare say Mr. Corbet was in the right; for, you see, master is busy, and Miss Monro is so dreadful learned, and your poor mother is dead and gone, and you have no one to teach you how young ladies go on; and by all accounts, Mr. Corbet comes of a good family. I've heerd say his father had the best stud-farm in all Shropshire, and spared no money upon it; and the young ladies, his sisters, will have been taught the best of manners; it might be well for my pretty to hear how they go on."

"You dear old Dixon, you don't know any thing about my lecture, and I am not going to tell you. Only I dare say Mr. Corbet might be a little bit right, though I am sure he was a great deal wrong."

"But you'll not go on a fretting—you won't now, there's a good young lady; for master won't like it, and it will make him uneasy, and he's enough of trouble without your red eyes, bless them."

"Trouble—papa, trouble! Oh, Dixon! what do you mean?" exclaimed Ellinor, her face taking all a woman's intensity of expression in a minute.

"Nay, I know naught," said Dixon, evasively. "Only that Dunster fellow is not to my mind, and I think he pesters the master sadly with his fid-fad ways."

"I hate Mr. Dunster," said Ellinor, vehemently. "I won't speak a word to him the next time he comes to dine with papa."

"Missy will do what papa likes best," said Dixon, admonishingly: and with this the "pair of friends" parted.


WE are indebted to one of the surviving officers of the ill-fated Monitor for the picture of her wreck, which we publish on this page. No event of the war has caused more sorrow than the loss of the brave little vessel. Its history is thus told by an officer:

From ten to eleven P.M. the water still gained rapidly. It was now known for certain that she had sprung a leak. The storm was at its height, the waves striking and passing over the Monitor, burying her completely for the instant, while for a few seconds nothing could be seen of her from the Rhode Island but the upper part of her turret, surrounded by foam. This was caused as follows: A huge wave would lift her up, when, in descending to meet another, instead of riding it like other vessels, she plowed through, the projecting armor at her bow striking the water with such force that the spray and foam were thrown around her to the distance of forty feet. This projecting armor is undoubtedly the cause of the leak, as it extended aft thirty-two feet, and forward fourteen.

This constantly striking the water with the force that it did, and the immense weight of ammunition in her hull, must have separated one from the other, thus causing a leak from which she filled and sunk.

She was now found to be fast sinking, and a consultation was held as to whether it was best to abandon her or not. The engineer, entering at this moment, reported that the water in the ward-rooms was waist-deep; that it was still gaining rapidly, and that in less than two hours she must go down. This decided Captain Bankhead to save the lives of his men rather than lose both. Signals of distress were now ordered to be made to the Rhode Island; and while these were preparing Captain Bankhead shouted, "Who'll cut the hawser?" "I will," answered Mr. Stodder, the Master; and taking a hatchet, he, at the imminent peril of being washed overboard, succeeded in severing the hawser, the waves passing over him at every motion of the vessel. One poor fellow, whose name is not known, assisted, but he was dashed off and drowned.

Several of the crew and some of the officers also found a watery grave about this time, by being washed overboard.

It was death to stand on the deck without having a firm hold, and even then the danger was very great. One by one the gallant fellows disappeared from the deck and were seen no more. Many had very narrow escapes. Lieutenant Green was carried off by a wave, and thrown upon deck by its returning. Another officer was carried by a wave along the deck, and as he was passing the turret he seized a rope which hung from there for the purpose of assisting those on the deck to cling to it and save themselves, and was saved.

Between eleven and twelve P.M. the launch of the Rhode Island was manned, and started for the Monitor. About this time the hawser, which now hung loose, became entangled in one of the paddle-wheels of the Rhode Island, so that it could not be worked, thus rendering the vessel unmanageable. She drifted toward the Monitor, and there was great danger of a collision before the hawser could be extricated. The launch was between the two steamers, and before she could clear them the whole of one of her sides was crushed in, just escaping the water-line. The gallant fellows in her had a narrow escape from a horrible death; but nothing daunted, they struck boldly out for

the Monitor with their broken boat, and safely returned with fourteen or fifteen of the Monitor's crew, though in a sinking condition, and landed them all safely upon the deck of the Rhode island. In the mean time the two vessels had approached so near each other that five or six of the crew of the Monitor seized the ropes hanging from the side of the Rhode Island, and started to climb up her side; but only three reached there. The others are supposed to have been struck by the Monitor, when they fell, crushed to death, or perished in the sea. Those on board the vessels tell me that they expected every wave to dash them together, when the loss of both must have occurred. The moment that the Rhode Island was looming up broadside of the Monitor was a terrible one to all. But they passed each other without touching, and many were the relieved hearts and the audibly expressed "Thank God!" that issued from the mouths of the men on both the vessels.

One of the Rhode Island's cutters was now manned and started off about the same time that the launch left the Monitor. They approached each other, and there was seemingly no chance of preventing a collision, when Dr. G. M. Weeks, of the Monitor, Ensign Taylor, of the Rhode Island, and one of the sailors, sprang to the side to part them. The force of the blow was thus broken and the boats saved from destruction. The right hand of Dr. Weeks was caught between the boats, crushing the bones of three of his fingers so seriously that amputation was afterward found necessary.

Between twelve and one A.M. the cutter, after narrowly escaping a collision, started for the side of the Monitor to rescue others. Arriving there, Captain Bankhead held the rope while his men got into it, the boat dashing on the deck several times and being carried back by the waves the same as the launch on the previous trip.

The last of the crew and officers that remained on deck were now in the boat, and none remained on board the Monitor but some six or eight who were clinging to the top of the turret. They were told to come down and try to reach the boat, but neither the entreaties of their comrades nor the orders of their officers had any effect upon them. The poor fellows had seen their comrades one by one washed off and drowned in the attempt to reach the boats; and believing that there was no chance of being saved, even if they reached the boat, they preferred to remain there and linger a few moments more than to come down and meet certain death. Captain Bankhead was then compelled to enter the boat without them and leave them behind. The cutter arrived at the side of the Rhode Island about one o'clock, and the men and officers, seizing the ropes which hung from her sides for that purpose, soon climbed to her deck, on reaching which they were received with open arms regardless of rank.

About two o'clock a last effort was made to reach the Monitor, and rescue those on the turret. The cutter was again manned with a picked crew, and D. Rodney Brown, master's mate, took command, and started for the doomed Monitor; but whether it reached her or not is unknown, as the boat was last seen making straight for her, pitching and rolling fearfully, her gallant crew working manfully to approach the Monitor as soon as possible, when the moon, which had been gradually going down for some time, now entirely disappeared, and the boat was lost in the gloom. [The boat has since been picked up, with all on board.]

The Monitor was last seen at this time also. Just before the moon vanished, a quarter before two o'clock, lights were plainly visible, but her turret and deck were rather indistinct. For a few moments after darkness was all around, the twinkling lights of the Monitor shot here and there like an ignis fatuus, when suddenly they all disappeared, and then it was known that she had gone down. At this time she was distant from the Rhode Island about a mile and a half, while, when the boat was last seen, she was not more than a third that distance, so that it was amost impossible to have reached her. We learn, as we go to press, that the new Monitors Passaic and Montauk had hard work in getting down to Beaufort; and it is evident that some further improvements must be made in this class (Next Page)


Galveston Harbor Map
Wreck of the Monitor




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