Sunday, October 23, 2011

Civil War Sunday-The Mystery of the Monitor Marker

I am trying to solve the mystery of the Missing U.S.S. Monitor Marker.

The 150th anniversary of the battle, off the coast of Virginia of the Union ironclad U.S.S. Monitor vs. the Confederate ironclad Merrimack (not the Merrimac, which was another ship put into service around 1864) won't be until next March.  But I am hoping to solve this mystery before then.

The wood from which the keel of the Monitor was cut came from this area, apparently a site called Finch Hollow.

The site of the sawmill where the keel of the U.S.S.Monitor was milled is in walking distance (not that I would want to walk there - it's not the most pedestrian friendly walk) of my home.  The site is, in the present day, occupied by an enclosed shopping mall, the Oakdale Mall.

Apparently, back around 1998, there was a historical marker in the Oakdale Mall commemorating the history of the Monitor.

I have no idea what has happened to the marker.  My spouse, who has a very good memory, doesn't remember ever seeing the marker.  So now I have a little mystery on my hands.

Re Finch Hollow, it still exists.  If you drive north on Oakdale Road (which runs north and south, just to the west of the mall)  from the mall, you will find a very nice nature center. I haven't been there in many years, but I remember going there with my then young son.  I don't remember any commemoration of its role in the Civil War on the site, however. (But that was many years ago, so who knows.)

The Monitor (what is left of it) was discovered in 1973 and parts have been brought to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA.  The keel, I am sure, is long gone.  Restorers are in a race against time to preserve the remaining metal parts and guns.  I hope to visit the museum sometime before the end of the Civil War 150th anniversary commemorations.

I could have solved the mystery of the marker (perhaps) last Wednesday, as I was given a brochure inviting people to the opening of a new Civil War exhibition at a local Binghamton museum, Roberson Center.  Broome County historian Gerald Smith was supposed to be there at a small reception.  I wasn't able to make it, although I do hope to get to the museum next weekend for the official grand opening.

Or, I could email Mr. Smith.  But that wouldn't be as much fun as trying to research this out now, would it?

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