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Civil War Lectures

Join us for a FREE virtual Lecture

Join John Quarstein, renowned historian and director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center, as he presents on the intriguing maritime history of the Civil War. This long-running series explores the ships, personalities, technologies, and battles that would shape our nation for the next 150 years.

Civil War lectures are FREE. Advance registration is required.

Got ideas for a lecture topic or want to share comments or questions? Email us at [email protected].



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John Quarstein

John V. Quarstein



Battle of New Market Heights

Friday, September 24, 2021 • 12 PM (ET)

Presented by John V. Quarstein, director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center

About the presentation:
General Ulysses S. Grant had made several attempts to break through the Confederate defenses guarding Petersburg and Richmond. During his Fifth Offensive, he tried to attack simultaneously on both sides of the James River. As George Meade’s Army of the Potomac struck toward the railroads coming into Petersburg, Benjamin Franklin Butler’s Army of the James attacked Southern fortifications at Chaffin’s Bluff and New Market Heights below Richmond. Brigadier General Charles Paine’s Third Division, composed of US Colored Troops units, spearheaded the dawn assault on September 29, 1864. The USCT soldiers displayed such great valor that 14 were awarded the Medal of Honor. Butler was so impressed by these soldiers that he minted 199 silver medals to honor even more soldiers. Although this engagement did not result in the capture of Richmond, it did prove the gallantry of these African American soldiers.

Image credit: “Three Medals of Honor.” Don Troiani, artist. Courtesy of


USS Cumberland: The Power of Iron Over Wood

Friday, October 8, 2021 • 12 PM (ET)

Presented by John V. Quarstein, director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center

About the presentation:
The USS Cumberland was a Raritan-class 50-gun sailing frigate. Ordered initially in 1816, the warship was not launched until 1842. The vessel served in the Mediterranean Squadron for three cruises and fought during the Mexican War. The frigate was razed into a sloop of war at Charlestown Navy Yard, 1855-57. The remodeled warship was assigned to the Africa Station on slave patrol. In 1860, Cumberland was the flagship of the Home Squadron. The Cumberland escaped destruction when Federal officials abandoned Gosport Navy Yard in April 1861. Eleven months later, Cumberland earned the dubious distinction of being the first wooden warship sunk by an ironclad when on March 8, 1862, CSS Virginia destroyed the obsolete sloop proving the power of iron over wood.
Image credit: “U.S. Frigate Cumberland, 54 Guns. The flagship of the Gulf Squadron, Com. Perry.” Lithograph, hand-colored. Currier & Ives. ca. 1843-1848. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.  

River Monitors

Friday, October 22, 2021 • 12 PM (ET)

Presented by John V. Quarstein, director emeritus of the USS Monitor Center

About the presentation:
While the Union achieved great success on the western waters with the City-class and other paddle wheel casemate ironclads like USS Essex, shipyards in the Mississippi River began to construct turreted ironclads. Most of these monitors did not see active operations until 1864, yet they were shotproof and effective warships. Two classes of single-turreted monitors and one class featured twin turrets. The most unusual river monitor was USS Ozark which had one turret and one casemate. Milwaukee-class monitors, USS Chickasaw and USS Winnebago, fought during the August 5, 1864 Battle of Mobile Bay and damaged the Confederate ironclad CSS Tennessee. For the most part, these monitors were successful and played a valuable role in the Confederacy’s final defeat in the West.
Image credit: The Tennessee at Bay, in the Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command.

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