The Civil War Connections Blog

Monitor Log: 9 July 1862

Ultimately, the Union did not take Richmond in the spring and summer of 1862. The Monitor had spent her time on the James, first supporting McClellan’s advance, and then, with the failure of the Seven Days campaign in early July, his retreat. Her morale effect had not been enough to take Richmond. Yet the public still wanted to know more about her.  From the entreaties of Confederate spy Rose Greenhow to come on board to “see how you look inside,” as Greenhow and her entourage were being taken back to Richmond as part of a prisoner exchange, to continued coverage in Harper’s Weekly, the Monitor and her men were celebrities. Yet all of the images of the vessel to that point had been hand drawn, painted, or engraved. Therefore, as the Union fleet retreated down the James River, Union photographer James F. Gibson came on board to document the celebrated ironclad and her crew. It was also hoped that Gibson’s visit to the ironclad would coincide with President Lincoln’s next visit.

 

Both Gibson and Lincoln visited the Monitor on July 9, 1862, as she lay anchored off Berkeley Plantation on the James River.  Lincoln arrived at 7:45 a.m., before Captain Jeffers was awake. Lincoln had a boat sent for Goldsborough to attend him on the Monitor. The meeting was apparently brief, and both men left before Jeffers ever made his appearance. Goldsborough had been relieved of command and Captain Wilkes would be taking over as Flag Officer that afternoon. Gibson arrived in the afternoon as well and though the President had left, he took eight photographs of the men of the Monitor, the only known photographs of the vessel extant.

 

Some of the shots seem composed in order to take in the still-visible battle damage on both the hull and the turret while other shots are clearly taken to show the officers and crew.

One image of the crew shows a young black man crouched in the foreground, possibly Siah Carter from Shirley Plantation. Next to him a makeshift galley sits on the weather deck, a remnant from the fire on June 23.

Monitor Crew on Deck

Another crew shot shows the men more relaxed, some playing games while another reads the newspaper, seemingly unaware his portrait is being made.

 

More Monitor Crew on Deck

Three photographs show the officers in various combinations, joined by a Lieutenant from the Galena.

Monitor Officers

A final photograph shows Jeffers alone, a visual testament to his alienation from his men. The empty chair next to him – presumably meant for Lincoln – speaks volumes.

Jeffers - Without Lincoln

Copies of the photographs were given to the men, some of whom sent them home to their families. The fatigue and frustration is lined upon their faces.

The images shown in this blog post are taken from copies found in the personal photo album of John Lorimer Worden – the first commanding officer of the Monitor. You can see those images and so much more at The Mariners’ Museum Library and Archives at Christopher Newport University. For more information about operating hours, visit us on the web at http://www.marinersmuseum.org/library

 

The logbook entries for today are short and – as one of our volunteers likes to say – laconic. But 150 years ago today – the Monitor  would finally be seen, through the lens of Gibson’s camera:

 

Remarks July 9/62         

 

Commences & till 4 AM

Calm & clear                                                                          

Louis Stodder

 

 

From 4 to 8

At 7.45 the President & Flag officer came on board  

Calm weather & clear                                                                                                                                                                                                                         S.D.G.

 

 

From 8 to Meridian

Moderate breeze from the S.W & clear weather. At 10 the Flag Ship Dacotah went down the river                                                                                                          

William Flye

 

 

From Meridian to 4

Wind & weather same. St[eame]r Yankee came from above

and anchored near us. Tug Satellite arrived bringing Capt Wilkes USN                                                                                                                                           E.V.Gager

 

 

From 4 to 6

Calm & pleasant                                                                                 

Louis Stodder

 

 

From 6 to 8

Calm & pleasant                                                                                 

S.D.G.

 

 

From 8 to Midnight

Moderate breezes from the S.W & clear weather                  

William Flye