PORTSMOUTH, Va. -- Descendants of crewmen from the Civil War Battle of the Ironclads signed a ceremonial peace proclamation Sunday and shared memories of relatives who fought in the 1862 clash between the Monitor and Merrimack.
About 160 descendants of crew members from the famed sea battle between the world's first ironclad warships met for a breakfast, ceremony, church service and a mock battle between replica ships of the Monitor and Merrimack in the Elizabeth River neat Fort Monroe.
About 200 people lined the waterfront to watch the mock battle which, like the actual contest over a century ago, ended in a standoff.
The gathering was part of a four-day celebration marking the 125th anniversary of the encounter involving the Union ship USS Monitor and the Confederate Merrimack -- also called the CSS Virginia. The clash occurred March 9, 1862, off Fort Monroe, Va., less than 10 miles from Portsmouth.
Scholars generally agree the battle that marked the advent of the modern navy was a draw.
Some descendants found out only recently that family members fought in the battle.
'Both of my great grandfathers were on the Merrimack, but I didn't know that until two weeks ago,' said Robert Moore, a Norfolk businessman who joined three other family members at the gathering.
Esther Crews Gilbert, 85, of Alexandria, remembered her grandfather, Hardin Littlepage, a midshipman on the Merrimack, as 'the cutest, kindest man you ever saw.'
There were no descendants of Merrimack Capt. Franklin Buchanan attending, but Julia Statter of New York represented her children and grandchildren, who are direct descendants on their father's side of John Worden, the captain of the Monitor who was later promoted to admiral.
The peace proclamation noted that no lives were lost in the four-hour battle and that descendants were able to attend the ceremony because 'our ancestors were not killed in the wars in which they fought.'
The proclamation concluded: 'So let the people who were never born, the descendants who never existed, and their children and grandchildren who will never live, serve as our haunting reminders of why war is hell but the love of humanity is heaven.'
The gathering of the descendants was organized by Irwin Berent, a Norfolk free-lance writer and genealogist and was sponsored by the Portsmouth Civil War Round Table.
'I'm hoping that we can maybe make the gathering of the descendants an annual thing in the Hampton Roads area,' said Berent. Contacts with descendants of crew members will increase as more family members attempt to contact other relatives, he predicted.
The four-day celebration marking the anniversary was scheduled to conclude Monday with a ceremony held by the National Oceanic and Atmosopheric Administration at the Mariner's Museum in Newport News.