Yesterday I had the opportunity to look at the two XI-inch Dahlgrens recovered with the turret from the USS Monitor. The folks at the US Monitor Center have these in tanks undergoing treatment. The guns will be there for several more years before this process is complete. But even in the tanks, these guns reveal an interesting story. So let me offer a bit of a “walk-around.”
Or more precisely, a “walk around the tank.”
And before getting too far, let me suggest the walk-around offered for the USS Keokuk gun in Charleston for comparison. On the books, these are the same type of guns. But the guns differ in details.
With the guns under water, being treated for being under water for well over 100 years, its hard to get a photo without a little glare. But someday these will be out on display.
The front sight mass on one of the guns has tapped holes for mounting the front sight. Would be interesting to see if that gun had a front blade sight.
When cast the sight mass and other fixture attachment points were un-finished – meaning the holes were not drilled. When placed into service, an artificer would drill the holes and a specialist would “sight” the piece. If for any reason the sights or lockpieces were removed from the gun, a standard practice was to fill those holes with zinc or another metal. Otherwise the hole presented another surface area for corrosion to take hold.
The stampings on the breech are clear as the day they the guns were accepted by the inspector.
Notice here the right side lockpiece block. It was altered for use. And think about the times fire went down the vent there to ignite powder propelling a shot against some target… such as the CSS Virginia.
Some other markings on the guns are in honor of that historic fight. Hard, with the glare, to get a st right on view. But you can make out “Worden”, “Ericsson” and “Merrimack.”
Yes, to the Federals, she was still the Merrimack.
Other objects in the tanks include one of the carriages.
Again, fascinating artifact. I don’t know of any other XI-inch monitor carriages extant today. When the preservation is complete, these will complete many volumes of research. These also serve as a reminder these were not simply “guns” pulled up out of the sea, but guns in a service state with equipment and accessories. Some of those are finished with treatment.
Some of these were still attached to the guns when recovered with the turret.
And many of these have stampings which provide sharp details to the story of the Monitor.
A historic record beyond just paper and ink. Real physical primary sources, if you will.
You can read more on the preservation and conservation efforts on the Monitor‘s turret at the USS Monitor Center Blog. You can also see some better photos in the latest issue of Civil War Times Illustrated.