Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy (1802-79)
Born in Connecticut, Welles became the owner and editor of the Hartford Times newspaper in 1826. The same year he won a seat in the Connecticut Legislature dial he held for nine years. In 1846 he began a four-year term in the Navy Department as the Chief of the Bureau of Provisions and Clothing, which provided him with a modicum of understanding of the Navy and its organization. In 1850 he failed to win a seat on the Senate as a Democrat, so he promptly switched to the Republican Party. In 1856 he founded the Hartford Evening Press, but failed in a bid to become Governor of Connecticut. When Abraham Lincoln became President in 1860, he appointed Welles to his cabinet, and in March 1861 he became the Secretary of the Navy, a post he held throughout the war. He quickly demonstrated the ability to select gifted subordinates, and under his tenure the Navy Department grew to meet its new wartime responsibilities. Welles worked hard to expand and modernize the navy, and pressed through the introduction of ironclads into naval service, while masterminding the blockade of the Confederate coastline. Pie was a staunch advocate of Ericsson and his monitor design, particularly after Hampton Roads. Welles was also a loyal supporter of the President throughout his term, but he still argued with Lincoln over several issues, such as press censorship and individual rights. In 1869 he retired from political life to write his memoirs.
John Ericsson, Designer of the USS Monitor (1803-89)
Born in Sweden, the young Ericsson was an engineer in the Swedish Army, but left for Britain in 1826 to promote his design for an engine. Although his machine evoked little interest, he stayed on, and in 1837 he built a twin-screwed steamboat, powered by his own propellers and engines. In 1839 he emigrated to the United Stales, where he began work on a steam warship for the US Navy. Ericsson fell from favor five years later when a fatal ordnance explosion occurred on his experimental warship. He concentrated on developing an ironclad turret warship, but as the Navy refused to deal with him, he tried unsuccessfully to sell his design to the French. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Ericsson completed his design for his warship, and was encouraged by supporters to submit the plans to the Navy Department. After initial reluctance, the Navy decided to award Ericsson a contract to build his ironclad, which was completed in February 1862. Ericsson named her Monitor, and following her success at the Battle of Hampton Roads in March, the name was adopted by a succession of subsequent ironclads of similar type, many of which were designed by Ericsson. I lis patented turret
design was used in most Union monitors throughout the war, and after the conflict his designs were copied or commissioned by several other navies. He continued to design new naval vessels and experiment with propulsion systems until his death.
Lieutenant John L. Worden,
Commanding Officer of the USS Monitor (1818-97) Born in New York, Worden entered the US Navy as a midshipman in 1835, and by 1846 he had reached the rank of lieutenant. He served both at sea and ashore until the outbreak of the war, when he was sent to Fort Pickens, Georgia. His orders were to encourage the garrison there to hold their fort until relieved, but during his return journey he was captured. Worden was exchanged as a prisoner of war in October, and on his return he was selected to command the experimental ironclad Monitor, then under construction in New York.
Following the battle, Worden recovered from his wounds in Washington, D.C., where he and his crew received the Thanks of Congress. He was promoted to the rank of Commander in July 1862, and he became a Captain in February 1863, when he was given command of the monitor USS Mont-auk. He destroyed the Confederate raider Nashville on Georgia's Ogeechee River and then his monitor participated in the bombardment of Fort Sumter in April. In May he returned to Washington, where he was attached to the Navy Department, tasked with advising on the development of new monitors. Following the end of the war he commanded the USS Pensacola, and became the Superintendent of the Naval Academy in 1870. He was promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, and commanded the European Squadron and served ashore until his retirement in 1886, after a half-century of service.
Lieutenant Samuel D. Greene,
Executive Officer of the USS Monitor (1839-84)
Greene graduated from the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, in his native Maryland in 1859, and served as a midshipman aboard the USS Hartford in the Far East until the outbreak of the war, when the ship returned to the United States. He was promoted to lieutenant in 1861, and he duly volunteered for service on board the USS Monitor', then under construction. As the Executive Officer, his duty was to command the turret of the ironclad, and during the Battle of Hampton Roads he used his initiative and common sense to develop a way to use the turret and its guns to best effect. When Lieutenant Worden was wounded during the closing stages of the battle, Greene assumed command of the Monitor, and continued to hold the post until Commander John Bankhead was sent to relieve him. His decision not to pursue the Virginia and continue the battle preyed on him in later years.
Greene was a highly-strung officer, and although he served with distinction for the remainder of the war, and was eventually promoted to Commander in 1872, his guilt never left him. In December 1884, while serving as the Executive Officer in the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Maine, he put a pistol to his head, reputedly while "in a state of high nervous excitement," and killed himself. One historian argued that Greene's suicide was directly linked to the first duel between two ironclads, and the battle's only fatality.
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