National Geographic : 1975 Jan
President Lincoln examined Ericsson's un conventional design and observed, "All I can say is what the girl said when she put her foot in the stocking: 'It strikes me there is something in it!'" High naval officials were skeptical at first, but Ericsson's eloquent ar guments finally won them over. The ship, built at Continental Iron Works in Brooklyn, was launched January 30, 1862. Slow and unwieldy at sea, Monitoron March 6, 1862, was taken under tow for Hampton Roads, Virginia. The brand-new ironclad ar rived at a desperate moment-and, as every schoolboy now knows, in the nick of time. The Confederate's ironclad, the old Merri mack, was methodically destroying the wood en Federal fleet, ship by ship. The first-ever engagement between iron clads took place on March 9, 1862, Monitor having steamed in the previous evening. For four hours the ironclads shook off each other's volleys, often at point-blank range, and the battle ended in stalemate. But the age of wooden warships had ended. Before the close of the Civil War, the North had commissioned 31 Monitor-type gunboats. Monitor rode out mid-1862 near Norfolk, occasionally bombarding shoreside forts. Her deck log for May 7: Moderate breezes from the westward and clear weather. At 1 p.m. President Lincoln and Suite came on board. At 1:30 p.m. the Merrimack hove in sight made the usualpreparationsto receive her.... Lincoln, who visited Monitorseveral times, BOTHBY NATHANBENN An old beacon gets a new beam as "Doc" Ed gerton (above) attaches a transponder of the ultra accurate Del Norte Navigation System to Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Rhode Island had taken her fixes on the cape's original lighthouse. Tempest in a tank (right) re-creates the last moments of the Monitor. Midshipman Douglas Rau takes notes for "Project Cheesebox," an am bitious Naval Academy study of the ironclad un dertaken by interested midshipmen. The model performed much as her iron counterpart did, slic ing through waves rather than riding over them.