Paid Advertisement
Historynet/feed historynet feedback facebook link World History Group RSS feed World History Group Subscriptions Historynet Home page

Letter from November 2006 America's Civil War Magazine

Originally published by America's Civil War magazine. Published Online: October 04, 2006 
Print Friendly
0 comments FONT +  FONT -

"Tin can on a shingle," some Union soldiers would say upon seeing Monitor; "Cheesebox on a raft," quipped other Yankees. Both are fine descriptions with a homespun American flavor and culinary twist that work well and conjure up an apt image for John Ericsson's vessel. But boxes and tin cans were far too rustic references for a Frenchman accustomed to the refined foodstuffs of Paris bistros.

"Everybody knows," wrote Francois-Ferdinand-Philippe-Louis-Marie d'Orléans, who mercifully is most often referred to by his succinct title, the Prince de Joinville, "the cylindrical Savoy biscuit covered with chocolate paste, an ornament of every pastry cook's shop. Imagine one of those biscuits placed on an oblong plate and you will have an exact idea of the appearance of the Monitor." It seems de Joinville had dessert on his mind that day.

The prince, an admiral in the French navy and a veteran of numerous European conflicts, came to the United States in 1861 with his son and two nephews to offer his services to the Union Army. They took part in George McClellan's 1862 Peninsula campaign, and de Joinville recorded some of the sites in a watercolor sketchbook that was printed in English in 1964, in time for the Civil War Centennial, as A Civil War Album of Paintings by the Prince de Joinville.

The watercolors are quite good, and include the view of Monitor presented here. It's an important illustration because, despite all the fantastic photos and artifacts we have related to the noteworthy vessel, wartime profile views of the craft are rare.

Film footage does exist of another single-turret Monitor, USS Canonicus, puttering along at the 1907 Jamestown Naval Exhibition, an opportunity for the U.S. Navy to show off Teddy Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet." Built in 1863, the ironclad was at the end of its life and certainly seemed an anomaly among its modern comrades. Sharp observers, however, would have realized that the metal hulls and swiveling gun turrets of Roosevelt's fleet could be traced to Canonicus and its ilk.

That rare footage is available commercially on Echoes of the Blue and Gray, Volume I, put out by Belle Grove Publications. It's fascinating to watch the choppy film and imagine what it must have been like to see such a strange little craft for the first time. Some might even say it looks like a pastry on a plate.

Leave a Reply

Human Verification: In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Related Articles

History Net Images Spacer
Paid Advertisement
Paid Advertisement
History Net Daily Activities
History net Spacer
History net Spacer
Historynet Spacer

Which of these wars resulted in the most surprising underdog upset?

View Results | See previous polls

Loading ... Loading ...
History net Spacer
RSS Feed Daily Email Update
History net Spacer
Paid Advertisement

Paid Advertisement
What is HistoryNet? is brought to you by World History Group, the world's largest publisher of history magazines. contains daily features, photo galleries and over 5,000 articles originally published in our various magazines.

If you are interested in a specific history subject, try searching our archives, you are bound to find something to pique your interest.

From Our Magazines
World History Group

World History Group Network:  HistoryNet | Armchair General | Achtung Panzer!
Today in History | Ask Mr. History | Picture of the Day | Daily History Quiz | Contact Us

Copyright © 2015 World History Group. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Advertise With Us | Subscription Help | Privacy Policy