The Civil War Connections Blog

…a severe monitor…

Engine Register from the USS Monitor

Engine Register, Recovered from the wreck of the USS Monitor, Courtesy of NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

In 2001, US Navy divers and NOAA archaeologists recovered the USS Monitor‘s 20-ton steam engine. Attached to the face of the engine was this brass gauge. It is the engine register, and it consists of a round metal container which houses six numbered brass wheels that would rotate as the propeller shaft turned. The numbered wheels reflected the number of revolutions made by the engine, (74,9088), during the vessel’s service. The function of this artifact was similar to an odometer in modern automobiles. The engine register faceplate reads “Monitor, Engine Register, 1862″ and was the first artifact recovered from the wreck with the vessel’s name on it. There is a small hole torn in the face of the register. This damage was likely caused by impact during the sinking.


MONITOR. So just how did she get her name?  Well – it happened 150 years ago today.


In a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Gustavus Vasa Fox, John Ericsson wrote:

NEW YORK January 20, 1862. Sir: In accordance with your request, I now submit for your approbation a name for the floating battery at Greenpoint. The impregnable and aggressive character of this structure will admonish the leaders of the Southern Rebellion that the batteries on the banks of their rivers will no longer present barriers to the entrance of the Union forces. The iron-clad intruder will thus prove a severe monitor to those leaders. But there are other leaders who will also be startled and admonished by the booming of the guns from the impregnable iron turret. “Downing Street” will hardly view with indifference this last ” Yankee notion,” this monitor. To the Lords of the Admiralty the new craft will be a monitor, suggesting doubts as to the propriety of completing those four steel clad ships at three and a half million apiece. On these and many similar grounds, I propose to name the new battery Monitor.

Your obedient servant,