“I will stand by you to the last if I can help you.”
- LT John Worden, USS Monitor
A Washington Post article reported today that the Monitor Lab at the Mariners’ Museum will shut down due to a lack of Federal funding. The Mariners’ Museum was Congressionally designated to maintain the Monitor artifacts since 1987. It currently holds her turret, two cannons, propeller, and steam engine.
This news comes as a shock to many in the museum world. The recent burial of two of her sailors who went down with the ship in December 1862 garnered worldwide attention in March of 2013.
That ship might not have meant much to the men of the Virginia when they first saw it steaming into battle the morning of 8 March 1862. They mocked it. It was mocked on both sides. Some called it a “cheesebox on a raft,” or a “tin can on a shingle.” Yet that seemingly insignificant object went on to change the course of naval history forever. Tested in battle. Upheld by a tradition of honor, courage, and commitment lasting to this day. For every man and woman who wears a uniform, you are carrying the torch once held by forty-nine brave officers and men, sixteen of which paid the ultimate sacrifice nine months later in a storm off the North Carolina Coast.
I can only assume, reader, that you care about history. Otherwise, what else would bring you to this blog? Museums and institutions like the Mariners’ Museum and USS Monitor Center work painstakingly hard. If you care about history…if you truly care, please continue reading.
I am not writing this because I have friends who work there or have worked there in the past. I am not writing this as a crusade because the Monitor is a legendary ship. I am writing this for the sake of history. After all, what do we have to look forward to in our future if we do not do the work to remember the past? This is a critical blow to Civil War fans worldwide, especially during this sesquicentennial commemoration.
Every time I step up those stairs and gaze into the large tank, my eyes begin to well up with tears. I did it the first time I saw it, and I guarantee I will do it when I see it again. With the lights on and the staff working.
For fans and enthusiasts of Civil War naval history, the space that separates you from that room and the glass along the wall is the closest you will ever get to experiencing the full weight and might of one of history’s greatest ships. For others, it is their job to work inside the collection space, ensuring that it is maintained and protected. Help them continue to do their good work.
I entreat you reader to take a few moments and sign the change.org petition. It will only take you a few moments. Your effort will hopefully contribute to the continued preservation and commemoration of the Monitor.
John Ericsson, the ship’s designer, could have easily shut down. The victim of circumstance following the explosion on the USS Princeton, Ericsson retreated to a hermit-like existence and bane of the organization he worked so hard to help. But he did not. He pushed through and created the ship we know and love today. Honor him. Honor the men who fought on and with her. It will only take a few seconds of your time.