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Press Releases

Dec. 29, 2012

Lauren Heesemann, 757-810-3314
Shannon Ricles, 757-599-3122

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, Navy
Dedicate Memorial to USS Monitor Crew

150th anniversary of ship's sinking, which left 16 dead

photo of the dedication plaque

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has identified the remains of an early 20th century shipwreck in NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, in partnership with the U.S. Navy, today dedicated a memorial to commemorate the Civil War ironclad, USS Monitor, and its crew. The USS Monitor memorial, located in Hampton National Cemetery in Hampton, Va., honors the iconic vessel that sank in a New Year's Eve storm 150 years ago, carrying 16 crew members to their deaths.

"It is a privilege for us to honor these men and it is our hope that this monument will memorialize their efforts so that we may always remember the sacrifices they made for their country," said David Alberg, superintendent, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

The USS Monitor was designed by Swedish inventor John Ericsson and is best known for its Civil War battle with the Confederate ironclad, CSS Virginia in Hampton Roads, Va., on March 9, 1862. The engagement marked the first time iron-armored ships clashed in naval warfare and signaled the end of the era of wooden ships.

Less than a year later, while being towed to a new field of battle, the Monitor capsized and sank off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The skeletal remains of two sailors were found in the ship's turret during a recovery operation in 2002 by NOAA and the U.S. Navy. The remains were turned over to the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii, which is working to try and identify the sailors. To date, no trace of the other 14 missing members of the crew has been found.

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation paid for the memorial's design and installation at Hampton National Cemetery, which is located near the site of the historic clash between the Virginia and the Monitor. The cemetery's first burials took place in 1862 and the cemetery is among numerous national cemeteries with origins that date to the Civil War.

The USS Monitor's wrecked remains now rest on the seafloor in 240 feet of water, 16 miles south of Cape Hatteras. In an effort to protect America's most famous ironclad for all generations, the shipwreck was designated Monitor National Marine Sanctuary in January 1975, the nation's first marine sanctuary. In the late 1990's through 2002, iconic Monitor artifacts were recovered - including the rotating gun turret - and are being conserved at The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va.

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