USS Monitor‘s engines were powered by steam generated by boiling water. Water was boiled by burning massive quantities of anthracite coal. Tons and tons of anthracite coal. Even when Monitor was under tow by the Rhode Island during her last hours afloat, coal was the driving force behind the movement of both vessels. Here is a picture of a small piece of anthracite coal excavated from the interior of Monitor‘s gun turret in 2002.
Original letters penned by crew members of Monitor and modern-day books describe loads of coal as fuel. Archaeologists confirmed this information with their discoveries of coal at the wreck site within the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. But have archivists, historians, and archaeologists led us astray?
Most recently, new evidence has come to light that suggests a different form of power for our favorite Union ironclad. And dare I say — the evidence is strong.
Was USS Monitor a pioneer in the development and use of 87 octane gasoline? Have the experts been wrong for the past 153 years? What do you think? We may need to re-write the history books…