Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

U.S.S. Monitor Sailors Laid to Rest at Arlington

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 8, 2013
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Diana Rambo, and her husband Lorin Rambo, from Fresno, Calif., pause at a casket of unidentified remains after services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, at Arlington National Cemetery, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. Mrs. Rambo is related to USS Monitor crew member Jacob Nicklis. A century and a half after the Civil War ship the USS Monitor sank, two unknown crewmen found in the ironclad’s turret were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Friday’s burial may be the last time Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Over the last year or so we’ve covered the story of the two members of Monitor‘s crew that were found inside the ship’s turret after it was recovered from the floor of the Atlantic off Cape Hatteras in 2002. Officials had hoped to be able to positively identify them from among the sixteen men known to have been lost with the ship, but have so far been unable to, despite efforts through genealogical research, DNA testing and creating facial reconstructions. On Friday, those two men were buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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The burial, which included a three-gun salute [sic., three volleys] and a brass band playing “America the Beautiful,” may be the last time Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery overlooking Washington.
 
“Today is a tribute to all the men and women who have gone to sea, but especially to those who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf,” said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, who spoke at a funeral service before the burial.
 
The Monitor made nautical history when the Union ship fought the Confederate CSS Virginia in the first battle between two ironclads on March 9, 1862. The battle was a draw.
 
The Monitor sank about nine months later in rough seas off North Carolina, and 16 sailors died. In 2002, the ship’s rusted turret was raised from the Atlantic Ocean floor, and the skeletons of the two crew members were found inside.
 
Researchers attempted to identify the remains by reconstructing the sailors’ faces using their skulls and by comparing DNA from the skeletons with living descendants of the ship’s crew and their families. They were unable to positively identify the men, though medical and Navy records narrowed the possibilities to six people.
 
What is known is that one of the men was between 17 and 24 years of age and the other was likely in his 30s. A genealogist who worked on the project believes the older sailor is Robert Williams, the ship’s fireman, who would have tended the Monitor’s coal-fired steam engine.

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A marker dedicated to all 16 men lost with the ship will be placed over the grave site. Efforts to identify the men interred there will continue.

Additional photos of the service after the jump, by Associated Press photographer Alex Brandon.

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Sailors march as they depart after services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, at Arlington National Cemetery, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. A century and a half after the Civil War ship the USS Monitor sank, two unknown crewmen found in the ironclad’s turret were buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Friday’s burial may be the last time Civil War soldiers are buried at the cemetery. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Two Navy Honor Guard teams carry two caskets of remains as they depart Fort Meter Memorial Chapel during services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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A man in Civil War period attire salutes as two flag draped caskets arrive at Fort Meyer Memorial Chapel for services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Two honor guards simultaneously fold two American flags during services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, at Arlington National Cemetery, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Sailors salute as one of two honor guard team places a casket of remains, during services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, at Arlington National Cemetery, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Two Navy Honor Guard teams load two caskets of remains during services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, as they depart Fort Meyer Memorial Chapel, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Two Honor Guard carry teams stand next to two flag draped caskets as they arrive at Fort Meyer Memorial Chapel for services to honor two sailors from the Civil War ship, the USS Monitor, Friday, March 8, 2013 in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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2 Responses

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  1. isw7 said, on March 8, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    A fine treatment, Mr. Hall. Thank you.

  2. Patrick Browne said, on March 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Thanks for writing about this. Might have missed this news otherwise. May they rest in peace.
    Patrick


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