Friday, March 28, 2008

The last of the Civil War Monitors, The USS Canonicus.... 1864-1908

This is a glass negative print of the USS Canonicus

Here she is as a practically new ship in the 1864-65 period.

Here she is in 1907, a relic of an age long past. She was on display at the 1907 Jamestown Exhibition. The following year she was scrapped. Why didn't anyone save the last monitor? Sadly no one really thought of it I guess. So this year sadly celebrates the 100 anniversary of the destruction of the last monitor, the USS Canonicus

They were a class unto themselves and we never really hear about any of them save for the first. Of course that first Monitor was a lifesaver for the United States Navy in 1862 The original design was by John Ericsson.
There followed after the USS Monitor a whole series of them that fought in the Civil War Usually for river and coastal defence. After the war there was not much use for them. What is most remarkable is that the United States continued to make various types of monitors till the turn of the 20th century. However those ships were very much unlike the original monitors of the Civil War.

USS Canonicus, name ship of a class of nine 2100-ton monitors, was built at Boston, Massachusetts. Commissioned in April 1864, she served in the James River area of Virginia from May 1864 until late in the year, taking part in engagements with Confederate batteries on 21 June, 16 August and 5-6 December. On 24-25 December 1864, Canonicus helped bombard Fort Fisher, on the North Carolina coast, in an abortive attempt to capture that vital enemy strong point. Returning to the scene in mid-January, she was part of a large fleet that relentlessly shelled the fort, preparing the way for a successful ground assault that took the position. This operation closed the port of Wilmington to further blockade running and markedly hastened the collapse of the Confederacy.

She was retired in 1872, seven after the war ended to South Carolina where she remained for 35 years!

Though she saw no further active service, the old ironclad was towed to Hampton Roads, Virginia, in mid-1907 for exhibit during the Jamestown Exposition. The last survivor of the Navy's once-large fleet of Civil War monitors, she was sold for scrapping the next year. If only we saved the last one it would have been such a gift to posterity.