Iron Coffin: War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 32%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $14.14
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 38%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (11) from $14.14   
  • New (8) from $15.53   
  • Used (3) from $14.14   


The USS Monitor famously battled the CSS Virginia (the armored and refitted USS Merrimack) at Hampton Roads in March 1862. This updated edition of David A. Mindell's classic account of the ironclad warships and the human dimension of modern warfare commemorates the 150th anniversary of this historic encounter.

Mindell explores how mariners—fighting "blindly," below the waterline—lived in and coped with the metal monster they called the "iron coffin." He investigates how the ironclad technology, new to war in the nineteenth century, changed not only the tools but also the experience of combat and anticipated today’s world of mechanized, pushbutton warfare.

The writings of William Frederick Keeler, the ship’s paymaster, inform much of this book, as do the experiences of everyman sailor George Geer, who held Keeler in some contempt. Mindell uses their compelling stories, and those of other shipmates, to recreate the thrills and dangers of living and fighting aboard this superweapon.

Recently, pieces of the Monitor wreck have been raised from their watery grave, and with them, information about the ship continues to be discovered. A new epilogue describes the recovery of the Monitor turret and its display at the USS Monitor Museum in Newport News, Virginia.

This sensitive and enthralling history of the USS Monitor ensures that this fateful ship, and the men who served on it, will be remembered for generations to come.

Johns Hopkins University Press

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Industrial Archaeology - Robert C. Stewart

Midell conveys life aboard the Monitor with realism and honesty.

American Historical Review

Well researched and wide in its scope, this work raises issues that transcend the Civil War and resonate in our own time.

Journal of Southern History

Mindell provides an intriguing and richly textured analysis that makes effective use of contemporary diaries and other reports. These accounts help Mindell convey the flavor of life aboard the Monitor with candor and insight.

Virginia Magazine of History and Biography

This book offers important new insights into the Monitor as a national icon, the ironclad's association with the modern U.S. Navy, and the evolving role of innovation and heroism in twenty-first-century warfare.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

Meet the Author

David A. Mindell is Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing and Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is author or editor of several books, including Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight and Between Human and Machine: Feedback, Control, and Computing before Cybernetics, the latter published by Johns Hopkins. The first edition of Iron Coffin, titled War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor, won the Sally Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology in 2001.

Johns Hopkins University Press

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface 2012 xi

Preface to the First Edition xiii

Introduction A Strange Sort of Warfare 1

Chapter 1 Revising the Revolution, 1815-1861 11

Chapter 2 Building a Ship, Speaking Success 31

Chapter 3 William Keeler's Epistolary Monitor 51

Chapter 4 Life in the Artificial World 61

Chapter 5 The Battle of Hampton Roads 70

Chapter 6 Iron Ship in a Glass Case, April-September 1862 87

Chapter 7 Utilitarians View the Monitor's Fight, 1862-1865 110

Chapter 8 Melville and the Mechanic's War 121

Conclusion Mechanical Faces of Battle 133

Epilogue 149

Notes 155

Bibliographical Essay 179

Index 185

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)