Meeting of November 9, 2023

Chuck Veit on “Monitor’s Unknown Mission: The Navy Raid on the Petersburg Bridges”

Here is the unsung and all but forgotten story of a major failed mission of the American Civil War. Undertaken at the request of the President, the Navy dedicated a dozen gunboats (including the ironclads Monitor and Galena) and an untried secret weapon, to the destruction of the railroad bridges connecting Petersburg with Richmond. Success would not attend their efforts, but the attempt was well worth the risk.

Had it succeeded, the naval expedition might well have brought about or at least hastened the end of the Rebellion. That most of the squadron escaped unscathed was due entirely to the battles raging on the peninsula to the north. Southern leadership was necessarily focused on the Union army sitting but a few miles from their capitol, and missed the opportunity to capture or destroy a dozen of the Yankee ships on the James River.

Chuck Veit is the author of original research books, including A Dog Before a Soldier: Almost-lost Episodes in the Navy’s Civil War; Sea Miner: Major E. B. Hunt’s Rocket Torpedo; Natural Genius: Brutus de Villeroi and the U.S. Navy’s First Submarine; and two books focusing on the salvage exploits of Massachusetts native, John E. Gowen: Raising Missouri and The Yankee Expedition to Sebastopol. Sea Miner claimed the 2016 award for Narrative Non-fiction from the Independent Publishers of New England, and Yankee Expedition won awards in both the Perennial Seller category and Book of the Year in 2017.

As President of the Navy & Marine Living History Association, Chuck has presented naval history at living history events, lectures, and conferences including NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Education Conference, the 2012 Civil War Navy Conference at the Mariners’ Museum, the Naval War College, and the Naval Order of the United States at Jacksonville. As a freelance graphic designer, Chuck has taught Graphic Design at the university level and in a corporate environment. He holds a Bachelor’s in Studio Art and Historical Linguistics, and a Masters in Historical Linguistics from Clark University.