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Battle of Hampton Roads Day

Saturday, March 7, 2020 • 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

All day-time activities are FREE with $1 admission

Join us to commemorate the Battle of Hampton Roads!

This famous Civil War Battle changed modern naval history forever. When the Union ironclad USS Monitor fought the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia to a draw, it proved the supremacy of iron over wood. Many may not realize that Europe was also involved in the new ironclad ships, and not all crew members on USS Monitor were US citizens.

In honor of the battle’s 158th anniversary, the Museum will host a day-long event filled with family-friendly programming and activities, such as:

  • Costumed Historical Interpreters, featuring the Tidewater Maritime Living History Association
  • In-gallery storytelling and interpretation in the USS Monitor Center
  • Guest appearances from Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass
  • An interesting lecture on how technology changed the design and construction of ships
  • Lectures on the historic battle and the conservation efforts of USS Monitor
  • Music of the time period
  • A BattleQuest Scavenger Hunt
  • And, more!

Special Artifact Encounter!

For this day only, guests will be able to see any new artifacts that may have been recently uncovered inside the 11-foot-long Dahlgren guns!

Guests will also be able to stand near these incredible piece(s) of history and chat with the conservators who bored out the gun.


Hampton Roads: Then and Now:

Time: Every ½ hour, starting at 9 AM / Main Lobby

Presented by Lauren Furey, manager of visitor engagement

How many times do you drive over the Monitor Merrimac Bridge Tunnel? Do you know that an important part of history happened right there? Begin your visit with images from the Battle itself and see where it took place with a comparison of historic maps and images from today.

After the introduction, get ready for a fun day and send the kids off on a Battle Quest adventure!


“How Did That End Up in My Cannon?”
An Archaeological Investigation

Time: Hourly, starting at 9:00 AM / McMullen Classroom

Presented by The Mariners’ Museum’s Education Department

Join us for a fun STEM activity exploring the USS Monitor gun boring project. Kids of all ages are invited to design a tool to remove “artifacts” from a cannon and then figure out how those objects got there.


Table Discussion: “Beyond the Shackles”

Time: All day / Lower Lobby

Presented by Wisteria Perry, Interpretation and Community Outreach Manager

Hear riveting stories of the African American experience in North America from Wisteria Perry, Interpretation and Community Outreach Manager, at The Mariners’ Museum and Park.

From the first Africans to arrive in Spanish territories during the 1500s to the various roles played during the American Civil War, not every African American was enslaved. By the mid-nineteenth century, some African Americans were spies or abolitionists. Some were free, some worked on the Underground Railroad, and some even served aboard the USS Monitor.

Gain insight into the compelling lives of African Americans during the Civil War as part of the Battle of Hampton Roads Day commemoration.


Table Discussion: Ironclad Evolution

Time: All Day / Monitor Center entrance

Presented by Erika Cosme, content and interpretation developer; and Brock Switzer, collections photographer

Did you know USS Monitor and CSS Virginia were not the first ever ironclad ships? Come hear about the early years and advancement of these vessels, and explore what initially prompted the need for ironclad development.


Behind-the-Scenes in the Conservation Wet Laboratory

Time: All Day / Batten Conservation Complex

Visitors will get a rare opportunity to step into the conservation wet laboratory, and take a peek at where the boring project for the Dahlgren shell guns recently took place.

Monitor’s guns are the largest caliber smoothbore, cast iron artillery ever recovered from a marine archaeological site. While the process to remove the concretion on the outsides of the guns was relatively straightforward, the bores proved difficult to access and clean due to their size and fragility.

Come learn how a customized cleaning method had to be developed to access and clean the Dahlgren’s interiors. This major conservation process brought the shell guns a step closer to public display in the near future. Also, any artifact discoveries from the gun boring process will be revealed!


In the Monitor Gallery with John V. Quarstein

Times: 9:30 AM, 11 AM and 1 PM / Monitor Gallery (near Officers’ Quarters)

Join renowned historian and author, John V. Quarstein, in the Monitor gallery near the Officers’ Quarters to learn about the diversity of the crews on both USS Monitor and CSS Virginia during the famous Civil War battle. Afterwards, guests are encouraged to stay for a short Q&A with Quartstein.

Guests can also meet Quarstein at the Museum’s gift shop entrance for a book signing between each gallery session talk.


Self-made Men: A conversation with Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Time: 10:30 AM / Huntington Room

Come meet two of the earliest preeminent self-made men in American history, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln! Lincoln was born dirt-poor and became one of the nation’s greatest presidents. Douglass spent the first 20 years of his life as a slave and became the most famous black man in the Western world.

Although these men did not always see eye-to-eye, their relationship with each other developed and changed over the years as did the country’s debate over slavery, abolition, and emancipation.

Nathan M. Richardson as Fredrick Douglass and George Buss as Abraham Lincoln bring these historical characters to life, capturing completely their physical and spiritual essence. You will listen to and be invited to join the intellectual conversation with these great American heroes.

The lecture will be held in the Huntington room.


At the Core of the Problem: Cleaning inside USS Monitor’s Dahlgren Shell Guns

Time: 12:30 PM / Huntington Room

Presented by Erik Farrell, archaeological conservator

Come hear about the major conservation step that recently took place for USS Monitor. Erik Farrell, archaeological conservator at The Mariners’ Museum and Park, will provide exciting details about the development and use of a custom-designed coring apparatus to clean inside the bores of Monitor’s Dahlgren shell guns.

When the turret from USS Monitor was recovered in 2002, it contained hundreds of artifacts including the ship’s two XI-Inch Dahlgren Shell Guns. All of these were initially covered in a hard, thick material called “concretion,” composed of sediment, marine life, and corrosion. Over time, this material has been removed from the guns’ exteriors and, just recently, the Dahlgren’s interiors were cleaned.

In addition, Farrell will share with visitors about any possible artifacts found in the gun during the boring process!


Civil War Lecture Series
European Ironclad Evolution: 1855-1870
Technological Change in Action

Time: 2:30 PM / Huntington Room

Presented by John V. Quarstein, director emeritus, USS Monitor Center

The Battle of Sinope on November 30, 1853, ended the era of wooden ships. The Russian fleet, armed with shell guns, was able to completely destroy a Turkish fleet. Wooden walls simply could not withstand the devastating effect of explosive shells. Accordingly, during the Crimean War, the English and the French developed iron-cased floating batteries to destroy Russian fixed fortifications, but these vessels were slow and unseaworthy. Consequently, the French built the frigate La Gloire using iron-hulled fabrication, and the British constructed two iron frigates: HMS Warrior and HMS Black Prince.

Europeans watched as the American Civil War tested and influenced ship design that featured turrets, sloped armor, shell and rifled guns, and rams. These concepts were tested during the Austro-Hungarian fleet’s victory over the Italian navy during the June 20, 1866 Battle of Lissa. Every major European power created an ironclad navy containing various designs, including turrets and broadside battleships. By 1870, steam became the primary motive power as ironclad warships became larger and more heavily armed. The British laid down the last true ironclad in 1870 as nations then looked to construct steel warships with heavily gunned turrets. The continuous development of hull designs and armaments proved that changing technology now ruled the waves.

Lecture is free with Museum admission and will take place in the Huntington room.


History Bites

Time: 6:30 PM

Tickets: $30 for Museum Members / $40 for general admission

The momentous day will end with the fan-favorite History Bites! This food-tasting event of historic proportions will feature Hampton Roads’ top restaurants and caterers as they prepare their best interpretations of 19th-century dishes.

Guests can sip and savor while mingling with others—including Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass — as well as vote for their favorite dishes. Dozens of delicious bites will be enjoyed throughout the evening as cooks battle it out for the coveted Cast-Iron Skillet Awards, including People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice.

Tickets include unlimited food tastings and one beverage ticket.

Buy Tickets Here!


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