The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

March 3, 2013

Ceremony for USS Monitor sailors still stirs familial ties

(Continued)

RICHMOND, Va. —

The ceremony is scheduled on the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Hampton Roads. On March 8, 1862, the Brooklyn-made Monitor fought the CSS Virginia in the first battle between two ironclads.

The Virginia, built on the carcass of the U.S. Navy frigate USS Merrimack, was the Confederate answer to the Union’s ironclad ships. The two-day battle ended in a draw.

The Monitor sank about nine months later in rough seas southeast of Cape Hatteras while under tow by the USS Rhode Island. Dubbed a “cheese box on a raft,” the Monitor was not designed for rough water.

Sixteen of the Monitor’s 62 crew members died. The crew of the Rhode Island was able to rescue about 50 people. Most of the dead were lost at sea. The wreck was discovered in 1973.

Retired Navy Capt. Barbara “Bobbie” Scholley was commanding officer of the team about 40 divers who descended to the Monitor wreck in 2002. The turret was upside down and filled with coal, sand and silt that had hardened into a solid mass. Divers chipped away until the turret could be lifted.

“We knew there was a good chance we would find sailors in the turret because they would escape that way,” said Scholley, who will travel from her home in Annapolis, Md., for the Arlington ceremony.

“I think everybody realized, yes, this is a piece of history, but it’s more than that,” Scholley said of the mood among divers, archeologists and others on a support barge when the remains were found. “These are men who fought for us and died for us, and here they are and we’re bringing them home. It was very powerful.”

The turret has gone through restoration and is on display at the USS Monitor Center of The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News.

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