Hot Times on Monitor: One Steaming Summer On The James

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Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, line engraving. Harper’s Weekly, 1862. New York Public Library Digital Collections

The Union flotilla steamed downriver after its repulse at Drewry’s Bluff to City Point, Virginia. Commander John Rodgers, the flotilla’s leader, recognized that his ships, USS Monitor, USS Galena, USS Naugatuck, USS Port Royal, and USS Aroostook, were needed to support Major General George B. McClellan’s operations against Richmond. North Atlantic Blockading Squadron commander Flag Officer Louis M. Goldsborough sent supplies and additional gunboats, including USS Maratanza, Wachusetts, Island Belle, Stepping Stones, and Coeur De Lion, to City Point. This force was to protect the left flank of McClellan’s army. 

ENTER SIAH HULETT CARTER

William Keeler called Monitor’s new anchorage at City Point “out of humanity’s reach,” and it was there that he would soon witness new facets of war. The Union ships were operating in “enemy’s country” and consequently, armed guards were posted every evening in expectation of sharpshooters or a raiding party. During the night of May 18, 1862, an alert was called: “Boat ahoy!” And a shot was fired on an approaching boat. Captain Jeffers exclaimed, “Boarders!” All available crewmen rushed onto the deck. Once on deck, Keeler “found the vast array of ‘Monitors’ armed to the teeth drawn up confronting the enemy – a poor trembling contraband – begging not to be shot.”    Read more