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Stop in downtown NN is scheduled for relic
On Friday and Saturday, anyone with an interest in military history can get a firsthand look at the gun turret of the legendary Civil War ironclad USS Monitor.
The 120-ton turret will make an overnight stop in downtown Newport News on Friday on its way to The Mariners' Museum. Free public ceremonies are planned Friday and Saturday mornings.
At some point Friday - likely about 7 a.m., though it could be several hours earlier - the turret will pass Fort Monroe and Fort Wool, near where the Monitor waged war with the ironclad Merrimack, also known as the CSS Virginia. After that historic battle, the Monitor was moored near the forts. Fort Monroe is tentatively planning to greet the turret Friday with a 21-gun salute.
Public Affairs Officer Nancy Popejoy said visitors would be allowed onto Fort Monroe to view the passing barge but would have to provide their driver's licenses, vehicle registrations and proof of insurance.
The turret is expected to arrive in downtown Newport News at Victory Landing just west of the Victory Arch about 9:30 a.m. A Navy band will play before a ceremony scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. The program includes Navy divers "manning the rails" and Navy, NOAA and museum officials speaking.
After the ceremony, the 235-ton artifact and lift frame will be transferred to a smaller barge, which will transport it to the Lions Bridge on Saturday morning.
The turret is scheduled to arrive at the bridge about 9:30 a.m. Saturday. After a ceremony and a salute by Civil War re-enactors, it will be unloaded and transported to the museum's conservation area.
Justin Lyons, media-relations manager at the museum, said there had been tremendous interest in the turret. He said the museum's Monitor-related Web site, www.monitorcenter.org, had been "on fire" with hits from around the country.
"Our phones are ringing off the hook. People in the community know it's coming, and we're just hearing from people from all over. The excitement about the Monitor has gradually gotten bigger and bigger each year, as the artifacts that are recovered get larger and larger and more significant. The turret - you just can't compare to it. It's the icon of the Monitor."
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The barge carrying the Monitor turret is expected to arrive at the Lions Bridge shortly after 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
After the turret is unloaded from the barge, there will be a brief ceremony featuring Navy Cmdr. Bobby Scholley; John Hightower, The Mariners' Museum president and CEO; and John Broadwater, manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary. The program includes a reading of the names of the 16 men who died during the sinking of the Monitor, followed by a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" and a salute by Civil War re-enactors.
The landing and ceremony at Lions Bridge are free to the public. Parking is available at The Mariners' Museum.
Visitors are invited to bring blankets and lawn chairs. Children's activities are scheduled, and refreshments will be on sale.
After the ceremony, the turret will be transported to the museum conservation area. On the way, it will pass within a few feet of the crowd.
Visitors can also watch the turret's arrival and unloading at the conservation area. The cost to enter the conservation area is $6 for adults and $4 for children. Museum staff will hand out two-for-one coupons at the bridge, and those with a military ID get in free that day.
Mike Holtzclaw can be reached at 928-6479 or by e-mail at email@example.com