From Behind Steel Eyes

Merrimack, they called me

A proud Union steam frigate made of wood

I was so excited to fight for my country

Ready to serve, I patiently waited for my call to action

But as the months wore on, I realized I was just a show dog, trotted around Europe, Lisbon to Brest to Southampton to Toulon, then back to Boston, for retirement

I never saw the rage of war

the crack of rifles

the boom of canons

But my day came

A whisper runs through the Union Navy

 April 20th, 1861

They burned me

Virginia seceded and I as almost captured by the Confederates

The Rebs needed ships, so I was burned and sunk

A charred, black, shrunken version of myself, they sunk me

So I wouldn’t want to fall into the wrong hands

But who says I wasn’t already?

The whisper spreads to the newspapers

It rises to a shout

Journalists’ throats quiver, the panic beginning to show on their faces

Lying on the channel bed, my rage subsided, making way for cold vengefulness

Those damn Yankees would get theirs

An envelope, hidden in the dress of a maid

All in good time

Smuggled from Virginia steel yards

The desperate Rebs, in need of ships raised me from the sea floor


Once the news of the production of another Ironclad reached the Navy’s ears, my production was picked up

They whipped me into shape

Plating my hull with steel and lining my sides with cannons

I was ready

A Confederate Ironclad in Hampton Roads?

What do they call this terror?

Soon, every Yankee man, woman and child would fear my name


Finally, my hour was at hand

I wasn’t quite finished, so there are workmen on the boat coming to battle with me

It was time to meet my famed enemy, the CSS Virginia

It was the second day of the Hampton Roads battle, and I had already shredded two Union ships

I enter the water around the blockade to see the Virgina is already there

God it felt good

But I broke my hull ramming one of them, and water is leaking

Then, I see my opponent for the first time

My crew barrages them with cannon shells and rifle fire, but everything just bounces off

The battle rages for hours

I’m being worn down

Being unfinished and filling with water, I become desperate

I aim for the cannon hole in the Monitor’s turret

Suddenly, a cannon shot comes straight for my turret hole

There is a brilliant flash

I hit

Partially blinded, I have to retreat

The coward runs away, giving me time to escape

By the time I get back, the Virginia is nowhere to be found

Historical Context

The two ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia were the first ironclads in the world to see battle (the French Gloire was the first Ironclad constructed.) The CSS Virginia was originally the Union steam frigate USS Merrimack which had the ironclad Virginia built over it’s hull after being taken by the Confederates. The USS Monitor was built as a response to the the CSS Virginia. The two ironclads fought for four hours on 9 March 1862, the second day of the Battle of Hampton Roads, but the battle ended in a draw.


6 thoughts on “From Behind Steel Eyes

  1. This is brilliant! I love the poetic format, very original. I adore the story you’re telling, the facts are relevant and accurate, and the first person perspective is interesting and fantastic. I absolutely love this!

  2. This method of conveying information is very interesting. To me, it is more entertaining than just reading a brick paragraph, and I like the formatting that you used, with occasional lines on the opposite side. The beginning descriptions of the war that it never saw were very vivid.

  3. This post was more than just a little interesting. I’m so glad that there are posts like this that express their author’s thoughts through a more artistic and creative means than just listing the facts. As an old English teacher of mine used to say, “you did a wonderful job of getting the dragon into the reader’s mind”. What I mean by this is that I could clearly picture everything you were describing and that truly enhanced this post. So I want to say thank you in addition to nice work.

  4. I think this is the best US History poem I’ve ever read. I love the point of view and how it brings a different perspective into the story. This was very creative, and a great way to make learning about history fun (not that it isn’t already).

  5. I love this! it’s great that the story of the Merrimack was told by the ship’s perspective. It is a really unique way of looking at all the things that happened that involved the ship.

  6. The way that this post was written, in a poetic sense, really made it interesting compared to the boring, factual paragraphs we usually have to read. The fact that the ship’s story was told in first person really adds emotion and feeling while reading it. Not only does it have emotion, but it also has very descriptive details that help visualize the situation at that time. Great job! I really enjoyed reading this.

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