The Shenandoah Valley & the Monitor/Merrimac (Virginia) story… curious connections through blood and iron…

Posted on October 29, 2011 by


A little something trivial, but interesting…

On August 6, 1936, Frank Bruen, the author of Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker and his Descendants (1939), “was favored by a call from Capt. Joseph Deyerle Forrer, formerly of Mossy Creek [Augusta County], Va.” According to Bruen,

Samuel Forrer (seated), with sons (l to r) Charles Daniel Forrer, and Joseph Deyerle Forrer; ca. 1895.

In the course of our conversation we spoke of the Iron blast furnaces* at Mossy Creek and the “Elizabeth” furnace at Buffalo Gap, Va. he said the former furnace made cannon balls during the War between the States, he also gave this interesting fact in regard to the “Elizabeth” furnace, saying that the last load of iron from it as the War began, was floated down to Harper’s Ferry, and the owners, his Grandfather and Granduncle, Daniel and Henry Forrer, were very anxious to get the load of iron back before the Federal troops captured it. So, Samuel Forrer, Capt. Joseph’s father, then a young man, was sent to see what he could do. Upon arrival at Harper’s Ferry, Samuel found Federal troops just across the river. There was a railroad on his side of the river thirty miles to Winchester, so he went there and after much importuning and expenditure of the very little money he had, they agreed to try to load the iron on cars and haul it to Winchester, and this they did. From Winchester it was hauled by team to Richmond, and eventually it was made into plates for the “Merrimac’s” armor.

In June 1937, at Luray, Va., Bruen met Joseph D. Forrer’s brother, Judge Charles D. Forrer, and… mentioned to them, what the Captain (JDF) had told him… at which point, the judge’s wife said, “And that is not all,” going on to say that at least some of the iron for the “Monitor” was furnished by the Delamater Iron Works of New York; and these works were owned by collateral relatives of the family. It so happened that the iron ore/ironclads story came full circle in a Forrer family marriage, in the early 20th century, between Judge Forrer’s daughter and Robert Griffin Delamater.**

*In a postwar work, Jedediah Hotchkiss noted that this particular Elizabeth Furnace (there was more than one in the Shenandoah Valley) was built ca. 1863, sixteen miles west of Staunton, in Buffalo Gap… which is, of course, after the conversion of the Merrimac to the Virginia. Likewise, the cold-blast furnace at Mossy Creek, which dates to the 1760s, was burned down in 1841… ruined, the ore lying “in all directions around it”. While I believe that one of the Forrer family’s furnaces provided raw iron for the Confederate ironclad, the question remains as to which one. There were three Forrer furnaces operating in Page County at the time of the Civil War, one of them being Catherine Furnace, in Page County. A “slippage” of historical memory, only one generation removed?

**I haven’t yet figured out how Robert G. Delamater was related to Cornelius H. Delamater.