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Publisher's Summary

From acclaimed popular historian Richard Snow comes the thrilling story of the naval battle that changed the Civil War and the future of all sea power.

No single sea battle has had more far-reaching consequences than the one fought in the harbor at Hampton Roads, Virginia, in March 1862. The Confederacy, with no fleet of its own, built an iron fort containing 10 heavy guns on the hull of a captured Union frigate named the Merrimack. The North got word of the project when it was already well along, and, in desperation, commissioned an eccentric inventor named John Ericsson to build the Monitor, an entirely revolutionary iron warship - at the time, the single most complicated machine ever made. Abraham Lincoln himself was closely involved with the ship's design. Rushed through to completion in just 100 days, it mounted only two guns, but they were housed in a shot-proof revolving turret.

The ship hurried south from Brooklyn (and nearly sank twice on the voyage), only to arrive to find the Merrimack had destroyed half the Union fleet and would be back to finish the job the next day. When she returned, the Monitor was there. She fought the Merrimack to a standstill and saved the Union cause. As soon as word of the battle spread, Great Britain - the foremost sea power of the day - ceased work on all wooden ships. A thousand-year-old tradition ended, and the path to the naval future opened.

Iron Dawn is the irresistible story of these incredible, intimidating war machines. Historian Richard Snow brings to vivid life the tensions of the time, explaining how wooden and ironclad ships worked, maneuvered, battled, and sank. This full account of the Merrimack and Monitor has never been told in such immediate, compelling detail.

©2016 Richard Snow (P)2016 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Good book about an underreported area of the civil war

I have read about 100 books about the civil war (including several comprehensive multi-volume histories) and an astonishing percentage of this book was completely unknown to me. It is a good length, well paced, enjoyable and informative.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Great story

As a boy, I went fishing in Hampton Roads, just off Fort Monroe, in a little boat with an outboard motor. This was just before the Civil War centennial craze: it was impossible not to get caught up in it, and the story of the Monitor and the Merrimack, which took place in Hampton Roads a hundred years earlier, was one of the most fascinating.

Richard Snow has written a wonderful book, in one sense a dual biography of the two warships. (He refers to the Confederate vessel throughout as the "Merrimack," pointing out that although it had been rechristened the CSS Virginia, that name never caught on, even at the time. He also explains why the name correctly has a "k" at the end. I was so steeped in the lore of the battle from my boyhood that the "k" in the title of the book is one of the first things that caught my attention.)

There was a lot of information here that was new to me, despite my previous interest in the subject. I had never known, for example, that the Monitor, as tough as she was under fire, was vulnerable to boarding - and that the crew of the Merrimack actually did try to board her at one point during the battle. I had never realized before, though it's obvious in hindsight, that one of brilliant features of the Monitor's design was that after firing, the turret swung away: the Merrimack's gunners were never able to draw a bead on the gun ports. And the Confederate Secretary of the Navy, considering the rebuilt Merrimack a great success, proposed sailing it to New York harbor and blowing ships and the Brooklyn shipyards there out of the water.

Snow includes a retrospective chapter that covers both ships and men. The Merrimack was blown up by the Confederates to prevent its capture after Lincoln set in motion a campaign to retake the Norfolk shipyard. And at the very end of 1862, the Monitor went down in a storm off Cape Hatteras as it sailed south for another mission. Both ships defied expectations by actually floating, but neither was fit for sea. (When the Monitor's turret was found and raised a few years ago, skeletal remains were found and given a respectful burial.)

Grover Gardner gives his usual excellent performance.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Rick
  • Murrieta, CA, United States
  • 02-24-17

Bone Dry.

For me, there was an awful lot of build-up, and historical footnotes leading up to the 20 minute sea battle that ended in a draw. Disappointing to say the least. Listen, I'm a Navy veteran, and a Civil War buff so I thought I'd get a little more out of this title than what I did. Having read countless historical perspectives on the war, including a few on the Naval contribution, I anticipated a little bit more. And I thought for certain I'd be listening to a treat considering the participants.

I can say without a doubt that because of these two vessels (I'm hesitant to call either a ship), the dawn of the steel navy was born. But aside from that, I found myself daydreaming on more than one occasion. the author just didn't have my attention for the duration.

Grover Gardner does an excellent job narrating as always. He has an even tone and satisfying delivery that plays a significant part (for me) in telling this story. I'm glad I was stuck with him for the 12+ hours it took to read/listen. Aside from that, I think I'd be asleep.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Carroll
  • Hilo, HI, United States
  • 11-19-17

A worthwhile addition to the saga of ironclads

While the various stories of the two ironclads have many books.... this was a good overview of both sides efforts to develop new weapons & overcome multitudes of challenges... until almost by chance, both contenders meet one morning... a worthwhile listen/read.

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A Very Good Book, It reminds me of my first book.

The first real book that I read was, as I recall, "John Erickson, and The Monitor and Marimac". My mother gave it to me when I was 7 or 8, I loved it, it is no longer in print, but this wonderful book brought back all my fond memories of it. I have all ways been a Civil War "Buff", especially of the "IronClads" and of course the Monitor. I closely followed the discovery of her resting place and the salvage of her "Cheese Box" and Daulgren Guns. This Very Good listen!

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Hard to get better...

than Grover Gardner set at 1.5 x narration speed on my IPhone, some rousing history and an author who can turn a phrase with the best of them! Almost everyone knows about the epic naval battle between the Monitor and the Merrimack, so it is no small accomplishment to keep the reader mesmerized not only with events preceding, but the personalities leading "with a novelist's timing" to Iron Dawn and three hours that changed the entire world. Excellent!

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Informative. Dry at times. Overall good listen.

The author did a great job of bringing personalities to life. The narrator was was clear in his delivery. Certain scenes I would have appreciated a little more viewpoints on the matter. Such as the design struggles of Ericsson, but still a good listen.

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Fantastic up close and personal of the events

What made the experience of listening to Iron Dawn the most enjoyable?

The detailed outlines of the actual events as they took place in the making of each warship, and their meeting at Hampton Roads. The follow up of what happened after the battle to each ship and the crews.

What did you like best about this story?

The details are fantastic, it;'s almost like you are there during each battle.

Which scene was your favorite?

The actual Battle at Hampton Roads. How the Monitor came into battle, and how the CSS Virginia (Merrimac) attacked. There were elements I was not aware of here, but were well detailed.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Some very sad points regarding the results of battle.