USS Monadnock (1863)

For other ships with the same name, see USS Monadnock.
A lithograph of the USS Monadnock
Name: USS Monadnock
Namesake: Mount Monadnock
Builder: Boston Navy Yard
Laid down: 1862
Launched: 23 March 1863
Commissioned: 4 October 1864
Decommissioned: 30 June 1866
Fate: Broken up, 1874
General characteristics
Class and type: Miantonomoh-class monitor
Displacement: 3,295 long tons (3,348 t)
Length: 250 ft (76 m)
Beam: 53 ft 8 in (16.36 m)
Draft: 12 ft 3 in (3.73 m)
Installed power:
  • 2 shafts
  • Ericsson vibrating lever engine
Speed: 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph)
Complement: 130 officers and men
Armament: 2 × 2 – 15 in (380 mm) smoothbore Dahlgren guns
  • Side: 4.5 in (110 mm)
  • Turrets: 11 in (280 mm)
  • Pilothouse: 8 in (200 mm)
  • Deck: 1.5 in (38 mm)

The first USS Monadnock, a twin‑screw, wooden‑hull, double-turreted, ironclad monitor was laid down at the Boston Navy Yard, Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1862; launched 23 March 1863; and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard 4 October 1864, Captain John M. Berrien in command. It was named after Mount Monadnock, a mountain in southern New Hampshire.


The only monitor of the Monadnock-class to see action during the Civil War, the Monadnock was designed by Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair John Lenthall. Lenthall actually designed four monitors at that time. The Monadnock and the USS Agamenticus were the first and are considered the two Monadnock-class vessels. Lenthall altered the designs of the next two, the USS Miantonomoh and the USS Tonawanda and dubbed them the Miantonomoh-class. Because of the similarities between the two classes they are sometimes referred to collectively as the Miantonomoh-class.

Illustration of USS Monadnock's vibrating-lever engine – front view

The Monadnock used powerful steam engines designed by Chief of Steam Engineering, Benjamin F. Isherwood. Her hull design was also much more streamlined than monitors designed by John Ericsson. Unfortunately, her internal frames were only 4.5 in oak and like Lenthall's USS Roanoke conversion, the weight of her turrets weakened the structural integrity of the hull and she was prone to rotting and cracking.

Service history

Civil War

In service, the Monadnock steamed to Norfolk, Virginia, and there Commander Enoch Greenleafe Parrott took command on 20 November 1864. On 13 December she departed Norfolk for the assault against Fort Fisher. She joined Rear Admiral David D. Porter's North Atlantic Blockading Squadron on 15 December, and four days later departed Beaufort, North Carolina, to join the Union fleet massed to attack Confederate defenses on the Cape Fear River. On the morning of Christmas Eve, she closed the entrance of the river, guarded by Fort Fisher. At less than 1,200 yards from shore she began bombarding the fortification and continued throughout the day. The following morning she resumed shelling as 2,000 Army troops under the command of General Benjamin F. Butler landed north of the fort. However, after coming close to the fort, the troops were pulled back and reembarked in the landing boats.

The attack was renewed 13 January 1865. Through the 15th, Monadnock again shelled the fort's defenses, disabling many of the guns. Firing continued until the last gun on the sea face was silenced, well after the troops, under Major General Alfred Terry, and sailors and Marines had launched their final and successful assault. During the action, perhaps the largest amphibious operation in American history prior to World War II, Monadnock was struck five times. One of Monadnock's sailors, Quartermaster William Dunn, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Fort Fisher engagements.[1]

Having aided in the closing of the port of Wilmington, North Carolina, the South's last important link in the overseas supply lifeline, Monadnock turned toward Charleston, South Carolina. On 19 February, while still in the Charleston area; she sent a volunteer crew to take possession of blockade runner Deer.

After a stay at Port Royal, South Carolina, she steamed to Hampton Roads 15 March. On 2 April, she steamed up the James River to support the final assault on Richmond, Virginia and then assisted in clearing the river of torpedoes to allow safe passage to the fallen Confederate capital. Returning to Hampton Roads 7 April, she sailed out into the Atlantic on 17 April, en route to Havana, where she kept watch over CSS Stonewall. Back at Norfolk by 12 June, she entered the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 20 June to fit out for her cruise to the west coast.

Cruise around South America

The USS Monadnock towing a disabled gun boat off Cape Hatteras (1865)

Monadnock departed Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 5 October; with USS Vanderbilt, USS Tuscarora, and USS Powhatan. Temperatures in the fire-room ranged from 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit (49–60 degrees Celsius) near the equator.[2] Stokers collapsed daily from heat prostration and special inducements of extra pay and spirits were offered to men to take their place.[2] During part of the trip, her crew rigged a single square sail and jib which increased speed by 1.5 knots.[2] After stops at numerous South American ports, she transited the Strait of Magellan and arrived at Valparaíso, Chile while a Spanish squadron was bombarding the town during the Chincha Islands War.[2] Peru later purchased American monitors Oneota and Catawba for use in the War of the Pacific.[2] Monadnocks arrival at Acapulco coincided with Mexican attempts to end French intervention in Mexico.[2] The squadron continued on to San Francisco, anchoring off that city on 21 June 1866. On 26 June she proceeded to Vallejo, California and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard where she decommissioned 30 June.

In 1874 her wooden hull was broken up as part of a program to "rebuild" Civil War era monitors into modern ones. In fact, she was replaced by a completely new ship, which was also named Monadnock.


  1. "Medal of Honor Recipients – Civil War (A–L)". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. 26 June 2011. Retrieved 2 February 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Alden, John D., CDR USN "Monitors 'Round Cape Horn" United States Naval Institute Proceedings September 1974 pp.78–82
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