ARLINGTON, Va. — More than 150 years after they fought in the Civil War, two unknown crewmen of the USS Monitor, the Union ship in the first battle between two ironclads, were buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday.
The Navy said the sailors, whose remains were recovered from the wreck of the landmark ship in 2002, may be the last Navy personnel from the 1861-65 war to be buried at Arlington.
All 16 crewmen who died when the Monitor sank in rough seas off North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras in 1862 were memorialized in the graveside interment ceremony at Arlington, the Navy said.
The ceremony took place on the 151st anniversary of the battle between the Monitor and its Confederate counterpart, the CSS Virginia. Called the Battle of Hampton Roads, it was the first battle between two ironclads and ended in a draw.
“When I learned they were going to do a memorial and have the burial at Arlington, it was like, ‘I can’t miss that,’” Andy Bryan of Holden, Maine, who was traveling with his daughter Margaret to the capital, told The Associated Press. He told the AP that DNA testing found a 50 percent likelihood that Monitor crewman William Bryan, his great-great-great-uncle, was one of the two found in the summer of 2002, when the 150-ton turret was raised from the ocean floor off Cape Hatteras.
“If it’s not William Bryan, I’m OK with that,” Bryan said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I feel like I should be there.”
That revolving gun turret, which housed two 11-inch cannons, was considered revolutionary at the time the Monitor was commissioned on Feb. 25, 1862. The ship was powered by steam alone and was built almost entirely of iron, becoming America’s first so-called ironclad.
Its battle with the Virginia marked the first clash between iron-armored ships and signaled the end of the era of wooden warships.