[A] fictional treatment of the world’s first engagement between armored vessels ... a well-written and interesting book.
Alan Cameron, Lloyd’s List, (London, U.K.)
Arthur Mokin’s vivid account of the tense year 1861, when everything in naval affairs seemed to be going wrong for the North, presents absorbing portraits of the personalities involved as well as a lucid account of the naval tactics and strategy on both sides, dramatic narratives of the several ship battles in Hampton Roads, and above all detailed descriptions of the commanders of the Merrimack and Monitor learning the capacities, drawbacks and technologies of fighting their respective ships.
Major Ken McKenzie, Jr., U.S. Marine Corps, Naval History
Arthur Mokin’s Ironclad: The Monitor and the Merrimack is a fictional treatment of the world’s first engagement between armored vessels. Drawing from both primary and secondary sources, it is very much in the tradition of Gore Vidal’s Lincoln: A Novel (Random House, 1984) and William Safire’s Freedom (Doubleday, 1987). His stage is set from the office of the President to the battlefield of First Bull Run; from the jail in Montgomery, where the first commander of the Monitor, John L. Worden, was imprisoned, to the New York office of Captain John Ericsson, her architect.
Although it is difficult to place words in the mouths of historical figures, to deduce private motive from public record, Mokin has generally succeeded. His characters are plausible and reasonably developed, and he captures the soul of a Navy Department torn between the tradition of broad sail and wooden walls, yet pressed by emerging operational demands to consider the armored, steam-propelled warship. Mokin is at his best in describing the tortured deliberations of an examining board confronting the new technology of iron and steam.
The battle scenes themselves are graphic and immediate. On 8 and 9 March 1862, naval warfare was forever changed, as the Merrimack literally crushed the union’s wooden-hull blockade frigates in Hampton Roads, and then turned on the Monitor. Their lengthly, inconclusive duel was a tactical stalemate, but a strategic victory for the North, since it left the blockade in place and protected the movement of General George McClellan’s army to the Penninsula.
This is a well-written and interesting book...
Carolyn Spector, KLCC
In IRONCLAD, while preserving absolute fidelity to the facts, Mokin is able to give the protagonists enough color and depth so we know and care about their pursuits. The story lives as we read it.
Mokin offers us some interesting insights into the character of Abraham Lincoln who was, of course, president and final decision-maker during the Civil War. I’m somewhat of a sucker for Lincoln material, and the way we see him through Mokin’s eyes is very revealing. This was indeed a man whose humanity and fairness was strong and crucial, his very essence.
There are other elements in IRONCLAD which appealed to me. The powerful description of Washington D.C. in the summer is terrific. Smells and sounds waft off the pages to your unsuspecting senses. The man who engineered the Monitor using a dream he had cherished for many years, John Ericsson, brings more life and color into the narration which will perk you up as you meet him and marvel at his determined foresight and engineering.
The tension builds as the Merrimack finally proceeds to meet the Monitor. Those of you who are war movie buffs need go no further. The pages where Mokin describes the battle are tense, exciting and vivid.