The importance of the Battle of Hampton Roads wasn’t lost on those who fought it, and immediately after the events of 8–9 March 1862, participants and onlookers began recording their recollections. Civil War historian Francis DuCoin’s article “And the Winner Was . . .” relies on reports and reminiscences of a crucial turning point and subsequent events during the Monitor - Virginia fight to determine which was the victor.
While most Hampton Roads battle recollections have long been in print, Monitor First-class Fireman John Driscoll’s hadn’t been published—until now. In “The Last Union Survivor,” Coast Guard Chief Historian Robert Browning presents the Irish-born Driscoll’s account of the Monitor ’s harrowing voyage to Hampton Roads and dramatic duel with the Virginia —a rare perspective of those events from an enlisted man.
After Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt had arranged for Driscoll and other Monitor veterans to take a voyage through the Panama Canal in 1916, the aged sailor had his recollections recorded and presented to FDR. The original transcript is now at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, New York. Many thanks to Dr. Browning for editing Driscoll’s account and bringing it to Naval History, as well as to Mr. Quarstein for providing another sidebar, “The Monitor Boys.”
Our Hampton Roads coverage concludes with a tour of the USS Monitor Center conducted by its curator, Anna Gibson Holloway. Located at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the center is both a working laboratory where items raised from the Monitor ’s wreck site—including her turret and engine—are conserved, as well as a 20,000-square-foot, high-tech exhibition where many of the ironclad’s artifacts are displayed. And for the latest conservation developments concerning another Civil War vessel, the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley , see this issue’s “Naval History News” section.