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USS MonitorUSS Monitor

A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage

John D. Broadwater

Narrated by Douglas McDonald

Available from Audible

Book published by Texas A&M University Press

A hundred and fifty years ago, naval warfare entered a new phase with the introduction of ironclad vessels. On March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor, prototype of this new class of warships, fought the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia, after the Virginia had ravaged the Union fleet blockading the James River, sinking larger, seemingly more powerful wooden warships in a potent demonstration of the power of an armored, heavily-gunned, steam-powered warship.

In the world’s first clash between iron-armored warships, Monitor and Virginia exchanged gunfire at close range for nearly four hours. Neither inflicted serious damage on the other. While a technical stalemate, the events at Hampton Roads changed naval warfare forever. In the United States and abroad, iron and steam would soon replace wood and sail for warship construction. Less than nine months later, the now-famous Monitor was under tow, heading south to Beaufort, North Carolina, when she sank in heavy seas, with substantial loss of life.

Monitor was a total and irretrievable loss; even the location of her final resting place became a mystery. Not until 1973 was the inverted hull located, and in 1974 excavation of the wreck began, under the auspices of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in partnership with the US Navy. The decision to place the Monitor in a protected zone—a national marine sanctuary—marked another historic first for the vessel. The story of this decision, the raising of the turret, and the subsequent management of the historic resource adds another layer of history to the Monitor’s fascinating story.

John D. Broadwater recently retired from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, where he had served as chief archaeologist. He has contributed chapters in several books and for more than a dozen years was manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, where he directed seven major expeditions to the remains of the Civil War ironclad warship. He holds a PhD in marine studies from the University of St. Andrews.


“Distinguished underwater archaeologist John Broadwater has created a definitive account of the resurrection of the warship that forever changed naval combat. He describes in fascinating detail the discovery and raising of the USS Monitor's evolutionary revolving turret and its unique steam engine. Broadwater leaves no artifact unstudied, nor mystery unsolved. This is a drama as intriguing as it is spellbinding”

—Clive Cussler, underwater explorer and author of the ongoing Dirk Pitt series

“Broadwater takes the reader along on the last leg of Monitor’s journey from warship to shipwreck to National Marine Sanctuary and museum exhibit. Broadwater produces a history and a memoir that is a fitting final tribute to Monitor’s place in American naval history and in our shared maritime heritage. In fact, perhaps the most significant contribution of this volume is the sharing of Broadwater’s very personal connection with USS Monitor. The first-person style enables Broadwater to reveal to each reader his thoughts, fears, revelations, humour, growing understanding, and sense of wonder regarding this most meaningful of shipwrecks. Sidebars present relevant nuggets of intormation and additional facts, while lavish and colourful photographs, illustrations and tables make the book as suitable for the coffee table as for the library. USS Monitor: A Historic Ship Completes Its Final Voyage is an interesting and illuminating read.”

The Northern Mariner

“This handsome tabletop volume is loaded with well-executed images and maps. Numerous sidebars amplify the reader's understanding of this historical ship. A large bibliography is helpful for those who want more information. Scholars will find Broadwater's book to be among the standard works on the life and times of the world's first build-for-the-purpose ironclad ship. For enthusiasts of marine archeology, naval history, and the Civil War, the book is a must-have ... it will be of significant interest for general readers interested in historical action stories.”

—United States Naval Institute

“In this book John Broadwater presents a vivid and comprehensive account of the USS Monitor project. In exhibiting considerable skill as a story teller, John Broadwater succeeds admirably in presenting this work to a general readership. Permeating the whole operation is the career of one of the most acclaimed maritime archaeologists and ubiquitous flag-bearer for the United States’ cultural-resource-management movement in the modern era, John D. Broadwater. Broadwater certainly achieves his aims via an attractive and well-written work that is primarily designed for general readership as it permeates the bookshops during the 150th anniversary years of the vessel’s launch and loss. Ordinary Americans will certainly enjoy the work, and Civil War buffs will find it entertaining and of value. Apart from the general interest in the Monitor story, this work is important for today’s practitioners and students of maritime archaeology, especially those working in the once remote field of deep-water survey and deep-water archaeological method. Throughout the work the extent and complexity of the equipment, support vessels, service personal and the size of funding attests to the importance of this wreck to the American people as a whole. Hundreds of other names and many institutions are mentioned in a similarly generous way and by this means Broadwater solves the problem all of us face over how properly to credit those who have assisted, provided their expertise proved valuable in so many ways to a complex archaeological programme.”

International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

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