|This article was published in The Day Book, Volume 3, Issue 6 (Sept-Oct 1997), a publication of the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, Norfolk, Va. This is a copy (with permission) from their web site.|
By Gordon Calhoun
The nominations are in for the Sage's first ever U.S. Navy ship name competition, henceforth called The Bamboozle Awards. Bandweezle is a maritime term for a practical joke.
As a reminder, the categories are Hardest to Pronounce, Most Patriotic, Most confusing, Most Ironic, Most Lucky, and Best Overall Name.
The U.S. Navy draws from all sections of American culture to name
its ships. As a result some are pretty darn hard to pronounce. Here is
the long list of nominees for this award:
All of these ships, except the last one, are Civil War-era monitors and are named after either Native American tribes, villages, or famous warriors. Haleakala (AE-25) was an ammunition ship in the 1960's and 70's and was named after one of the volcanoes in Hawaii. We would like to recognize BTCS (SW) Dandes for nominating Haleakala and the staff of the Monitor Marine Sanctuary for nominating the winner, the monitor USS Miantomoh.
U.S. Naval vessels are one of the great symbols of American power and pride. As a result, we have given several ships patriotic names as examples of our pride. Here are the most patriotic names:
When the Confederate States formed their navy in 1861, they named a few ships after some of their "founding fathers."
We picked Constitution as our winner.
USS Constitution-Defeated four British frigates in three different battles, escaped from a squadron of six battleships and frigates, blasted the Barbary Pirates, and is still around today.
USS Brooklyn- During the Battle of Mobile Bay, it struck several underwater mines at the entrance to the bay. None of them went off.
USS Minnesota-Engaged CSS Virginia twice after running aground, and lived to tell about it. Also survived several devastating shots from the guns of Ft. Fisher.
USS Franklin (CV-13)-This carrier's journey home from the Pacific is the stuff of legends. Her crew was able to keep the carrier afloat for thousand of miles after being severely damaged by air strikes.
Our winner is the frigate USS Constitution. Congratulations to Hunt Lewis for nominating the winner.
This category has ship names in history that did not exactly fit the ship mission.
USS Aphrodite (SP-135)-World War I patrol escort. Named for the mythological Greek goddess of love. Puts a new spin on the phrase "Make Love, Not War."
USS Pansy-World War I VIP yacht.
USS Cuttlefish (SS-171) and USS Spadefish (SSN-668)-A cuttlefish is a small ten-armed creature that is a cousin to the squid. A spadefish is a colorful, peaceful tropical fish found all over the world's oceans.
USS Cuttlefish and Spadefish were both attack boats that were capable of wreaking havoc among enemy vessels.
CSS United States-When the Gosport Shipyard was overrun, the Confederates captured the hull of the frigate United States and renamed it.
The Sage would like to recognize Matt Burchfield for nominating Cuttlefish. We picked the flower ship, USS Pansy, as our winner.
We have three nominees for this category:
USS Stump (DD-978)-Modern day destroyer. Named for Adm. Feliex Stump who was commander of several different surface warships, including Langley (CV-1), Lexington (CV-3), and Alabama (BB-60), during World War II and COMNAVAIRLANT right after the war.
USS Shakamaxon-Double turreted monitor, never finished. Named for the town in Pennsylvania where William Penn signed a peace treaty with the Delaware Indians.
USS Argus-Successful War of 1812 brig that was eventually captured by the British of the coast of Ireland. Named for the mythological Greek "all-seeing" god of a thousand eyes who was zapped into the world's first peacock by Zeus.
We picked Shakamaxon as our winner.
We come now to the "Most Confusing" award. Most ships have one name and one name only throughout their entire career. Some ships, however, have had their name changed either because of politics or change in the ship's mission.
Out of these latter vessels, there are those that have been renamed, but for one reason or another not everyone was clued into the fact that the vessel was renamed. As a result, the ships are incorrectly referenced in contemporary writings and even in modern histories.
The first nominee is the cutter Nagatuck. It also is called E.A. Stephens, Stehpens Battery, and Ironsides by contemporary writers. Union commanders knew that the Stephens brothers designed the vessel so they figured the brothers named it after themselves. The Confederates not knowing who designed the vessel or its name called it Ironsides.
But the hands down winner in this category is the second nominee: Hampton Roads' very own ironclad CSS Virginia. No vessel has been so confused and verbally abused as this ship. Many visitors who come to the museum see the model of this ironclad and instantly called it Merrimack. This the Sage can understand. After all that is why we have the museum here in the first place, to educate the public on Naval history. What the Sage can not understand, nor excuse, are when historians and other Civil War "experts," refer to this ironclad as Merrimack. The Sage has seen many Civil War histories for sale in book stores written by professional historians, that call the ironclad by the wrong name. Of further insult is when Merrimack is spelled without the "k." The ship was named after the Merrimack River, thus the Merrimac spelling is incorrect.
The source of the confusion lays in the fact that when the Confederates overran the Gosport Shipyard, they captured and raised the hull of the steam frigate USS Merrimack. They converted the hull into an ironclad, then rechristened, and recommissioned the vessel CSS Virginia. Contemporary writers especially on the Union side always referred to the vessel as Merrimack, not knowing that the Confederates renamed it. This was a common mistake. Another example of this type of confusion is the ironclad USS Galena. The Confederates referred to it as USS Mystic, as the only thing they knew about the vessel was the fact that it was built in Mystic, Connecticut.
So, 135 years after the Battle of Hampton Roads, the mistake rolls on. Drive across the James River on I-664 if you do not believe this is the case. The Sage has heard every reason and theory under the sun on why people need to say Merrimack. It is the Sage's opinion that we continue to make this mistake due to a phenomena in English known as alliteration. When you put two words together that both begin with the same letter, it is easier to say. When you say "The Battle of Monitor-Merrimack" together it flows off the tongue much easier than saying "The Battle of Monitor-Virginia."
Whether that is the case or not, saying Merrimack is only correct when you are referring to the steam frigate. The name of the ironclad is Virginia. The Sage would like to recognize the staff members at the Monitor Marine Sanctuary for nominating the winner. -G.C.
|The Day Book|