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[179]

The “Lehigh”

A naval historian has compared the monitor type of vessel “to the elephant, who swims beneath the surface . . . and communicates through his uplifted trunk with the upper air.” In action and in rough weather, the monitor's only means of communication with the upper air are her turret and pilot-house, and from this fact alone it was argued that the monitor type of construction would prove to be an elephant on the hands of the Federal navy. Indeed, on her trial trip Ericsson's “Monitor” came near foundering, and thus she finally met her end in a storm off Cape Hatteras, December 31, 1862. But before this, her faults of construction had been recognized and the Federal Navy Department had undertaken the construction of nine bigger and better monitors. In Charleston Harbor the monitors were hit an aggregate of 738 times, and proved conclusively their superior endurance. The “Lehigh” first made her appearance in the James on an expedition and demonstration made up that river by Acting Rear-Admiral S. P. Lee in July, 1863. In September she was attached to Admiral Dahlgren's fleet. From October 26th to November 4th, under Commander A. Bryson, she and the “Patapsco” were assigned to the special duty of hammering Fort Sumter. On November 16, 1863, she ran aground on Sullivan's Island and was dangerously exposed to the guns of Fort Moultrie for five hours before she could be gotten off.

The new “sea-elephant” of the navy — the “Lehigh” in 1864

The monitor Lehigh.


 

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