previous next

From Port Royal — a Chapter about the Monitors.

We make some interesting extracts from the Port Royal correspondence of the New York World:

Port Royal, S. C., Feb. 25, 1863.
We have been waiting since the 1st instant for the iron clads to arrive. Two more only are now due. Our iron-clad navy will soon have full and complete control of Charleston harbor. The health and spirits of the troops are good, and everything indicates success.

The requirements of the public service, in addition to my own desire not to say anything which may conduce, however remotely, to the benefit of the rebels, prevent my giving your readers a full description of the iron-clads now in these waters. Our antagonists have shown an amount of prudence and inventive capacity in this war for which few were, until lately, disposed to credit them; and although it is almost an impossibility to imagine any engine of destruction more nearly perfect in all that constitutes offensive and defensive strength than our Monitors, yet a chance remains of the enemy's discovering a Roland for our Oliver, and meeting us with tricks which have not been foreseen in our calculations. Hitherto what they have not prescribed themselves, or have failed to invent they have obtained from the sympathy or cupidity of Muropsaus; and we may rest satisfied that nothing would cause greater satisfaction our revilers across the Atlantic than to see our iron fleet worsted and suns in the harbors of our Southern ports — The time cannot be far distant, however, when this check of will be removed, and the triumph of American ingenuity will then be all the more appreciated when the means are fully made known which have led to so victorious a result.

But there is much in the internal economy of a "Monitor" which will be interesting to the public, even though it be in a non-military point of view. It is not relevant to my purpose to argue whether Ericsson or Timbey be the inventor of that now famous "Yankee cheese box," the turret; apart from that grand feature in these vessels, a Monitor possesses qualities bordering on the marvelous an adaptability of means to the end unexampled in naval construction. From stem to stern she is crammed with strange devices; she combines strength with lightness, with solidity, space with but limited capacity. And to these semi invisibility! Stunning on the pier at Hilton Head, it is well-nigh impossible to make out any one of these vessels across the harbor, whilst a miserable fifty ton schooner, or leg-of-mutton sail boat, stands up perfectly defined to the naked eye. When in motion, the spectator on shore sees nothing but a tower and smoke stack following each other on the water; the holt is down even in smooth weather; and if the Monitor approach in land, a slight, strait line of foam or ripple — similar to that on the edge of a shoal — is all that marks the fron hull trailing its way as it were over the surface of the water. It will be hard work to strike such an object, moving at eight knots an hour through the smoke and noise of a score of batteries.

A chief triumph of construction in the Monitor is the surprising manner in which so much is packed in so small a space. Ton separate and distinct steam engines work out their duties no uselessly within the hull — not a cranes, lever, or pipe raising itself above the water line. The provinces of those ten engines ace as follows: two work the propeller, two ventilate the ship, two condense water for the crew, two turn the turret and two function the pumps. Sitting in the Captains cabin, or standing on the deck no one would suppose that any machinery is on board; all the ten engines perform their several duties with an entire absence of noise, and mile after mile is traversed without any of the motion so palpable in other vessels. When frigates like the Wabash and Minnesota roll unpleasantly in the sea, the iron box Monitor floats solidly in the waters, her decks lovingly embraced by the caresses of Neptune.

Ventilation has always proved as difficult a question on shore as adopt. The art was lost with the ancient Romans. Ericsson has found it. No house on a bill is batter ventilated than the close metal chests called Monitors; in hot weather they are cool; in cold, warm — a mental, equable, temperature permeating the atmosphere throughout. This will appear the more astonishing when it is understood that not a ventilator is needed on the deck other then the turret; the latter is but twenty-one feet in diameter, the deck is two hundred feet long, and as hermetically sealed as solid iron can make it. The revolving fans, turned by machinery, exhaust the foul air from the vessel, throwing it out by the smoke-stack; while the pure air rushes in to supply the vacuum through the roof of the turret, and enters the body of the ship by registers placed in the floors. A hundred men may smoke below, and yet no odor of tobacco will be present, for the fumes are immediately choked out so to speak by the ventilators, and discharged through the smoke-stack. Seventy men sleep in the small apartment called the "berth deck," so small that they have to pack themselves in layers of three, one over the other; yet the atmosphere is so pure add fresh that it is hard to believe any persons are sleeping therein. How few of our bed-rooms are thus well ventilated!

A round tower, a smoke stack, and a raft — such is a Monitor externally. Not a protuberance on deck, simply a plain flat surface of iron from stem to stern; a turret, mo led after a "Yankee cheese box"--then den of two monsters — and a little tower above, where the captain directs his ship, and prays devoutly that fate will throw in his way a few of those so-called "Morvimacs" or "Rams," which pounce at night time upon 'paper gunboats' like the poor little Mercedita. Rams, indeed! These Monitor could "butt" Port Sumter to pieces without firing a shot at it, if there were only water sufficient for them to get at its walls.

But I must check myself, for I am here unintentionally entering upon the subject of "muscle." Suffice it to say, one of these Monitors may run at the top of her speed, that is eight or nine knots an hour, against a solid rock without danger. She would damage the rock, but the bows and hull would come off scatheless. The disaster which occurred to the Wechawken, namely, the breaking in two of her cylinder in consequence of strains received by her machinery in the gales of January, will not delay her entry into active service. Immediately on the facts becoming known to the department a new cylinder was ordered and forwarded to Port Royal. The plates of the deck have been raised and the defects remedied, and I hear that the vessel will be in as good trim as ever by the end of the present week.

The Hunter Foster imbroglio has at length been settled, but it required the presence here of Assistant Adjutant-General Townsend to effect this result. Foster, as you doubtless have heard are this, returns to his department of North Carolinas, while Hunter retains the troops composing the late expedition, and supervises the preliminaries of the approaching campaign. I think we may safely put down the entire of the proceedings in relation to this affair as the masterpiece of blundering during the war. More than all, it is a cruel injustice to two officers--Generals Hunter and Foster themselves. If Hunter was capable of administering the Department of the South, why send Foster here to gather Israelis which belonged to him alone; and if it were not intended for Foster to remain, why rob him of the flower of the North Carolina army? I am informed that he brought with him here the best regiments under his command — regiments like the 14th Connecticut and 9th New Jersey, the herbs of Roanoke and Newbern — whose history is inseparably connected with victory in the Old North State. Again, some of the regiments are splits up — part being here at Port Royal, part at the House River, whilst the force remaining at the latter place is reduced to numbers which render offensive operations next to impossible. What has Foster done that he should thus be started on a fool's errand; and why was it attempted to supplant Hunter at the very moment when his military abilities could be made useful?

A late gunboat reconnaissance in the direction of Fort Sumter showed that the rebels had removed their lower lier of guns, and placed them en barbetts, doubtless with the intention of destroying our iron clads by means of plunging shot. All these have been foreseen, and others also to which it would not be proper to refer. Torpedoes, sunken ships piles rocks, and all the curious gear used to close harbors, will be of little avail. You will discover, within the next two or three weeks at furthest, that this delay in commencing operations has been very usefully employed by at least one branch of the service; but this is certainly no reason for the delay having occurred. Charleston, anyhow, will fall; but it ought to be in our hands at the present moment.

The news of the Ninth Army Corps being at Fortress Monroe has led many to expect the appearance here of Gen. Burnsides. His appointment to command the forthcoming operations would hugely please both the army and navy, and quickly lift the former from its present depression.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Hunter Foster (6)
Hunter (4)
Ericsson (2)
Townsend (1)
Oliver (1)
Neptune (1)
Burnsides (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
February 25th, 1863 AD (1)
January (1)
1st (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: