The Red Lantern

On the night the Monitor went down, the captain raised this red lantern as a final distress signal. The last object seen by the Monitor's crew was to later become the first object recovered from the wreck site. Visitors can view the restored red lantern at The Mariners' Museum.

The Red Lantern

The red lantern was the first artifact recovered from the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. Image courtesy of The Mariners' Museum.

On December 31, 1862, while being towed to Beaufort, North Carolina, by the USS Rhode Island, the USS Monitor was caught in a severe storm. When the captain realized that they were in extreme distress, he ordered a red lantern to be raised on the Monitor's famous revolving gun turret, as a signal to the Rhode Island. The lantern was the last thing that the crew saw before the Monitor went down.

Artifact Recovery

More than 100 years later, the same red lantern was the first object seen at the wreck site. It was rolling across the ocean bottom next to the turret and became the first artifact recovered from the Monitor. The lantern was found relatively intact with its brass in extremely fragile condition. It was taken to the Smithsonian Institution for conservation, where it remained for seven years before being put on display.

The red lantern is currently on display at The Mariners' Museum.

  • Location: The Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia
  • Recovery: 1977
  • Material: Brass frame with red Fresnel lens
  • Notable Features: The lantern was the last thing seen the night the Monitor sank and the first item recovered by archaeologists in the 1970s

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.