It was New Year’s Eve 1862 when the USS Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. That night the Monitor and sixteen of her crewmen became a part of the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” It wasn’t seen again, until 1973, when John G. Newton, his daughter Cathryn R. Newton and his Duke University research team, discovered the wreckage. On January 30, 1975 the site of the wreck of the USS Monitor was designated as the country’s first national marine sanctuary and became the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) “Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.” Since that time there have been several expeditions to salvage Monitor artifacts including her lantern, anchor, engine and turret. These artifacts are on display at the USS Monitor Center.
A 2002 expedition resulted in the recovery of the USS Monitor’s turret, which included the remains of two crewmen who went down with the ship. The remains of the two crewmen were sent to the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii who concluded that the sailors were white, each was approximately 5’-7” and one was 17 to 24 years old while the other was in his 30’s. So far, they’ve been able to narrow the possible identities to six, with William Bryan being one possibility. DNA testing and genealogical research will continue in an effort to identify these crewmen. Facial reconstructions were also created to assist in discovering their identities.
The two crewmen were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, March 8, 2013 with full military honors. All 16 sailors will be memorialized on a group marker in the cemetery between the amphitheater and the USS Maine Mast Memorial next to the Space Shuttle Challenger memorial.
The US Navy and NOAA invited USS Monitor descendants to attend the chapel service and interment. Janice and George Weinmann of the Greenpoint Monitor Museum were among the attendees. George’s cousin, Grenville Weeks, was the surgeon on the USS Monitor. He was on the ship when it sank. He was rescued and wrote the “Last Voyage of the Monitor.”
“Their names are for history; and so long as we remain a people, so long will the work of the Monitor be remembered, and her story told to our children’s children….the little cheesebox on a raft has made herself a name which will not be soon forgotten by the American people,” stated Weeks. George’s work with the Museum and its Road Show are fulfilling the words of his cousin spoken 150 years ago.
After the chapel service the group followed a full US Navy band, a contingent of Navy sailors and two horse drawn caissons carrying the two Monitor crewmen to their place of interment. Waiting at the amphitheater to pay tribute to the sailors stood a contingent from the United States Navy & Marine Living History Association and the USS Lehigh dressed in their Civil War Navy and Marine uniforms.
In remembrance of the 150th Anniversary of the Sinking of the USS Monitor, on December 29, 2012, NOAA dedicated a memorial in Virginia’s Hampton Cemetery to honor these sixteen crewmen. The Mariners’ Museum held a memorial service the following day. On January 12, 2013 The Greenpoint Monitor Museum sponsored a memorial service together with Oliver Tilden Camp No. 26, Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and Co. I 83rd NY Volunteers Sons of Veterans Reserve at Green-Wood Cemetery where USS Monitor crew gravesites were visited, including those of Edmund Brown, Issac Newton, Louis N. Stodder and Daniel Toffey.
On April 24, 1996 The Greenpoint Monitor Museum was granted a charter and has worked with NOAA and the Mariners’ Museum to keep alive the memory of the USS Monitor, in Greenpoint, where the USS Monitor was built and launched on January 30, 1861. Once built, the museum will include USS Monitor artifacts for all to see and for the community to be proud to be part of the history of the USS Monitor.
Museum contact: 718-383-2637, www.greenpointmonitormuseum.org
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