Remains of U.S. S. Monitor Sailors To Be Buried At Arlington, Michael R. Ruane, Washington Post, March 7, 2013.
The wind rustled the red, white and blue flags on the two caskets. It blew
the pantlegs of the waiting ceremonial guard, and it lifted the jumper flaps on
the sailors’ uniforms. It might have seemed familiar to the two shipmates whose bones were borne
from the hold of an aircraft Thursday, a century and a half after they perished
in a storm off the North Carolina coast. But the two men, who died aboard the USS Monitor in 1862, were safe from the
winds now, and back in the white-gloved hands of fellow sailors who were
readying them for their burial Friday at Arlington National Cemetery.
The two sets of remains, which were found when the famous Monitor’s 150-ton
turret was raised from the bottom of ocean in 2002, arrived at 11:30 a.m. at
Washington Dulles International Airport.
They were flown through Atlanta on a Delta Airlines commercial flight from a
military identification laboratory in Hawaii. There they had been studied for
the past 10 years, and their identities sought, in vain. As the plane landed, passengers could be seen taking snapshots from the
windows, and the plane’s pilot, Capt. Steve Manley, came down from the cockpit,
stood at attention and saluted near the nose of his jet.
Manley had told the passengers about the remains, explained the history of
the Monitor and asked that people stay in their seats until the caskets were
unloaded. As the gusts came, and quiet commands were issued, the caskets were then
carried by a Navy Ceremonial Guard to two gray hearses, which took them to an
Arlington funeral home to await burial Friday. One of the most renowned vessels in history, the Monitor is famous for
engaging in the first battle between ironclad warships on March 9, 1862. Its
opponent was the formidable Confederate ship CSS Virginia, formerly the USS
The battle in Hampton Roads was a draw, but many people thought the Monitor
had saved the Union from the Confederate behemoth. The Monitor and its crew became national heroes. The ship was swarmed with
visitors who begged for autographs. One woman, given a tour, kissed the guns. An
emotional President Abraham Lincoln went aboard and reviewed the
assembled crew, hat in hand. But 10 months later as the Monitor was being towed off the coast of North
Carolina, it got caught in a fierce storm, capsized and sank. It went
undiscovered until a scientific team located the wreck in 1974.
Most of the Monitor’s crew escaped the sinking, but 16 men died, including
the two who were trapped in the turret. The names of all 16 are known, but experts could not determine which of them
were the ones who were recovered. One was a younger man, about 21, whose skull showed he had suffered a broken
nose and whose feet were clad in a pair of beat-up, mismatched shoes. The other man was older, about 35, and his bones showed that he might have
had a limp from a previous injury. He also had a groove in his left front teeth,
probably from clenching a pipe, and he wore a gold ring with a crude swirling
pattern on a right-hand finger.
The arrival at Dulles was emotional for some of those who had been working on
the Monitor project for years. “I was thinking of the irony that these men who fought to preserve the Union
flew over a United States last night that they couldn’t even have comprehended
in 1862,” said David W. Alberg, superintendent of NOAA’s Monitor National Marine
Sanctuary, who was aboard the plane.
“It’s reassuring that everything that they fought for was not in vain, that
the nation not only survived but has thrived,” he said. The funeral Friday is open to the public. After a service at the adjacent
Fort Myer chapel, the men are to be buried at 4:30 p.m. in the cemetery’s
Section 46. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Juan M. Garcia, who was on hand to meet the
plane, said: “It’s delivering on a commitment we make to every one of our
sailors . . . you will to the maximum extent possible, you will be
brought home . . . even if it takes a century and a half.”
Text Source: Washingtont Post, March 7, 2013
Image Source: Civil War Librarian LLC. This is a photo of a cast of the remains as they were found in the recovered turrent of the U.S.S. Monitor. The cast of the turret's interior is on display at The Maritime Museum located in Newport News, Virginia.