George S. Geer Letters: Life Aboard an Ironclad

This collection of over 80 letters written by Monitor crewman George S. Geer to his family offer a glimpse aboard the ship and provide us with a perspective on the life of a sailor during the Civil War. The collection can be viewed in greater detail on The Mariners' Museum Web site.

George S. Geer Letter

Geer's letters home provide insight into what life was like for sailors on the Monitor. Image courtesy of The Mariners' Museum. To more closely view Geer's letters, visit The Mariners' Museum Web site.

Crewman George S. Geer

Crewman George S. Geer penned over 80 letters while serving aboard the Monitor during the Civil War. Image courtesy of The Mariners' Museum.

The history of the USS Monitor encompasses much more than just the artifacts found at the wreck site. The people involved and the story of what they encountered also play a large role in the Monitor's full history. These people helped to make both the ship and the legend that this extraordinary piece of history has become.

The letters of Monitor crewman George S. Geer offer a remarkable glimpse aboard the ironclad and a rare perspective on a sailor's experience of the Civil War. For example, Geer describes the unbearable living conditions aboard the Monitor in the Virginia summer heat and being swarmed by mosquitoes. He also talked in detail about the food, "On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays we have Been Soupe, or perhaps a bettor name would be to call it Bean Water. I am often tempted to strip off my shirt and make a dive and see if there really is Beens in the Bottom…"

Artifact Recovery

Geer's letters were donated to The Mariners' Museum in 1997, by the Espy family of Savannah, Georgia. The letters are on display at the museum and on the museum's Web site.

  • Location: The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia
  • Recovery: 1997 (donated by the Espy family)
  • Material: Paper
  • Notable Features: Geer's letters home were written in January and December, 1862.


Related Web Sites:

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary

National Marine Sanctuary Program

The Monitor Center at The Mariners' Museum

Works Consulted:

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. (1994). A look at the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary: Past, Present and Future.

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. (2005). Monitor National Marine Sanctuary factsheet.