John V. Quarstein
Director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center
About the Lecture
USS Rhode Island was detailed to tow USS Monitor from Hampton Roads, Virginia, to Beaufort, North Carolina. Commander Stephen Decatur Trenchard, known for his bravery and successful rescue efforts, captained Rhode Island. (In August 1856, Queen Victoria of England presented him with a ceremonial gold sword for saving the crew of the sinking British bark Adieu.)
On December 29, 1862, the two vessels left on their voyage south. As Rhode Island and Monitor rounded Cape Hatteras on December 30, they encountered a heavy gale. Heavy seas overwhelmed Monitor, causing the ironclad to begin to sink. Trenchard maneuvered his vessel as close to Monitor as feasible, launching his ship’s boats. Sixteen crew were lost, yet 47 were rescued thanks to Rhode Island‘s heroic efforts. Seven of Trenchard’s crew members were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during Monitor‘s sinking.
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USS Rhode Island and USS Monitor From Harper’s Weekly, January 24, 1863, page 60.
The Mariners’ Museum 1970.0304.000001