WASHINGTON, D.C. - The remains of two sailors recovered from the wreck of the USS Monitor will be interred in Arlington National Cemetery on March 8, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced on Feb. 12. The date was chosen to coincide with the 151st anniversary of the Battle of Hampton Roads, in which the Monitor famously squared off against its ironclad counterpart, the CSS Virginia.
The sailors' remains were found inside the USS Monitor's 120-ton gun turret following its 2002 recovery from the ocean floor. The remains were recovered at The Mariners' Museum – which houses Monitor artifacts including its turret – and transported to Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) in Hawaii.
"We're thrilled that these sailors will have an honored final resting place, representing the other 14 Monitor sailors who were also lost," said David Alberg, superintendent of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. "In the years to come, it will be the challenge of NOAA and The Mariners' Museum to continue telling their stories through conservation of Monitor's artifacts, and education about the importance of the marine sanctuary program."
This past spring, clay-model and digital reconstructions of the two sailor's faces were unveiled by NOAA. The models were the result of a collaboration among NOAA, JPAC and the Navy Casualty Office, working with forensic technicians from Louisiana State University.
In announcing the interment, the Navy's Mabus said the remains may well be the last Navy personnel from the Civil War to be buried at Arlington.
The Monitor and Virginia battled on March 9, 1862, in the body of water known as Hampton Roads. Though historians consider the battle to have been a draw, the Union had met the challenge presented by the Confederacy, which initiated an ironclad technology race by converting the hull of the burned frigate USS Merrimack into the CSS Virginia. By developing its own ironclad ship, the Union effectively preserved its naval blockade of the coastline, a key element of the Union's ultimate Civil War victory.
Several months later, in the wee hours of Dec. 31, 1862, the Monitor sank in a storm off Cape Hatteras, N.C., with 16 sailors lost. In 1973, the wreck was discovered, leading to the creation of the first federally protected sanctuary. In 1998, the Navy, NOAA and The Mariners' Museum intensified efforts to recover artifacts. In 2007, The Mariners' Museum's $30 million USS Monitor Center was opened, comprised of the award-winning Ironclad Revolution and the Batten Conservation Laboratory Complex. At the complex, large artifacts including the Monitor's turret, steam engine, condenser and Dahlgren guns are undergoing a 30-year conservation process, along with more than 1,000 smaller artifacts - among them the personal effects of the sailors to be interred on March 8.
"It has long been our wish at The Mariners' Museum to see these two men buried at Arlington," said Anna Holloway, curator of the USS Monitor Center. We are thrilled to know that these two heroes of the Monitor will be honored in this way."
The Mariners' Museum, designated by Congress as America's National Maritime Museum, is an educational, non-profit institution accredited by the American Association of Museums. The Museum, founded in 1930, preserves and interprets maritime history through an international collection of ship models, figureheads, paintings and other maritime artifacts. The Museum is located at 100 Museum Drive in Newport News, Virginia, off I-64 Exit 258A.
For information, visit www.MarinersMuseum.org.