Learning Lincoln On-line
FROM-- SET FIVE, CIVIL WAR STUDIES
PART #2-- THE IRONCLAD GUNBOAT-- Commander of the USS Monitor-- Lt. John Lorimer Worden-- First Battle of Ironclads at Hampton Roads
Rear Admiral John Lorimer Worden
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
FACT BOX ABOUT
John Lorimer Worden (March 12, 1818 – October 19, 1897) was a U.S. Navy officer in the American Civil War, who took part in the Battle of Hampton Roads, the first-ever engagement between ironclad steamships at Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 9 March 1862.
Commanding the Union’s only warship of this class, USS Monitor, Worden challenged the Confederate vessel Virginia, a converted steam-frigate that had sunk two Union blockaders and damaged two others. After a four-hour battle, both ships withdrew, unable to pierce the other’s armour.
Background and early career
Worden was born in Scarborough, New York. He was appointed midshipman in the Navy on January 10, 1834. He served his first three years in the sloop-of-war Erie on the Brazil Station. Following that, he was briefly assigned to the sloop Cyane before he reported to the Naval School at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for seven months of instruction. He returned to sea in July 1840 for two years with the Pacific Squadron.
Between 1844 and 1846, Worden was stationed at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C. During the Mexican–American War, he cruised the west coast, primarily in the store ship Southampton, but in other ships as well. In 1850, he returned to the Naval Observatory for another two-year tour of duty. The ensuing nine years were filled with sea duty which took Worden on several cruises in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.
Civil War service
Worden as a Lieutenant, circa 1862
Brought to Washington early in 1861, he received orders in April to carry secret dispatches—regarding the reinforcement of Fort Pickens—south to the warships at Pensacola. During the return journey north, Worden was arrested near Montgomery, Alabama, and was held prisoner until exchanged about seven months later.
Taking command of the Monitor
Though still ill as a result of his imprisonment, Lieutenant Worden accepted orders to command the new ironclad Monitor on January 16, 1862. He reported to her building site at Greenpoint in Brooklyn on Long Island and supervised her completion. He placed the new warship in commission at the New York Navy Yard on February 25 and two days later sailed for Hampton Roads. However, steering failure forced the ironclad back to New York for repairs. On March 6, she headed south again, this time under tow by Seth Low.
On the afternoon of March 8, Monitor approached Cape Henry, Virginia, while inside Hampton Roads, the Confederacy's own ironclad, CSS Virginia, wrought havoc with the Union Navy's wooden blockading fleet. During that engagement, the Southern warship sank both the sloop USS Cumberland and the frigate USS Congress, as well as severely damaging the steam frigate USS Minnesota before retiring behind Sewell's Point. Arriving on the scene too late to participate in the engagement, Worden and his ship set about assisting the grounded Minnesota.
The battle of the ironclads
At daybreak on the 9th, Virginia emerged once more from behind Sewell's Point to complete her reduction of the Federal fleet at Hampton Roads. As the Confederate ironclad approached Minnesota, Worden maneuvered Monitor from the grounded ship's shadow to engage Virginia in the battle that revolutionized naval warfare. For four hours, the two iron-plated ships slugged it out as they maneuvered in the narrow channel of Hampton Roads, pouring shot and shell at one another to almost no visible effect. Three hours into the slug fest, Worden received facial wounds when a Confederate shell exploded just outside the pilot house that partially blinded him. He relinquished command to his first officer, Samuel D. Greene. About an hour later, Monitor withdrew from the battle temporarily and, upon her return to the scene, found that Virginia, too, had withdrawn. The first battle between steam-driven, armored ships had ended in a draw.
Other wartime commands
After the battle, Worden moved ashore to convalesce from his wounds. During that recuperative period, he received the accolade of a grateful nation, the official thanks of the United States Congress, and promotion to commander. Late in 1862, he took command of the ironclad monitor Montauk and placed her in commission at New York on December 14, 1862. Later in the month, Worden took his new ship south to join the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Port Royal, South Carolina. On January 27, 1863, he led his ship in the bombardment of Fort McAllister. A month later, newly promoted Captain Worden took his ship into the Ogeechee River, found the Confederate privateer Rattlesnake (formerly CSS Nashville), and destroyed her with five well-placed shots. His last action came of April 7, 1863, when Montauk participated in an attack on Charleston, South Carolina.
Post-war career and last years
Not long after the Charleston attack, Capt. Worden received orders to shore duty in conjunction with the construction of ironclads in New York. That assignment lasted until the late 1860s. He was promoted to commodore in May 1868. In 1869, Commodore Worden began a five-year tour as Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy. In 1872, Worden was promoted to Rear Admiral. In 1873 he became the first president of the United States Naval Institute.
Rear Admiral Worden resided in Washington, D.C., until his death from pneumonia on October 19, 1897.