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tv   The Civil War  CSPAN  August 23, 2015 8:00am-8:46am EDT

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the resulted -- though battle andlted in union victory closed one of the last major ports. the victory, coupled with the fall of atlanta gave a boost to president abraham lincoln's bid for reelection just a couple of months later. the museum of mariners hosted this 45 minute event. [applause] john: there is an unseen battlefield in every human breast where two opposing forces meet and where they seldom rest. the battle of mobile bay is actually the story of a contest between the two highest ranking naval officers in the civil war, david glasgow farragut and franklin buchanan. if you think of two opposing wills, that is what you have happening at the battle of mobile bay. so first, i want to talk about who these characters are.
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first let's start with franklin buchanan, since he was on one of our ironclads here in hampton roads. franklin buchanan was born on september 17, 1800 in baltimore, maryland. his father the was founder of the maryland medical society and his grandfather was a signer of the declaration of independence. so he comes from a well-heeled family. he will become a mid-shipment at age 15 in 1815 and will serve with distinction by 1844. he will be promoted to captain, and he will be named the first superintendent of the united states naval academy in annapolis. he is the founder in many ways of that school.
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in 1847 he will resign from that post so he can serve actively in the mexican war, which again he does with distinction, gaining the attention of flag officer matthew galbreith perry. perry will assign buchanan as flag captain and commander of perry's flagship when he takes his fleet to open japan. it is said buchanan was the first naval officer to step foot in japan. let me tell you about buchanan. he is 5'10", he is bald, he is hawk-nosed.
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it is said no finer man tred the deck since nelson. it is said in tokyo bay the chinese pilot would run the susquehanna ground. buchanan would cut such a fierce look that the chinese pilot would jump overboard. after coming back from japan, the two voyages, he would be assigned as commandant of the washington naval yard, and that is where he would be at the out outbreak of the civil war. i will tell you right now that buchanan, native maryland are, when the baltimore riots occurred on april 19, 1861, buchanan will resign his commission, saying he cannot lift his sword against his native state. as you all know, maryland does not leave the union. consequently buchanan, the secretary of the navy with the united states says that was a little hasty, can i have my job
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back? of course he gets a big no. in fact gideon wellw writes on buchanan's letter, "you are dismissed from the service." buchanan is a free agent. if you cannot fight on one team you fight on the other. so then he becomes the commander of the james river defenses with the css virginia as his flagship. it is buchanan, who on the morning of march 8, 1862 will take his ship, an untired vessel, on what is called a shakedown cruise. when they get to craney island he will call the men onto the gun deck and say, men, today we will do not just our duty but more than our duty. today we will attack the union fleet.
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those ships must be taken. to your cannon, to your death, we will sink before surrender." you can imagine the men, we are supposed to be practicing our ship, not fighting. as a result of buchanan's dynamism, the virginia would come out and sink the uss cumberland by 3:30 on the afternoon of march 8. that moment proves the power of iron over wood and really creates that ironclad revolution that we talked about. buchanan, however, late in the afternoon, after forcing congress to surrender -- and i want to tell you, buchanan's brother is on board the congress. thomas buchanan. so when the congress surrenders he sends some boats over to take off the wounded and the officers as prisoners. the union soldiers on the shore start firing at the congress and the confederate gunboats.
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and so buchanan gets so enraged. there is a secret i will tell you. if you are fighting a battle in an ironclad, stay in the ironclad. buchanan gets out and starts shooting at the troops on the shore. he is shot in the thigh, grievously wounded. the mini ball grazes his femur artery. as he is taken below he shouts to the men, "don't worry, men. the wound is not mortal. i will soon be back amongst you." he says, "fill that union vessel with hotshot. plug her with hotshot until she
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glows." buchanan has won the greatest confederate victory at the time. he would recover from his wound, he would be promoted to rear admiral, and then would be detailed to take command at mobile bay. now let's talk a little bit about david glasgow farragut. farragut was born on july 5, 1800. these guys are both 64 years old when they fight the battle of mobile bay. so farragut was born in campbell station, tennessee. he is also, his father, george farragut -- george farragut is actually from mallorca. he becomes a sea captain and then when the revolution takes place he becomes a lieutenant in the south carolina navy, then a lieutenant in the continental navy.
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following service he gets the sinecure of running a ferry in tennessee. george farragut would actually moved to new orleans, where he becomes a collector of the u.s. customs in new orleans. he would move there in 1804. i have to tell you, david glasgow farragut, his real name is james glasgow farragut. what would happen is when george farragut is in new orleans, his wife sarah will actually tend to his friend's father, who is suffering from yellow fever. his friend is david porter, the famous naval officer, whose father is head of the naval station at new orleans. david porter also. what happens is david porter comes down with yellow fever. mrs. farragut treats him and tries to tend for him. he dies, she contracts yellow fever, she dies. they have 11 children, so what
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is george farragut going to do? david porter says i will take one of them. so young james farragut volunteers and becomes the foster son of david dixon porter sr. that means he is foster brother to david porter, jr, later admiral of the u.s. navy, and william porter, later captain of the u.s. navy. farragut becomes a midshipman to in 1810. he changes his name when he is detailed as a mid-shipment to david glasgow porter in honor of david porter raising him up. the war of 1812, the you know who is going to be the great hero?
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it happens to be farragut. at age 12 years old he will be given command of a captured merchant ship. he is described as being 5'6", 120 pounds. 100 of those pounds are uniform 100 of those pounds are uniform and epaulets and pistols, and 20 pounds is farragut. and the crew mutinies on him. he puts down the mutiny with the help of the boats mate. and with his sword and his pistol bearing, the mutineers lay down. captured by british naval forces, farragut is grievously wounded. he is 13 years old, if you can imagine fighting a fierce naval battle and you are 13. farragut would go on.
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he would be exchanged at the end of the war and go back into naval service. he will fight pirates in the 1820's and 30's. he will be in command of the he will be in command of the silent, which is one of the mosquito fleet -- siren, excuse me. that is serving along the mexican coast. he takes command of the saratoga. he is a bona fide hero. he is at the gosport navy yard as inspector of ordinance. he actually tests naval ordinance out at portman road, they have a test ground there set up on the beach. that is what he would do for an entire year, testing new styles of shell guns.
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including dogruns. this is a choice assignment. then farragut, in 1854, will be assigned to mayor island naval station. farragut is sent there to create the naval station. he does so in excellent fashion. he will return to norvick in 1850. macauley is a drunk, farragut is not, so they do not get along very well. and farragut would be a part of the forces that abandon gosport navy yard. he is living where his wife is
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from. both his two wives -- not at the same time, mind you. the sister to benjamin loyal. just to let you know, he is considered to be a southern sympathizer, born in tennessee, grew up in new orleans, wives in norvick. they move up to hastings, new york. considering who to be flag officers, you are trying to remake the navy, and some people suspect farragut. david gets a special assignment from assistant secretary of the navy. he goes to talk to farragut and says, "david, we want to consider giving you command of
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an expedition to capture norvick." he says that would be a very hard assignment to accept. david dixon porter said, "you are not the man we thought you were." and he says "do not trifle with me! i will take the job and burn norvick if i have to!" he is the man of an even more important job, and that is the capture of new orleans. farragut would become commander of the west gulf squadron. she would orchestrate running his ships passed the two coastal
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defense ports. destroys this week confederate fleet, the confederates are not organized well enough to stop farragut. he captures new orleans, he is elevated to the rank of rear admiral. he serves around vicksburg. however, he is taking oceangoing ships way up the mississippi river. he is going to be surprised by what is called the css arkansas, which is another fascinating story. farragut would eventually go back down river for the winter. he will come to operate in march 1863 against port gibson, where he tries to run past the batteries at fort gibson. and there he will have several ships damaged. in fact, two have to float down river. the paddlewheel ironhull uss mississippi will run aground and be destroyed by confederate shore batteries. farragut didn't always get away with everything. and farragut goes back down
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river. he gets the assignment of attacking mobile bay. now meanwhile, franklin buchanan is in mobile bay, and he takes the place of a man known as victor randolph. buchanan says you are just an old woman, out the way. so victor randolph leaves and buchanan writes secretary mallory, the confederate secretary of navy stephen russell mallory, "this is shambles here. we have built one ironclad and it is a punk ship. it is a paddlewheel with one inch of armor. worthless." he advocates pushing for new
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ironclad construction. the first one they will build is the css tennessee. let me tell you about the tennessee. it is 210 feet in length, it has a built-in ram, it has six inches of armor forward and five inches along the sides and stern. she is powered by an old ship called the alert engine, so she is slow. she has a draft of 13 feet, which means she has difficulty in getting over the bar. the dog river bar. they have to build what are called camels to float her over and get her into mobile bay. she will be armed with six rifled guns. two of them are seven inch guns. she is a powerful ironclad. she only makes five knots.
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which barely stems that current. she is the hope. buchanan is trying to finish another ironclad because his goal is to get into the mississippi sound and going and recapturing new orleans. he plans with this one little gunboat to sneak out of mobile bay and to attack the union fleet. buchanan is one of the fiercest officers of the civil war. but likewise is farragut. i will tell you that farragut would be in command of the west coast blockading squadron. he's keeping his ships at pensacola. he decides his assignment is to capture mobile bay. now this is a huge assignment. but he feels he can only achieve this only with the help of monitors.
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because the rumors are out about how powerful the tennessee is. and so he waits to receive monitors. he gets two sent down the coast that are actually -- they are improved monitors, as we would call them. the tecumseh. which has two 15 inch dogruns on board. each one of those weighs 43,000 pounds. you have the tecumseh, then the manhattan, that also has two 15 inch guns. two monitors from the mississippi and they are armed with four 11 inch guns. he has his captured ships, which are the harvard class steam
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screw sloops. he knows that the confederate, but confederates have great defense. number one, they have this massive coastal defense fort known as fort morgan. fort morgan has 11 seven inch brook guns. those are death to iron ships as well as wooden ships. you have fort morgan guarding the main entrance to the main channel. they closed part of the channel by putting in a field of torpedoes. they have laid 67 torpedoes. torpedoes are what we call mines now, okay. you have a narrow entrance you have to go through. over on the island you have 18 guns and another fort armed with 11 guns, guarding what is called
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grant's pass, which is another way into mobile bay, but too shallow for most people. farragut decides he is going to put his ships into two lines. the monitors are going to be inward starboard. they are going to, number one, go past fort morgan to deal with the tennessee. that is the job of the tecumseh and the manhattan. those two other river class monitors are supposed to come in and fight fort morgan so that the wooden ship column can pass. what farragut would do is take two ships, lash them together. the first in line would be the brooklyn, commanded by james alvin. it is lashed to another boat. the idea is if one ship gets the
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gets disabled, the other one can keep it moving past the guns of the port. next in line is the hartford. the mungo gila. those are the main ships coming in. followed by the oneida. lashed to the galena. you may remember the galena fought there with the monitor. she was holed 18 times. they figured her armor didn't work so they took it off and she is a wooden frigate. they are going to come into line.
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farragut's flag captain will go to farragut and say, "we are going to put them into their battle stations, should we give them whiskey?" he said, "no, i'm going to have coffee and that is good enough for them. they can face the shot like i do, in open air." at 5:30 they would begin their approach to mobile bay. the lead ship is the tecumseh, the tecumseh opens fire at 6:47. and she aims at the lighthouse, which you can see right there. and -- that is not working but that is okay. you can see the lighthouse next to the confederate flag. then she trains her guns on the water battery as we call it. she is moving because the current is so strong. see, farragut is bringing in his steamers at at half speed
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because the current is so strong and he is coming in with the tide. he is coming in at flood tide. that is propelling his ships in a far better fashion. also the wind is blowing in from the southwest, so as you see from this the smoke is going onto the fort, so they can't see as well. farragut wants to see everything. he is a lashed to the mainmast halfway up the rigging so he can see what is going on. he actually climbs up there. he sends a sailor up to lash farragut, not to keep him there, but in case he gets wounded he won't fall down on the deck and die. so here he is looking over the battle. now the line comes in and tunis craven, commander of the tecumseh will, because he is fighting the current, and his
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job is to go after the tennessee, he will move into where these buoys are, which shows where the torpedoes are. right? so he is running ahead, the brooklyn, the first ship in line, stops its engines because he wants to keep the tecumseh ahead. the last thing you want to have happening is having engine stop in front of a port. the tecumseh would come forward, and all of a sudden the tecumseh hits a mine. it blows up. it says the tecumseh popped out of the water, came back down, then she flipped up like this, then they saw propeller churning and down she went like an arrow.
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craven actually stood at the hatch. he had to go up this latter. the pilot comes along and craven says, after you pilot. those were the last words of craven. out of the crew of 117 men, only 21 survived. i want to tell you, that is shocking everybody. the confederates from the side of their batteries, to see an ironclad sink. the union fleet has virtually stopped in front of the confederate canon. right? it is said that shells whiz across the deck of the hartford. one crew member has his legs taken off by a shot. he throws his arms up and another shot whizzes through and takes his arms off.
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so you do not want to stay there. farragut shouts, "what's amiss?" "torpedose." he says, "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead." he actually says "damn the torpedoes, four bells." the hartford swings out of line, and he doesn't want to swing toward the monitors because they are in a very tight spot. fighting the fort. they've stopped as well. so farragut swings the hartford out and they go across the minefield, so to speak. the bulk of torpedoes. there are 67 of them there, and it is said the crew could hear the snapping of the primers on
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the torpedoes against the hull of the hartford. but guess what? none of them work. right? they have been out there too long. this is basically farragut luck. he will swing out and then the brooklyn starts back up. the manhattan turns to go toward the tennessee. buchanan and the other gunboats that are with him, the soma with four guns, the gaines with six guns, and the morgan with six guns, the hartford actually rakes her. and so the metacomet will send a shell which will burst one of the paddle wheels. the selma is struck through her boilers.
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boom. she is out of action. and the morgan hides under the guns of fort morgan. buchanan busts out. he wants to ram somebody. his ship is too slow. he can't get there as the federal ships pass through. they are under those guns until about 8:00. and so you can see they fought fort morgan for almost an hour and a half it took them to get by. the federals have lost, 140 men killed, 170 wounded. in naval battles -- if you think about civil war battles, all these guys dying. you get your legs blown off on a naval ship, blood, brains, and bone are going to be everywhere. nevertheless the federals will steam in. they run past the tennessee and they go to an anchorage known as the middle ground in mobile bay.
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and that is where you are supposed to wait to go into port itself. kind of like hampton roads going into portsmouth. so farragut gets there, drops anchor at 8:00, and tells his men, "let's go to breakfast." they all start to get something to eat and all of a sudden draiden says to farragut, "i think you should look over there." and there comes the tennessee. buchanan, rememebr, he took on the entire union fleet in hampton roads in 1862. what does he want to do today? take on the entire union fleet. he does not care. he says if you do not act you will be shamed for the rest of your life. he tells his men the same type of speech. today we are going to do our duty, not just our duty. we are going to destroy the federal fleet today.
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"if i am wounded, lay me down to the side and keep on fighting. we will sink before surrender." wow. and here comes the tennessee. farragut, when he sees this, he says, "i did not think old buck was such a fool." all right? let me tell you, this comes to the high point of the battle, as you can see from your little maps. the tennessee has a huge problem, and that is speed. he tries to come up to ram the hartford, but the hartford would ram the tennessee instead. the brooklyn actually has a metal added to her bow so she can actually smash into the tennessee. what will happen is it will free for all while the manhattan and the chickasaw lay off off both ends of the tennessee, firing at her. the captain of the chickasaw claims to have knocked over the
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smokestack of the tennessee, meaning no more draft for the engines. the chickasaw also says we swept away the anchor chains, so you can't see where you -- you can't turn your ship. here is the tennessee virtually dead in the water as the manhattan comes up and starts pounding her. the manhattan had two 15 inch guns. i am going to tell you right now, an iron sliver fell into the touchhole of one of the 15 inch guns and doesn't work. they spiked their own gun. they are just firing one of these huge 15 inch guns. the hartford would come to ram the tennessee and the lackawanna would come and ram the hartford instead of the tennessee.
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i want to tell you, farragut is back up there on the mast, tied to the rigging, looking over. the lackawanna rams right where he is up on the mast. they crack the hartford all the way down to the waterline. farragut shouts, "get out of my way." well, you know, they did, to tell you the truth. she strieks once, then does a big circle to ram the tennessee again. ramming the tennessee doesn't do any damage to her. at this time the manhattan has gotten her range. she is 50 feet off the tennessee. and she will send a 15 inch shell or solid shot into the case of the tennessee, which
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cracks the back and the iron, five inches of iron. she cracks it and light started coming into the deck. buchanan had these nets set up so splinters to not injure anyone. however when that hit that section of the ironclad, the bolt that bolted the iron plate right to the wood backing would shoot across the gun deck of the tennessee, and guess who it hits? no, this is -- buchanan, that is right. and buchanan has his leg broken, grievously injured, they lay him down to the side. the commander of the tennessee would go to farragut and -- would go to buchanan. what should we do?
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our ship is dead in the water. we cannot open three of our guns ports because they have been jammed. buchanan agrees to a surrender. they send up a white sheet and the action is over. this battle is over by 9:45. it lasted lasted four hours. the battle of mobile bay is this huge, fierce competition between these two tremendous naval officers, who actually were friends before the war and finds find themselves on opposite sides. i will have to say the tennessee, when she surrenders, there is nothing they can do. however the federals repair her, put a new smokestack on her, fix
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those port shutters, and use her to shell fort morgan, commanded by brigadier general richard page, whose commander -- his brother is commander of the css stonewall. they joined the navy because there weren't enough assignments. he is in command of fort morgan. when he is forced to surrender he breaks his sword and throws it into the ocean. he says, "i refused to give it to the accursed northern invaders." well, he gets court-martialed -- captured prisoners can be for such actions -- but is acquitted in a court-martial in new orleans. buchanan, they take him to pensacola and the doctors are worried about his leg. they ask, do you mind if we
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amputate? buchanan says you ptured the leg, you decide. the battle of mobile bay is a tremendous engagement. it actually comes at the perfect time for the lincoln administration. because the war's not going well. right? grant is losing all those men during the overland campaign. no outstanding union victory. sherman is struggling to get at atlanta. and all of a sudden, mobile bay, the last free port on the gulf, four confederate blockade runners, is now closed. now the only other outside link the confederate have would be wilmington guarded by fort fisher.
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both have outstanding careers after the war. buchanan is the founder of the university of maryland. he tries to run it like a navy ship, so he only lasts two years. he goes down to mobile, where he is president of an insurance company. he returns to eastern maryland, and he will die there. he is buried at y hall which is a family estate. franklin buchanan would died in 1874. david glasgow farragut would be promoted to full admiral. he would be in command of the european squadron. he then would be the only person to be allowed to be holding a full admiral rank in the u.s. navy and he stays on active service. in 1871 he is visiting the portsmouth naval facilities in new hampshire, and he will drop dead from a heart attack.
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and what an active career of these both had in naval history. these men wanted to fight like nelson. you go in to the nelson gallery here at the mariners museum, they stood out in the open. they were proud to serve and ready to fight, ready to do what it took to achieve victory against all odds. those are these men, that i think are the most famous naval officers of the american civil war. so in the words of franklin buchanan, i want to remind you all to always always sink before you surrender. thank you. [applause] >> anyone have any questions? he was a prisoner of war, he was exchanged in february 1865, but he goes back home.
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his leg is not removed. it's amazing he survived the war. he was taken to pensacola, he was in a naval officer there. -- naval hospital there. he is badly injured. considering what happened to him off of newport, your body can only take so much. but i think buchanan just didn't care. any other questions? yes, sir. >> did the union renamed the tennessee a lot of merrimac and virginia? john: no, then explain what they
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do. the merrimac is an abandoned to ship by the u.s. navy. the confederates bring it up and turn it into a totally different type of ship. you can learn about that in ironclad revolution. the tennessee, they rechristened her three days later as the uss tennessee. they didn't have to change any names. we like to make things confusing in virginia sometimes. >> i'm familiar with the falklands war. we sold a ship to argentina that later became -- it was sunk with 2000 sailors on board. the united states navy did not name it the belgrano. although it was never changed in its function. john: but by selling it, it meant that the argentines could rechristen it.
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you can rechristen a ship. one of my favorites is the confederates have a french made ironclad, the stonewall. the confederates tried to buy it. they said, you can't buy it. they don't need the ironclad anymore, they sell it to the confederates. the confederates tried to bring it across the atlantic, which they do. they only get it to havana in may of 1865. page sells the stonewall to pay off his crew to cuban authorities. spanish authorities. the americans then buy it from the spanish. they realize it is a bad french made ship, so they sell it to the japanese, who then commission it as the azura.
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actually it fights at the battle of the straits. it is outdated. they keep it in commission until 1908. >> tell me again why we have a monitor and merrimac bridge? john: number one, they misspelled it. the u.s. navy spells merrimac merrimack, as in the merrimack river in new hampshire. frankline pierce, who signed the bill, was from the county. it was no longer called the virginia. i think the brilliance comes out quite a lot. if there are not any other questions i appreciate you being here today. it is our first event. we have just started the uss monitor foundation. our goal is to raise $20 million to ensure that the uss monitor, all those things relating to
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civil war ironclads that we work on here at the mariners museum is well preserved and well interpreted. so we just set up a membership foundation. so i think you all got a form. i have lots of ways that people can help. so if you like ironclads and appreciate the american civil war and how those ironclads changed naval warfare forever, then please stop by our desk. hannah and dave or myself would be happy to help you. until i see you all again, i want to give you a great huzzah. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] >> you are watching american history tv. forow us on twitter
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information on the schedule of upcoming programs and to keep up with the latest history news. bond, a figure in the civil rights movement, died last weekend at the age of 75. you have a long career in he had a long career in politics. 2011.and interview from he talks about his career, the presidency of barack obama, and the state of race. julian bond's grandfather was born a slave. two years after he was born the emancipation proclamation was issued and james bond, as his name was -- [laughter]


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