|by Toby Barrett
I was there that day and am able to report on three facets of the event that will constantly help me in recalling that special day.
The first is the attention the event brought with it. The landing where the turret was transferred from its barge to the stake and platform trailer was filled with several thousand onlookers. The throng contained reenactors, news people, naval personnel – including members of the diving team, Mariners’ Museum staff, docents and members, riggers with the transport company, town officials, security and police personnel, musicians, locals and a host of spectators just like me that had come from afar. All were there just to get a glimpse of the turret, one of the most famous naval artifacts in the world. There were ceremonies, speeches, reenactor bands played tunes, cannons were fired, and reporters did their thing in front of media cameras.
The second thing I’ll always recall was how close I was able to get to the turret – about 4 feet – and the feeling of awe I experienced at knowing that members of the crew were still entombed inside just a few feet away. At the time of this event it was already known that some remains had been taken from the turret and sent to Hawaii for processing. It was also known that the remains of at least two more crewmen were left encased in the sediment and concrete-like substance that remained deposited on the roof of the turret (the turret had been resting in an inverted position on the ocean floor since the night the Monitor foundered in 1862). I could also see the yellow tie-down straps attached to the cradle containing the turret from which the two Dahlgren smoothbore cannons had been suspended pending excavation – probably the two most famous cannons in American history. It had only been the week before raising the turret that the guns were positively reported as being still within the turret. Up until then their location had been unknown.
The last memory to relate is the parade. The landing along the James River where the turret came ashore was the same landing used when the Monitor’s engine had been brought ashore the year before. The place is located within the limits of a city park and about a half a mile from the Mariners’ Museum. From the landing to the museum, the trailer carrying the turret was escorted by an honor guard of reenactors – some wearing blue and others wearing gray – and several hundred onlookers who, in a strange way, felt it a privilege and a mission to walk the last distance through the park and the trees and to see the turret home through the rear gate of the museum.
Last update April 16, 2008