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monitor (type of warship)

monitor, type of turreted warship (no longer used) carrying heavy guns, having little draft, and lying low in the water. Monitors were so called from the first of the class, the Monitor, built for the Union navy in the U.S. Civil War by John Ericsson. Launched in Jan., 1862, the Monitor was 179 ft (55 m) long, of 41.5-ft (13-m) beam, and weighed 1,200 tons. A revolving turret, protected by 8 in. (20.3 cm) of iron armor and containing two 11-in. (27.9-cm) smooth-bore guns, was its main feature. The sides were covered by iron plates from 3 to 5 in. (7.6–12.7 cm) thick, with about 27 in. (69 cm) of wood backing, and the deck, only 18 in. (46 cm) above water, was shielded with 1-in. (2.54-cm) armor. The ship was moved by steam power, with a screw propeller. (See Monitor and Merrimack for more information.) Monitors were used extensively in the Civil War, but the type had limitations—it was too heavy to navigate the oceans—and was eventually abandoned. However, they were used by the British navy in World War I.

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monitor

monitor former term for a shallow-draught warship mounting one or two heavy guns for bombardment, named for a vessel developed by Swedish engineer John Ericsson for the Union forces. In a letter of 1862 he said that he proposed to name the new battery Monitor on the ground that ‘The iron-clad intruder will thus prove a severe monitor [that is, something providing guidance to moral conduct] to those leaders [of the Southern rebellion].’

This prototype vessel engaged the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Chesapeake Bay in a battle that drew worldwide attention; after this a number of similar warships were built by the Union. The original Monitor, however, went down off Cape Hatteras in 1862.

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