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tv   Richard Snow Discusses Iron Dawn  CSPAN  February 6, 2017 7:20am-7:58am EST

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my focus under under graded by that assumption taken at each of these cases for a bigger story of what it means to be nobody. [inaudible conversations] >> hi, everyone. welcome to our independent bookstore. we had a second location in jersey city. find more information at that are enough for that event and that picks. we are so honored to be here tonight celebrating the launch of richard no-space, "iron dawn: the monitor, the merrimack, and the civil war sea battle that changed history." let's give richard a round of applause for the new boat.
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he's previously been editor-in-chief and american heritage magazine. several books including two novels in a book of poetry. he's written for films including coney island. thank you for coming and enjoy. [applause] >> thank you very much. thank you to word. what a nice store. thank you for having me. this is the book's publication date. soap or the last few weeks, i've been and what a writer friend of mine called the law before the wall. i'm pleased and honored to have the debut of not only in
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brooklyn, but in greenpoint. brooklyn has made technological wonders. but perhaps the most impressive is the hero of my book. i mean the uss monitor. the single most influential warship ever felt and was born about 400 yards away from here. we tend to think of the civil war. people think of gettysburg, shiloh. it's unlikely anyone will remember the navy. accounted for only 5% of the union manpower and losses for the entire four years of the war were often surpass in a single day of fighting on land. but there are too several warships that deliver the national memory.
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the monitor and the merrimack. they're the first two battleships. in fact, the first to steam powered ships that ever fought each other. but there is more to it than not. a lot of sea fights have been the course of history in hours and minutes, midway, japanese fleet was broken in for a minute. but there's never been a battle quite like this one. it is a test of a brand-new technology that changed everything in a single morning. it is a little of three days after the others took their airplane out to see and won a stunning victory for their country. a lot of writing about the civil war sees it as a contest between an agrarian society and industrial one and of course that is partially true. it is sort of interesting that it was the salad i made the
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agrarian south that brought the technology into the fight. when the war broke out, half the southern born officers in the u.s. navy, if you're worried about this election, think about that one, and then went south, but they didn't take any ships with them. the secretary of the navy has found themselves with a lot of officers. he knew a lot about the scene. he was a good marine layer. he knew the north withdraw blockade along the southern port and would take a generation for his country to build a comparable suite. the what to do. he wanted to go on the attack and every union ship was made of wood.
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right away, he wrote the naval affairs. i regard the possession of an iron ship as a matter of the first necessity. an equality of numbers may be compensated by vulnerability. not only the economy that enables success dictates the width of an expediency of fighting with iron against wood. so we paid to get to chip rights to work on an ironclad. they had the idea of a wooden hall underwater. this is a very concept that's an extremely difficult one for them to pull off. for one thing, it would take a powerful engine to drive the ship like that. they went to richmond, the largest in the south and nothing doing too complicated.
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they solve their problem. one of the united states navy yards is an awful, virginia. barrett is unfair when fort sumter was fired on and the war began. any one of them could have held to be used in common that they panicked and put them all to the torch. the best was the merrimack. she burned right down to the water line sink their engine intact. the whole with sound comedy and chamber sound. half a year's work. but there is still plenty to do. this is a tremendous undertaking. even getting the iron plates,
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733 tons of them to norfolk was difficult. in the end, it hobbled the railway them past the south. but it got there. 100 feet long, with heavy guns inside it. so on august 8, newspaper, and the dirt posted an article that began it would seem the merrimack is being converted into an iron case battery. if so, she will be opposing fortress catastrophe the whole navy at the united states and bombarded cities. now this story -- there is no idea of secrecy coming in no, military and those days you wish the secretary of the u.s. navy a couple days after being published. he was getting well.
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he was a very able guy, even giving it may be in the postmaster general. in the first two months of his administration the benefit lock it among the thousand miles of our coastline. all wooden ships. and now this. bus was worried not only about the iron ship, but where it was being built. his blockade began at chesapeake bay and stretched all the way down to florida. the crucial part was they are the chesapeake. they could strangle the pores of virginia, which were the most important in the confederacy. 10 miles south, they come together and form half the road that natural harbor in the world, both inside of the
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chesapeake. but an indestructible warships there and the north was in bad trouble. and if it got broken by a come and do not come into the work, which everybody was very frightened fan. some most established an ironclad. dozens of proposals. one was for a wrapper class that would delay cannonballs. they chose sun, that paid no attention to what would turn out to be the most important one. the monitor would never have existed if a man named cornelius schnell hadn't had a problem. he was a rabbit guy who taught into accepting his plans for an ironclad. if you can guarantee it will float and guarantee was a big word. so he talked to new york iron foundry owner. i've got this for you.
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he knows more about iron ships than anyone else alive. he lives in new york. go see him. he went that night. he came down to franklin street and the next morning he met john erickson. he showed in his plans. ericsson gave him the good news. and he thanked him and said goodbye. erickson took out a dusty card word box and said, would you like to see my plan for an ironclad? he said yes. john erickson is a puzzling figure among american batters. ..
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>> and then he got interested in steam boats. now, of course, successes has a thousand fathers, but it's entirely possible that ericsson is the inventer of the modern propeller. anyway, one of his ships who was high enough to get him to come to america and build the first propeller-driven warship ever wilt by any navy.
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the ship was a triumph, but stockton and ericsson had a falling out, and stockton spent the rest of his life making sure ericsson never got paid for his navy work. so when ericsson brought out his cardboard box, he was angry with considerable justification at the u.s. navy and had been for years. what was in the box was a cigar-shaped thing with a bulge in the middle. and it was the germ of an entire revolutionary warship. unlike the merry mack, it was all metal, and that bulge was a turret that could revolve to point its guns at any enemy no matter which way the ship was going. he got in to see the president, pitched ericsson's design, and he got the best possible listener. abraham lincoln, with the possible exception of jefferson,
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was more interested in inventions than any president we have ever had. he's the only american president to receive a patent, and he got it for a maritime thing, a dice that would lift -- a device that would left stranded river boats off shoals. he got the idea right away. the first meeting went well, but the next one didn't. one board member, captain davis, put his opinion of ericsson's idea in biblical terms, he pushed the model back at bushnell and said you may take that little thing home and worship it. it would not be idolatry since it was made in the image of nothing that is in the heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water under the earth. so now what? even though ericsson was abidingly mad at the navy, bushnell got him to go to
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washington to explain the ship himself, and he was very persuasive. when the board said it was board the ship wouldn't be stable, he said she will float upon the water, and she will live in it like a duck. and after he explained why, the head of the board said, sir -- you know, this is a guy who'd been in the navy for 40 years -- sir, i have learned more about the stability of a vessel from what you have said than i have ever known before. so ericsson got his contract, but it was a tough one. he had a hundred days to put together what was the most complicated machine ever built in the world at that time. and the biblical captain davis was quite right about this being new under the son. the monitor, 170 feet long, had an absolutely flat deck that rode only 8 inches above the water. it was a submarine really,
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although that word did not yet exist to describe a vessel. all that stuck up was the turret, and it was only 20 feet across, and it only held two guns, but they were big ones. the ship had perhaps 50 patentable inventions, but ericsson was too busy to file for any of them. and when she was launched into the east river right over there on january 30, 1862, she did, indeed, float like a duck. now, in the meantime, the rebuilt merrimack had also been launched. she, too, stayed above the water. mallory chose as her captain a man named franklin buchanan. he'd founded the u.s. naval academy, but he was best known as being absolutely ferocious, and mallory wanted a man of violence. she had a crew of about 300 because they had to work ten guns.
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the monitor had a crew of only 48, and her captain was a man named james warden. his sole claim to fame was that he'd been taken after delivering a message to a uniupon -- uniont in florida. both sides knew they were in a race, and the merrimack won it. on march 8, 1862, captain buchanan ordered to up anchor and steam out for the hampton roads. there were several powerful union ships on station there, and the ones closest to the merrimack were the cumberland and the congress. and together they mounted seven times as many heavy guns.
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buy can nab went for the -- buchanan went for the cumberland first. its pilot said our shot bounced off the side like india rubber. she kept comping on. -- coming on. she had a spike at her bow. slowly she moves and horribly upon the doomed vessel like a rhinoceros, she sinks down her head and her frightful horn. with a dead, soul-rebelling crunch, she pierces her starboard bow, lifting her up as a man does a toy. the cumberland started sinking right away. her gunners kept on firing until the water was around their knees. not one shot pierced the merrimack. the cumberland went down with her flag still flying and 121 dead beneath it.
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then the merrimack turned on the congress, set her on fire. she surrendered. 120 more dead. and the target was another union frigate, the minnesota. it steamed over to help and had run aground. but now the tide was going out, and the minnesota would be there to dump -- [inaudible] and the merrimack called it a day. quite a day. it was the worst defeat the union navy had ever suffered and would remain so until pearl harbor 80 years later. fully expecting to see the merrimack steaming upriver. and where was the monitor? very nearly on the bottom of the atlantic. she'd set out from brooklyn the
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day before and run into a storm that knocked out her ventilators which filled all her spaces with poisons gases -- poison gases. her engine crew passed out. they thought she'd die, you know, the other crew members thought they'd died. they hadn't. as they came to, the ship nearly sank twice. but just at dusk on the second day of this awful voyage, she entered the chesapeake, she steamed in past the sunken cumberland and the still-burning congress exploded a few hourses later. about one in the morning, the lookouts on the stranded minnesota saw this strange little shape in the darkness. and the minnesota's skipper said all onboard felt we had a friend that would stand by us in our hour of trial. all onboard felt nothing of the sort. [laughter]
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at the time, he was absolutely appalled with this ludicrous little pie plate, was that the best the north could come up with against the monster that just killed two of the finest frigates in the world? a union sailor on a tugboat was trying to tug the minnesota off its sandbar wrote: the next morning was a fine one, clear or and blight. there was the little monitor flat on the water like a turtle. we all commenced to comment on her and make fun. oh, that little thing? we could lick her ourselves. that's certainly what they thought on the merrimack. captain warden called the captain, van brunt, i will stand by you to the last, and van brunt shouted back, no, sir, you cannot help me. he expected the monitor to stand off and try to pester the merrimack from the longest
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possible distance, but that wasn't what happened. much to my astonishment, she laid herself alongside the merrimack. he wasn't the only one to be astonished. when the monitor fired her first shot, her quartermaster said you can see surprise on a ship just as you can on a human being, and there was surprise all over the merrimack. the monitor's executive officer said now mark the condition our men were in. for 48 hours they'd had no rest, very little food, but of after that first gun was fired, we forgot all fatigue, hard work and anything else and went to work fighting as hard as men ever did. they did on the merrimack too. she had more guns. the monitor was more nimble. the merrimack kept trying to get at the minnesota, warden kept getting in between them.
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they fought for four hours and neither ship hurt the other until a shell exploded in front of the hon to have's -- the monitor's wheelhouse. the merrimack thought the monitor was retreating, headed back to norfolk, and that was the end of the battle of hampton roads. just a few hours on a sunday morning, but what a noise it made. one of the many things that makes a battle unusual is each side truly believed it had won. neither ship sank the other, so it is often called a draw. captain van brunt didn't think it was a draw. his ship survived and so did the union blockade. the fight had the most immediate world wild impact -- worldwide impact. a few weeks earlier the london
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newspaper had made fun of america's dwarf fleet and shapeless mass of incoherent squads they call an army. now that dwarf fleet suddenly looked very different. the british press changed its tune. the london times said nine-tenth os of the british -- tenths of the british navy have been rendered entirely useless. and just a month later the british admiralty halted construction on all wooden warships. over here the monitor continued to guard hampton roads while the merrimack held norfolk. both crews wanted a rematch. that never happened. in may the confederates blew up the merrimack to keep it from falling into enemy hands. eight months later, the monitor got caught in a gale and sank
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off cape hatteras. but although both ships were gone with the year, their short lives sparked a technical and naval revolution that continues to this day. the last united states ships to be called monitors patrolled the rivers of vietnam. the revolving turret will be with us for decades, perhaps centuries to come. there are somewhat strangely, there has never been a well known poem the way oliver or wendell holmes wrote about old ironside. but john brown's body, steven vincent benet wrote about not it, but what has been changed. he doesn't look to the future, but to the past and writes an epitaph for the 2,000-year tradition that hampton roads put to an end. he writes: the sinking of all
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the world's old sea bitten names, victory and constellation , golden mind, galleys of anthony, galleys of cartage, galleons with gilded virgins, spiking long servants, argos of the acquit january pride. moving to sea in one long wooden wall behind a huge ghost flagship of the arc in such a swelling cloud of phantom sail they whitened ocean. going down by the head. green water seeping through the batten ports. spreading along the scrubbed and famous decks, going down, going down, going down. the mermaid pools, the fiddler's green to the dim barnacle thrones where davy jones drinks
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everlasting rum with the seahorses of his sunken dreams. thank you. [applause] >> so you said that -- [inaudible] so what was the immediate impact on the civil war? the style changed, helped change the outcome of the war, but what was the -- >> well, the immediate impact was, fortunately for the north, the lack of impact in that had it, you know, the thing that lincoln was scared about when he was looking down the potomac was that the merrimack had already sunk every union ship and now was coming up to bombard washington. that would have been highly
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unlikely. it was not a ship that was easy to handle. but had it broken the blockade, there would have -- it would have had immediate effect on the national morale. that year had gone very badly for the union. and if the south had suddenly broken through, there was a very real thought that the european powers would intervene with. looking back from 160 years, that seems unlikely, but nobody be thought so at the time. it had a great effect on morale simply because the first day's fighting was so disastrous. >> you tell us a little bit about the name merrimack, where did that come from? >> oh, well -- [laughter]
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this is something that's, that may not consume host of you, but a lot of people have argued about. i ran a history magazine for many years, and there wasn't a month that went by that we didn't have someone writing in and saying that the merrimac should be called the virginia. and there is -- now, the merrimack was the uss merrimack. it was named for a massachusetts river. when the confederates launched it, they rechristianed it the virginia. and it fought under that title. but it's interesting that once in a great while in official communications the officer on the ship would write about the virginia. whenever they were talking about
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it or writing their family, they called it the merrimack. and, you know, there's another, there's, you know, another element to this which would say that, you know, the ship hadn't been sold out of our navy. everybody remembers that as her name, but the north certainly hadn't sold the merrimack to the south. and a lot of people contend that among the larger issues solved by the war was what to call this ship. but it's an argument that goes on and on x people feel quite passionate about it. >> so what drew you to the subject? was it that -- >> i've always been, i've always been interested in this. i don't know when i first became
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aware of it, but i do know that when i was having a wretched time in summer camp at the able of 10 -- [laughter] -- at the age of 10, i did, i remember doing a lot of drawings of these ships. and it's a very nice subject for an unhappy and not particularly talented 10-year-old artist -- [laughter] because they're both very easy to draw. you know? the hon to have is this nice -- the monitor is this nice oval, and the merrimack is this nice roof on a shingle, and i was always fascinated by them. you know, i think in partways for the same reason one is interested in movies about invasions from mars. they were so much unlike anything else that had ever been seen when they went out to fight, and it was such a huge public fight. there was no sea battle -- there
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were, there were, like, 15,000 troops on both, all the shores of confederate and union alike who saw this fight and who were absolutely fascinated by it. and it somehow seeped into the national consciousness, and it certainly got into mine fairly early. that may be more than you want to know. [laughter] >> you tell us about the casualties during that three hours? were there any? >> the casualties were, there were plenty of casualties on the first day. i think all told 400 union navymen died. the first day of the fight, on the first day of the fight, the cumberland, the doomed cumberland got off a lucky shot that blew off the muzzle of one of the confederate guns, and --
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but, basically, what happened was two people died on the merrimack and 400 people died on the union ship. that gives some idea of why this battle frightened people. on the next day, nobody was hurt on either ship except poor captain warden who, again, was temporarily blinded, but he got his sight back. but the horrible, disproportionate losses of the first day also gave a grim look into what would be going on in the next century when you were going to be sending men against machine guns. the heavy machinery is not easily taken by human flesh. okay? >> given the first day results,
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why were they not more aggressive after that, the merrimack? or did they really feel -- >> you know, it's sort of interesting that both ships, that the merrimack, it was a very cumbersome ship to handle, and it had been knocked around. but they were eager to get back in the fight. the monitor wanted to too. but all of a sudden, both these ships had become so famous that they were actually too valuable to waste. abraham lincoln himself said don't, don't use the monitor unless they actually come for the union fleet, and mallory said don't put the merrimack in danger. they were suddenly such valuable properties that, that nobody wanted to stick their neck out with them. and that, that led to a stalemate, of course, because weapons cautiously used are really no weapons at all.
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but they both became so famous in that one morning that nobody wanted to put them in harm's way, and they never, they never met each other again. >> [inaudible] [inaudible conversations] >> no, because the end of the story is the monitor is back on, well -- >> well, that's true. there's -- and it's worth, yeah, it's worth noting that the merrimack was blown up by the confederate troops. her wheel survives, there are a couple of pieces of iron plate that might or might not have belonged to her. but the monitor went down on the union seabed and stayed there until very recently when an extraordinarily effective
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effort, they raised first her engines and then, by god, they got up the whole you are the or relate with the two cannons finish the whole turret with the two cannons, and they are there in the wonderful mariners' museum in newport news, virginia. you can see them there, this great big bath of e lek to lights that is very slowly waving away the years of marine crustacean. but it's utterly thrilling to see the real turret and the real guns it really fired. and they're still there and will be forever. >> thank you. >> thank you. [applause] thank you very much.
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>> so that's a long book. i guess you left a lot out. [laughter] [inaudible conversations] >> booktv tapes hundreds of author programs throughout the country all year long. here's a look at some of the events we'll be covering this week. on wednesday we'll be in cambridge, massachusetts, at harvard bookstore where david armitage will provide a history of civil wars from ancient rome to today. also that evening at the national churchill library at george washington university in washington, d.c., richard -- former president of corpus christi college-oxford will discuss how abraham lincoln used humor throughout his life and
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presidency. on thursday, lake city florida where attorney and author chris anne hall will argue that the federal government has failed in its duties to uphold the constitution. that's a look at some of the author programs booktv will be covering this week. many of these event are open to the public. look for them to area in the near future on booktv on c-span2. >> i'm here with tyler, his booking is city of dreams: the 400-year epic history of immigrant new york. at what other points in history has immigration been such a decisive factor in a presidential race? >> immigration's been an important facting to have in a lot of presidential races all across american history. probably the first important one was the election of 1800 when thomas jefferson got elected. before his election in the late 1790s, the federalists had imposed restrictions on im


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