Faces from the Past: Sailors from the USS Monitor

| March 20, 2012

Meet two faces from the out of the reach of — Union sailors who perished on the USS Monitor 150 years ago as the ironclad ship foundered in harsh seas off Cape Hatteras.

At a pomp in Washington, D.C. this prime of day, forensic researchers released new images of the yoke’s reconstructed faces as a scheme of trying to finally lay the men to rest.

“This is a be unexhausted-ditch effort to identify them,” declared David Alberg, superintendent of the USS Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. “We’re severe to shake some family trees.”

PHOTOS: Reconstructing Faces From the USS Monitor

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Navy and a forensics lab at Louisiana State University require been working on the project in spite of the past 10 years, ever as the Monitor’s turret was raised from the seafloor for the time of archaeological excavation in 2002.

They employed the like genetic fingerprinting and facial reconstruction techniques that consider been used to identify soldiers missing in action or crime victims.

DNA testing from samples in the teeth and leg bones did not light upon a match with any living progeny of the ship’s crew of families. But they did acquire two skulls, and were able to enliven the two men’s faces. By poring very old records — from Navy pension requests to crafty ship logs — researchers believe they be obliged narrowed the field on this Civil War occupation.

PHOTOS: Rarely Seen Faces of the Civil War

One was a Welshman named Robert Williams, who was to be expected in his early 30s and in regard to 5 foot 6 inches tall. He smoked a sound shrill, served on two other Navy ships near the front of joining the Monitor, and may require been a fireman. He also had arthritis and that may be liked suffered from syphilis, according to Lisa Stansbury, a genealogist in operation with NOAA.

The second set of odds and ends is of a younger man between 17 and 24 years old. He could subsist one of three people: William Eagan of Ireland; Jacob Nicklis of Buffalo, N.Y.; or Samuel Auge Lewis of West Chester, Pa. He was on the eve 5 foot, 7 inches tall.

Both men were white, even if the Monitor’s crew included at least one African-American.

While Stansbury was skilful to narrow down a list of names instead of the two, she isn’t 100 percent decisive. That’s because sailors sometimes gave unveracious names while enlisting, perhaps to refrain from a shady past or in contingency they didn’t like the ship, they could merit, and later re-enlist under a diverging identity.

“We really don’t esteem more than a theory,” Stansbury uttered about their identities.

Stansbury said she hopes that families with descendants from that time period may at this time come forward, provide DNA samples, and gain a positive match.

The huge attempt to identify the two men stems from people of distinction interest in the Monitor, a ship that President Abraham Lincoln praised because the savior of the Union.

At the time, the Confederate CSS Virginia (built forward the hull of the navy frigate Merrimack) was ravaging the federal fleet at Hampton Roads. The Monitor — a smaller, greater degree of nimble ship with a swiveling “cheesebox” fire-arm turret on its deck, was built in 1862 in Brooklyn.

It was towed to the Chesapeake Bay battle where it fought the Virginia to a extract on March 9, 1862. Historians assert the clash of ironclads signaled the end of hard ships.

The Virginia was scuttled through . its captain in April 1862. On Dec. 31, 1862, at the same time that being towed to a new battle, the Monitor capsized and sank for the time of a storm off Cape Hatteras, N.C. Of the 62 crew members, 16 died. The survivors were rescued by the USS Rhode Island.

Alberg uttered that the Monitor was not built on this account that heavy seas, and its crew pleasing met a chaotic end in the intervening of the night.

“Eighty-five percent of the ship is restrain on the seabed,” Alberg said. “It’s treated in the same manner with a grave site.”


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Category: Science

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