The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

November 23, 2012

Auction offers macabre USS Monitor opportunity

(Continued)

"We're very sensitive to that," Holloway said. "But what we do know is so many people who are interested in this history of this vessel take great stock in being at certain places at certain times."

Krop said the visitors will see remnants of the Monitor's battles, including a fist-like impression a cannonball made in the turret. The Dahlgren guns that were in the turret have been removed.

"We're treating this with a great sense of reverence, understanding that all of the men who left the ship that night went out through the gun turret," he said.

The successful bidders of the turret stay will also receiving lodging near the museum and food and entertainment at the museum, which is marking the day with special events.

The museum is limiting the winning bidder to five guests because that is deemed to be a comfortable number for the turret, which is 20 feet in diameter, said John Warren, a spokesman for the museum.

The Brooklyn-made Monitor made nautical history, fighting in the first battle between two ironclads in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862. The Monitor's confrontation with the CSS Virginia ended in a draw. The Virginia, built on the carcass of the U.S. Navy frigate USS Merrimack, was the Confederate answer to the Union's ironclad ships.

The Monitor sank about nine months later in rough seas southeast of Cape Hatteras while it was under tow by the USS Rhode Island. Dubbed a "cheese box on a raft," the Monitor was not designed for sailing on rough water. The crew of the Rhode Island was able to rescue about 50 survivors.

The wreck was discovered in 1973 and designated the first national marine sanctuary in 1975. An expedition about a decade ago retrieved the revolving turret.

Of the Union sailors aboard the Monitor, some fell into the sea and died and some remain within the crumbling hull still on the ocean floor. The remains found in the turret probably reflect the desperate attempts of two crewmembers to abandon the ship before it sank.

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