The Third Assistant Engineer
In response to my recent post on Monitor‘s turret, one of my readers writes:
One photo of all but one officers in chairs, shows at viewer’s left, seated before the turret, my Woollen kinsman, USS Monitor 3rd Asst. Engr. Robinson Woollen Hands, sitting atop a jury-rigged stool of two Monitor armored deck-light covers. He perished at his engine-room duty station when the Monitor foundered. His memorial stone is at Baltimore. The enlisted of the Monitor survivors group, the Starboard Watch Society, voted Robinson the most beloved of all the officers by the enlisted.. The first item recovered from the deep that identified the wreck as thee USS Monitor, and not just a monitor class vessel, was not the earlier lantern, but the armored deck-light cover. Possibly Robinson is sitting on the one first one recovered from the deep?
My correspondent goes on to say that Hands’ brother, George Washington Hands, Jr., was a captain in the Virginia infantry and “considered Robinson a traitor and never bespoke Robinson’s name again.” Their father, George Sr., was the civilian master of the steamer River Queen that was the scene of the famous meeting between Lincoln, Sherman, Grant and Porter in the closing days of the war.
It’s quite amazing how many stories there are like this; there’s the story of Edward Lea and his father Albert, the former a U.S. naval officer on the Harriet Lane and the latter an engineer officer on Confederate General Magruder’s staff at the Battle of Galveston. And of course Farragut’s Flag Captain, Percival Drayton, son of a prominent South Carolinian family who, early in the war, participated in a naval bombardment of forts commanded by his brother Thomas.
“Brother against brother” was too often literally true.
Robinson W. Hands’ memorial stone in Baltimore, via Find-a-Grave; a deck porthole cover like one of those Hands is sitting on, recovered from the wreck site, via National Geographic.
Image: Officers of U.S.S. Monitor, July 9, 1862. Front, l. to r.: Robinson W. Hands, Edwin V. Gager. Seated, l. to r.: Louis N. Stodder, George Frederickson, William Flye and Daniel C. Logue and Samuel Dana Greene. Standing, l. to r.: Albert B. Campbell, Mark T. Sunstrom, William F. Keeler, and L. Howard Newman of U.S.S. Galena. Library of Congress photo; identifications from The Monitor Chronicles.