THE MONITOR: THE STORY OF THE LEGENDARY CIVIL WAR IRONCLAD AND THE MAN WHOSE INVENTION CHANGED THE COURSE OF HISTORY, by James Tertius deKay, Walker and Company, 240 pages, $21.
As the author points out, “Ships of war are, by their nature, expendable. They are temporary things, built to perform dangerous and very often difficult missions, and then to be quickly forgotten. One of the very rare exceptions to this rule is the USS Monitor.” In this stirring account of the first Civil War battle between two ironclad warships, the USS Monitor and the Merrimac (officially known as the CSS Virginia) on March 9, 1862, at Hampton Roads, Virginia, deKay discusses the innovations that helped to ensure the Monitor’s unique place in history. Designed by Swedish-born engineer John Ericcson, who had managed the building of a major canal when he was only 16 years old, the ironclad utilized more than 40 patentable inventions, including a revolving gun turret and screw propeller. It was a design that forever changed the course of naval warfare.