Spirits on the USS Monitor: A Daily Dose of Grog

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Commander Catesby ap Roger Jones, ca. 1863-64, Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, NH 48723.

Drinking and fighting always seem to have some type of connection. On the early morning of  March 9, 1862, the CSS Virginia prepared to destroy the remaining Union fleet in Hampton Roads. Its success the day before gave the crew confidence that they would secure a complete victory over the wooden federal fleet. Catesby ap Roger Jones, the Confederate ironclad’s acting commander, thought to give the men even greater encouragement. “We began the day with two jiggers of whiskey,” an elated William Cline wrote, “and a hearty breakfast.” [1] The crew was now truly ready for combat!

Grog was first introduced in the 18th century, eventually a mix of rum, gin, or whiskey with water, sugar, and lime or lemon. It was a boost to sailors fighting the doldrums suffered on long sea voyages or to give a surge of instant courage when preparing for battle. Enlisted men could only drink when their grog ration was issued or when they were on liberty. Officers, however, drank without care and were only punished when their intoxication got in the way of performing their duties. USS Monitor’s paymaster William Keeler fought to do away with the grog ration stating that drinking was the “curse of the navy.”[2] It was true: many Civil War sailors and soldiers were all too often plagued by whiskey, whiskey, and more whiskey.   Read more

African American US Medal Of Honor Recipients During The Civil War – Part I: US Navy

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U.S. Navy poster featuring Medal of Honor recipient Aaron Anderson. Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command # NH 103775.

The Medal of Honor was established in 1862 to honor soldiers and sailors who served beyond the call of duty. It is the United States’ highest military decoration. Battle flags were such significant fixtures on Civil War battlefields for both Union and Confederate armies, and many recipients were awarded their medals for defending or capturing a flag. Twenty-six  Medal of Honor awards were conferred upon African American service members during the Civil War. Eight were presented to naval personnel, the rest to soldiers. 

Landsman Aaron Anderson

Landsman Anderson served aboard the stores ship USS Wyandank with the Potomac Squadron. Anderson, who is also referred to as Sanderson, received his Medal of Honor for a small boat action on Mattox Creek, Virginia. Wyandank was a sidewheeler built in 1847 and was armed with one 20-pounder rifle and one 12-pounder smoothbore. While on blockading duty on the Potomac River on March 17, 1865, a cutter with one boat howitzer was launched from the USS Don. Ensign Summers commanded the boat, and Anderson was detailed to be among several men rowing the vessel. While clearing the creek’s left branch, the cutter came under heavy fire from about 400 Confederates. The launch continued to move forward to burn three schooners successfully.   Read more

Jack Aubrey has nothing on these guys

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Watercolor titled ‘Manoeuvre du Sans-Pareil pour sauver deux prises faits devant Vigo’ by Nicholas Marie Ozanne, ca 1750-1774. (Accession# 1945.02.242/Q 171)

In recent months, I’ve learned two amazing tales of deception and daring that thrilled me to no end. Although the events occurred almost two centuries apart (the first in the late 17th century and the second during the American Civil War) the men involved were that rare breed of human male that inspires fictional characters like Jack Aubrey, Horatio Hornblower or my all time favorite Lord Nicholas Ramage (I actually had to remind myself to BREATHE while reading this series!). Since we could all use some excitement in our new stay-at-home-where-nothing-interesting-ever-occurs lives, I thought I would pass them along. 

I stumbled across the first story while working on our watercolor rehousing project. The image is a small india wash drawing by Nicolas Marie Ozanne titled Manoeuvre du Sans-Pareil pour sauver deux prises faits devant Vigo [Maneuver of Sans-Pareil to save two prizes taken before Vigo]. The artwork was engraved by Jeanne Francoise Ozanne and published by Yves Marie Le Gouaz in ‘Recueil des combats de Duguay-Trouin’ which is where I learned the story behind the image.   Read more

10,000 Items Catalogued (Cont.)

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Virginia's ram
Virginia‘s ram

In my last post, I said that the Library had just completed a massive cataloguing project of items related to the U.S. Steam Battery Monitor and the C.S. Ironclad Virginia. These items came from 59 different archival and research collections. Among them are extremely rare photographs collected by an early Monitor “groupie” in the 1880s by the name of Frank Pierce, letters from sailors aboard Monitor and from witnesses to the Battle of Hampton Roads, both Union and Confederate, unique plans and drawings of Monitor, and receipts from vendors for materials used in her construction. There are also research notes of people who did important historical work on the two ironclads and genealogical work on their officers and crew. Here, then, is an annotated summary of some of the collections we have catalogued. Enjoy!

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10,000 Items Catalogued

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IMLS
IMLS logo

Almost exactly one year ago today, staff member Aya Eto brought to your attention a project we had then just begun in earnest, a project to catalog 10,000 items relating to the construction, service, destruction, legacy, and research on the U.S. Steam Battery Monitor and the C.S. Ironclad Virginia. You can read what she wrote here and see a few of Jacob Nicklis’s letter’s home to his father. Nicklis died in the foundering of Monitor off Cape Hatteras in 1862.

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