Our Little Monitor: The Greatest Invention of the Civil War
On January 25, 2018, Jonathan W. White delivered a Banner Lecture entitled “Our Little Monitor: The Greatest Invention of the Civil War.”
On March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor met the CSS Virginia in battle in Hampton Roads, Virginia—the first time ironclad vessels would engage each other in combat. For four hours the two ships pummeled one another as thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers and civilians watched from the shorelines. Although the battle ended in a draw, this engagement would change the very nature of naval warfare. The “wooden walls” of navies around the world suddenly appeared far more vulnerable to political and military leaders. At the same time, in the weeks after the battle of Hampton Roads, Americans developed their own ideas for improving the Monitor or for sinking the Virginia. This talk will discuss some of the inventions devised by terrified northerners as well as the legacy of the USS Monitor in American life and culture since its sinking on New Year’s Eve 1862.
Dr. Jonathan W. White is associate professor of American Studies at Christopher Newport University and a senior fellow with CNU’s Center for American Studies. He is the author of several books, including Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln and Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War, and coeditor (with Anna Gibson Holloway) of Our Little Monitor: The Greatest Invention of the Civil War.
The content and opinions expressed in these presentations are solely those of the speaker and not necessarily of the Virginia Museum of History & Culture.
Want to listen to an audio-only version of this lecture? Listen now on Soundcloud.