USS MONITOR STILL STEAMS ABOUT BROOKLYN
By: Terese Schlachter, “RECON” Producer
The caps are natty – saucy, even.
Presumably conceived in the mid 1800’s, they can be seen these days perched upon the heads of many a Brooklyn elementary school student. The fashionistas recommending the donning are the guardians of the USS Monitor Museum Road Show.
George Weinmann and his wife, Janice believe it’s important for children to learn about their community. Greenpoint, Brooklyn is the northernmost neighborhood in the NYC burough of Brooklyn. It’s well stocked with German, Irish and Polish descendants of immigrant glass and pottery makers. Singer Pat Benatar is from there. It’s also where the USS Monitor, one of the nation’s first ironclad ships was built and launched.
If you watched the newest “RECON” on the Pentagon Channel (Secrets of the Sea) you know the USS Monitor was widely viewed as a comical little ship that would likely not even float once it hit the sea, as it was made of iron. But only a few months after her successful launch in January of 1862 she took part in a decisive battle against the CSS Virginia, using her state-of-the-art rotating turret and guns to keep Confederate ships at bay at the Battle of Hampton Roads. Victorious in war, she sank several months later in a storm off Cape Hatteras, not to be discovered on the ocean floor until 1973.
George Weinmann says she saved the Union. When she went down, she almost took his cousin with her.
Grenville Weeks was the Surgeon General aboard who escaped, and later provided Atlantic Monthly with a beautifully told rendition of the little ship’s sinking.
“For an hour or more we watched … the lonley light upon the Monitor’s turret, a hundred times we thought it gone forever a hundred times it reappeared, ‘til at last about two o’clock Wednesday morning it sank and we saw it no more.”
“Weeks grew up in Manhattan… he went out west and was with the Indian wars taking care of the men out there, “ George told me during a luncheon for Monitor descendants on the day two sets of crew remains were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. “They said he was a little snobbish or whatever but that’s what doctors – they think they know pretty much everything. He got along with everybody basically.”
George and Janice have a ship’s history without a port. So they pile their USS Monitor road show into their car and travel to schools and cemeteries – wherever anyone wants to learn about the nation’s semi- famous little ironclad and the man who designed her, John Ericsson. They bring the uniform hats, the jackets, a model of the ship and other teaching tools. Eventually they hope to build a museum.
To Watch Secret of the Sea part 1 click here.
To Watch Secret of the Sea part 2 click here.