Definition: A monitor watches over an area, person or special day.
It was 150 years ago this past week that in our American History we remember The Battle of Hampton Roads….the Clash of the Ironclads. It was the sea battle during the Civil War between the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. In the past week, I was able to travel to Virginia and visit the Maritime Museum where I learned much about these two boats and their history. Here is my quick historical review.
USS Monitor vs CSS Virginia (former Merrimack)
At the beginning of the Civil War there was no doubt which side had the strongest navy: Union 42 ships, Confederacy none. The strategic key was controlling the waterways which the South economy depended. The Union had a steam frigate named the Merrimack which was scuttled (sunk) by the Union when they had to leave Portsmouth Gasport Navy Yard. During the next nine months, the Confederacy raised and transformed the burned out hulk into the fearsome CSS Virginia. Meanwhile the Union hearing this news worked through stubbornness, subterfuge and persuasion in which the navy and navy inventors worked together to design and build in only 188 days a revolutionary warship. Everything about the Monitor was new, from its revolving turret down to its flushing toilets. The Monitor had 33 patents and some 100 patentable innovations which made her a marvel of technology and also a 100% break with the past. The Monitor was a work of art. Named for her intent to MONITOR and control the waterways leading into the south.
On March 8th and 9th, 150 years ago the two warships came into battle that would become one of the bloodiest and most historic in American navy warfare. Although both sides had causalities no side left being the winner. A week later, the Virginia had an explosion and sunk as the Monitor went into dry dock for repairs. Two weeks later the Monitor under clear skies headed for South Carolina only to encounter a bad storm and sank.
Image of the MONITOR lives on.
Sitting on the bottom of the Atlantic and out of sight the MONITOR continued to live in the hearts of American life. General Electric Monitor “turreted” Top Refrigerators became popular. Other items such as model kits, board games, cartoons, numerous novels and movies has kept the spirit of the Monitor alive. If we love something, we find ways to keep the image and spirit alive.
Here in Texas, it was 43 years ago in March 1969 that the Blue Topaz gem became the official State Gem of Texas. Our topaz here in Texas is considered among the best in the United States and can only be found in Mason County among the granite hills
Screening for Topaz
and sandy creek beds. You may not need a special section of the Navy to bring it to the surface like they did the Monitor ten years ago. One just needs some simple tools, gloves, screens, patience, tenacity, and the love of the hunt. There are some on the surface, most below ground level and yet they live in the spirit of Texans and American Adventurers.
This year’s Texas Topaz Day Weekend will be held March 23-24, 2012. www.texas-topaz.com Guided rock hounding for topaz & other minerals (reservations required) will take place in the morning. In the afternoon on the Mason Square, come see gem cutting demonstrations and the Famous Diamond Replica gems created by members of the Texas Faceters’ Guild. Music by John Arthur Martinez will roll out the evening at the Sandstone Wine Bar, 4-8pm. On Sunday the Texas Faceters’ Guild will be having their annual faceting seminar which is also open to all interested parties.
If your rock hounding adventures don’t give you the results you want, you can purchase some in the raw or faceted gem quality at Country Collectibles, Gem of the Hill Country, or UnderWoods Antiques. Benjie’s on the Square offers books on gems and Texas History. AtGood to Go, our coffee shop you can share your stories of the hunt over TOPAZ MACCHIATO. Bridget Langdale will have hand painted or quilted cloth bags to carry your day’s collection around for ‘show n tell’ time. Swing by Mason’s chocolate store, Cocoa Luna to show us what you found and purchase some edible jewelry…yes they will be made of sugar, chocolate, nuts & will look gorgeous. They will be packaged with the Cocoa Luna –Carol Conlee’s special elegant touch.