Thursday, October 25, 2007

The monitor. During the civil war they were worth their weight in gold. But by the end of the war they were obsolete. Yet we kept making them!! ???

One of the old monitors from the American Civil War. Rotting at a pier in the 1870's

This was the big problem with a monitor. This is just moving rather slowly in calm waters. Can you imagine sailing at a good rate of speed or in rough water? It was a fatal flaw specially for the first monitor.

Here are a few pictures of monitors taken around 1900-1902 at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York City. You can see how low they are in the water. But still at this time they were sailing. They were a massive blast from the past as we entered the 20th century.


The USS Monitor was designed by John Ericsson to be used to defend the coast and the wooden battleships that were being terrorized by the Confederate ironclad Virginia. The Virginia was built on the burnt remains of the wooden sailing ship Merrimack. The Monitor was a god send to the Union.
It was in every way an equal to the Virgina and was far more advanced. Through the war there were many monitors made. In fact there was a glut of them after the war. Many were scraped or sold to foreign governments.
But there seemed to be a hard core group who kept pushing for monitor style ships for the US navy. In the 1870's there were many designs put forward for monitors. They were finally built well into the 1880's and 90's. By then they were as obsolete as the wooden ships that they replaced in the civil war.
However Monitors were built as late as the beginnings of the 20th century!

One of the big problems with monitors was that they were very low into the water. In fact, the first monitor was called a cheese box on a raft. As it had a turret, the first ship to have such an item. The ship itself was nearly submerged in the water, which led to many difficulties. One being that the ship when even moving slowly would have water pouring over its decks and often pouring into the ship!
One must remember that as wonderful as the original monitor was it did have this problem. In fact the original monitor was not lost in battle, it was lost in stormy seas.

So through out the years that monitors were made they could not sail with other ships. As they could not sail so fast due to the fact that they would be practically submerged by doing so.
The navy had monitors in use till the time of WWI. By then the last of the monitors were scraped and every vessel built afterwards would have a higher free board.

The monitor was a great development. But sometimes we hate to let go of great developments. And we keep them till they become disasters.