Believe it or not, there’s a link between the first ironclad showdown and the mountains of East Tennessee. The papers of John Worden, who commanded the Monitor during that clash 150 years ago today, are now in a vault at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate.
The day it first occurred to me that I’d scored a really cool internship was when I got to hold the speaking trumpet Worden used in the battle and the Monitor‘s signal lantern. Am I doing some shameless history buff gloating? Why, yes I am!
…to see the turret from the Monitor live and in person. Conservators at the Mariners’ Museum have taken it out of its freshwater tank for cleaning. Once they’re done, the turret goes back in for another soak, and it’ll be fifteen years before they take it out again. Those of us who can’t make it to Newport News by the end of the month can still watch on live webcam.
I’ve wanted to get down there for a long time. I may have told you guys this before, but LMU’s museum has a number of very rare Monitor items in its collection. Some of them belonged to John Worden, who commanded the ship during the battle with the Virginia, including a collection of his papers, mementos given to him by the crew, the speaking trumpet he used in the engagement, and one of the ship’s signal lanterns. One of my biggest thrills as an intern was getting to handle these items in the process of dismantling a display. You can see some of this material in the museum’s current temporary exhibit, “Lincoln and the Technology of War.”