Iron Coffin: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS <i>Monitor</i>

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JHU Press, Feb 9, 2012 - Science - 208 pages
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The USS Monitor famously battled the CSS Virginia (the armored and refitted USS Merrimack) at Hampton Roads in March 1862. This updated edition of David A. Mindell's classic account of the ironclad warships and the human dimension of modern warfare commemorates the 150th anniversary of this historic encounter.

Mindell explores how mariners—fighting "blindly," below the waterline—lived in and coped with the metal monster they called the "iron coffin." He investigates how the ironclad technology, new to war in the nineteenth century, changed not only the tools but also the experience of combat and anticipated today's world of mechanized, pushbutton warfare.

The writings of William Frederick Keeler, the ship's paymaster, inform much of this book, as do the experiences of everyman sailor George Geer, who held Keeler in some contempt. Mindell uses their compelling stories, and those of other shipmates, to recreate the thrills and dangers of living and fighting aboard this superweapon.

Recently, pieces of the Monitor wreck have been raised from their watery grave, and with them, information about the ship continues to be discovered. A new epilogue describes the recovery of the Monitor turret and its display at the USS Monitor Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

This sensitive and enthralling history of the USS Monitor ensures that this fateful ship, and the men who served on it, will be remembered for generations to come.


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Review: War, Technology, and Experience Aboard the USS "Monitor"

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Important book on the true capabilities of the Monitor. The design of the ship put great hardships on the crew due to high temp and poor ventilation. The Monitor did not have as great effect on the ... Read full review


A Strange Sort of Warfare
CHAPTER 1 Revising the Revolution 18151861
CHAPTER 2 Building a Ship Speaking Success
CHAPTER 3 William Keelers Epistolary Monitor
CHAPTER 4 Life in the Artificial World
CHAPTER 5 The Battle of Hampton Roads
CHAPTER 6 Iron Ship in a Glass Case AprilSeptember 1862
CHAPTER 7 Utilitarians View the Monitors Fight 18621865
CHAPTER 8 Melville and the Mechanics War
Mechanical Faces of Battle
Bibliographical Essay

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About the author (2012)

David A. Mindell is Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is author or editor of several books, including Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight and Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing before Cybernetics, the latter published by Johns Hopkins. The first edition of Iron Coffin, titled War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor, won the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology in 2001.

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