I saw the turret about a year after it was recovered from it's resting place just off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. At that time it was outside in a huge tank with water continually spraying over it, a part of it's conservation.
When we arrived last Friday I was amazed that a huge building had been erected around this tank and many artifacts added to the Monitor Center.
You really need a wee bit of history to help you understand the Monitor's story.
It was in 1861 when the North commissioned it's first ironclad warship. She was a strange looking contraption and was described as 'a cheese box on a raft'. A large gun turret, the first 360 degree rotating gun turret sat above a heavily armored ship.
Just about all but the turret sat underwater to protect it from shell damage. It wasn't much seaworthy and so was towed from New York to Virginia for it's participation in the Battle of Hampton Roads.
The turret had two 11 inch Dahlgren guns which sat side by side. This photo shows a recovered gun in a preservation tank.
With a complete rotation for firing, it was a danger to anything front, back and sideways. The CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor fought it out, firing at each other but really there was little damage done to either ship.
It was months later, on Dec. 31, 1862 that the Monitor sank just off Cape Hattaras, due to high waves. And, there it sat for over a hundred years.
In 1998 the propellor was raised from the watery depths.
In 2001 Divers brought up the 30 long ton steam engine.
In August 2002 the massive gun turret was recovered. These items are in the Monitor Center at the Museum.
A life size replica sits just outside the center and you may walk on the deck. I took these pictures from there
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