Jonathan W. White is an associate professor of American studies at Christopher Newport University and the author or editor of ten books, including "Our Little Monitor": The Greatest Invention of the Civil War (2018), Midnight in America: Darkness, Sleep, and Dreams during the Civil War (2017), Abraham Lincoln and Treason in the Civil War: The Trials of John Merryman (2011), and Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln (2014), which was a finalist for both the Lincoln Prize and the Jefferson Davis Prize, a Civil War Monitor "best book," and the winner of the Abraham Lincoln Institute Book Prize. He has published more than one hundred articles, essays, and reviews, and is the winner of the 2005 John T. Hubbell Prize for the best article in Civil War History, the Hay-Nicolay Dissertation Prize, and the Thomas Jefferson Prize for his Guide to Research in Federal Judicial History (2010). He currently serves as the chair of the Board of the Abraham Lincoln Institute, vice chair of The Lincoln Forum, on the Ford's Theatre Advisory Council, and on the boards of the Abraham Lincoln Association and the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia.
On March 9, 1862, the USS Monitor met the CSS Virginia in battle in Hampton Roads, Virginia—the first time ironclad vessels would engage each other in combat. For four hours the two ships pummeled one another as thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers and civilians watched from the shorelines. Although the battle ended in a draw, this engagement would change the very nature of naval warfare. The “wooden walls” of navies around the world suddenly appeared far more vulnerable to political and military leaders. At the same time, in the weeks after the Battle of Hampton Roads, Americans developed their own ideas for improving the Monitor or for sinking the Virginia. This talk will discuss some of the inventions devised by terrified northerners, as well as the legacy of the USS Monitor in American life and popular culture since her sinking on New Year’s Eve 1862.