Stories from the Smithsonian

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Visit to the Navy Yard to See an Ironclad, November 20, 1863

Mary Henry Diary, Ironclad - Nov 20, 1863 - Page 1

[November] 20. Went to the Navy Yard to see one of the Monitors there for repairs. She is a flat boat only a few inches above the water with nothing to be seen upon her iron plated deck but a steam pipe a tall pipe for ventilation a few little holes here & there for the same purpose which are tightly closed however when the boat is at sea, and a round turret. We climbed into this through a small opening & saw her great 

Mary Henry Diary, Ironclad - Nov 20, 1863 - Page 2

guns. One of them is a monster the other some what smaller but large enough to make me shiver at the thought of the damage she might do. The turret can be turned in any direction. 18 men are required to man the guns how they can find room in the confined space round them I cannot imagine. The greatest danger they are exposed to is the loosening of the bolts fastening the iron plates which are sometimes driven into the turret by the violent concussions causing great damage. The quarters for the officers & men are of course entirely under water they seem to be quite comfortable although very small. It is very difficult to ventilate the vessel. The pipe for that purpose we observed on deck is a new invention. We were shown an engine for pumping in the air through the opening in the top of the Turret. After leaving the Moniter we went on board of another vessel, which has been awaiting Government orders for three weeks months. She has an apparatus for heating the steam after it comes from the boiler & so a greater amount of power is produced from the same amount of fuel. Capt Blake, her commander, received a sword for gallent conduct on board the Hatterras which was sunk by the Privateer Alabama. In the evening Miss Felton, the Misses Blagden , Mr. Welling Mr. Harris &c took tea with us.