When you travel to the Virginia Coast, you enter and area that is filled with naval history. Portsmouth is home to the largest naval base on the east coast. However, this history goes back a long way in the history of the United States. That history is captured at the Mariners' Museum in Newport News VA.
|Cape Charles Lighthouse Lens|
The city of Newport News sits on the north shore of the James River, on the Virginia Peninsula, which separates the river from the Chesapeake Bay. Its history dates back to the forming of the Jamestown Colony in the early 1600’s. Newport News became a thriving town when the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway decided to build their terminal there, making it the place where coal from West Virginia would be transferred to ships.
|USS Lancaster Eagle|
|Model of the Mauretania|
The museum has an extensive collection that includes a large number of ship models from around the world. There is also a beautiful first order lens that used to be housed at the Cape Charles Lighthouse.
|Replica of the USS Monitor|
The heart of he collection is the exhibit on the U.S.S. Monitor. The Monitor was an iron-clad, steam-powered warship built by the U.S. Navy that was in service for the year for 1862. The Monitor is best know for its participation in the Battle of Hampton Roads. In that battle, the Confederate Ship Virginia, another iron-clad ship, had attacked the U.S. Navy ships that were blockading the James River in order to protect the access to Washington DC. The Virginia had already proved impervious to the cannon of the U.S. naval ships and its cannon had sunk two ships and forced a third to run aground. The Monitor arrived during the middle of the battle, and over the next one-and-a-half day, fought the Virginia to a draw. This allowed the U.S. to regroup and the blockade held.
|On the deck of the Monitor|
|Model of the Monitor|
|Model of the Virginia|
The Monitor stayed with the blockade fleet at the James River for the rest of the year, and alway fought in support of the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. In December of that year, the ship was sent to join the blockade off of the coast of North Carolina. There it sank during a large storm, and was lost for over one-hundred years.
|Replica of the turret as it was found|
In 1973, its wreck was discovered, and partially salvaged. Its gun and turret were raised from the ocean floor, and moved to the Mariner’s Museum, here they are undergoing cleansing and restoration. Parts of the boat have been recreated in both their pristine state, and the condition they were found in in 1973. There is also a full-sized model of the Monitor at the museum.
|Turret under restoration in the lab|
|Cannon under restoration|
Nuts and Bolts:
Getting There: The Mariner’s Museum is on Museum Drive, just down the road from The Viriginia Living Museum, and sharing a parking lot with the Peninsula Fine Arts Center.
Cost: Entrance fee is $1 (that’s right ONE dollar). If you want to see one of the 3-D movies, there is a $6 charge.