War, Technology, and Experience aboard the U. S. S. Monitor / Edition 1

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Overview

In a familiar story, the USS Monitor battled the CSS Virginia (the armored and refitted USS Merrimack) at Hampton Roads in March of 1862. In War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor, David A. Mindell adds a new perspective to the story as he explores how mariners—fighting "blindly" below the waterline—lived and coped with the metal monster they called the "iron coffin." Mindell shows how the iron warship emerged as an idea and became practicable, how building it drew upon and forced changes in contemporary manufacturing technology, and how the vessel captured the nineteenth-century American popular and literary imaginations.

Combining technical, personal, administrative, and literary analysis, Mindell examines the experience of the men aboard the Monitor and their reactions to the thrills and dangers that accompanied the new machine. The invention surrounded men with iron and threatened their heroism, their self-image as warriors, even their lives. Mindell also examines responses to this strange new warship by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, who prophetically saw in the Civil War a portent of the mechanized warfare of the future. The story of the Monitor shows how technology changes not only the tools but also the very experience of combat, generating effects that are still felt today in the era of "smart bombs" and pushbutton wars.

"We find new significance in the otherwise well-known history of the Monitor. It is no longer the story of the heroic inventor and his impenetrable weapon thrusting themselves upon a doubtful and conservative bureaucracy... It is no longer the story of a heroic battle and the machine's epic loss soon after. Rather it is a story of people experiencing new machinery, attempting to make sense of its thrills, constrictions, and politics, and sensing its power and impotence—both in glory and frustration."—from War, Technology, and Experience aboard the USS Monitor

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Editorial Reviews

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.

— William M. Fowler, Jr.

Choice

Mindell's thought-provoking assessments and conclusions contribute to the understanding of how institutions and societies perceive and react to new technologies.

International Journal of Nautical Archaeology

Mindell asserts that Monitor's mythical qualities were at least as important as her technological ones... Mindell's scholarly, yet entertaining and very readable book is an excellent and important work that should serve as a model for similar historical studies.

— John Broadwater

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.

— John F. Guilmartin Jr.

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.

— Benjamin H. Trask

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Product Details

Meet the Author

David A. Mindell is Dibner Associate Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at MIT. He has degrees in Electrical Engineering and Literature from Yale University and a Ph.D. in the History of Technology from MIT. His research interests include the history of military technology, the history of electronics and computing, and archaeology in the deep ocean. He is currently working on a history of feedback, control, and computing in the twentieth century, and on locating and imaging ancient shipwrecks and settlements in the deep regions of the Black Sea.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction: A Strange Sort of Warfare 1
Ch. 1 Revising the Revolution, 1815-1861 11
Ch. 2 Building a Ship, Speaking Success 31
Ch. 3 William Keeler's Epistolary Monitor 51
Ch. 4 Life in the Artificial World 61
Ch. 5 The Battle of Hampton Roads 70
Ch. 6 Iron Ship in a Glass Case, April-September 1862 87
Ch. 7 Utilitarians View the Monitor's Fight, 1862-1865 112
Ch. 8 Melville and the Mechanic's War 123
Conclusion: Mechanical Faces of Battle 135
Notes 151
Bibliographical Essay 175
Index 181
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