OSSINING, N.Y. -- As you travel northbound on Route 9 from Briarcliff Manor into Ossining, you will notice an historical marker just before the traffic light at the Scarborough Presbyterian Church.
The marker notes the birthplace of John Lorimer Worden, the commanding officer of the Navy's USS Monitor that waged battle with the Confederacy’s CSS Merrimac, in the historic first clash of ironclad ships in 1862. The marker was placed by the New York State Department of Education in 1949.
Worden was born on March 12, 1818 in what was then the unincorporated area of the Town of Mount Pleasant, in an area known then as either Sparta or "The Corners," in what is now the Village of Briarcliff Manor.
He joined the Navy as a midshipman in 1834 and spent the next several years at sea in the Brazil, Mediterranean and Pacific squadrons and ashore at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.
Promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1846, he served in the storeship USS Southampton off the California coast during the Mexican War (1846-1848). Later he returned to the Mediterranean on the USS Cumberland before making another Naval Observatory tour in 1850-52.
During the remainder of the 1850s and into the early 1860s he was assigned to the Home Squadron and to the New York Navy Yard.
As the secession crisis moved toward Civil War in early 1861, Worden was sent to Pensacola, Fla., with secret instructions for the local naval commander. While returning to the nation’s capital by rail he was seized by Southern authorities and held as a prisoner of war for several months, an experience that badly damaged his health.
In February 1862, upon resuming active duty, he was given command of the ironclad Monitor and took her into a historic battle with Merrimac on March 9, 1862. Suffering serious eye injuries in the action, he had to relinquish command. However, this battle made him a major war hero in the North.
While recovering, Worden was promoted to commander in July 1862. Further promoted to captain, he commanded the USS Montauk during the first months of 1863, bombarding Fort McAllister, Ga., in January, destroying the privateer Rattlesnake in February and participating in the April 7, 1863 attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Worden spent the remainder of the Civil War on the important duty of supervising the construction of new ironclads.
Following the end of the war, Worden commanded the USS Pensacola in the Pacific. He was promoted to the rank of commodore in 1868 and the next year began five year stint as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, during which time he was commissioned a rear admiral.
In 1875-77, Worden commanded the European Squadron. He then had shore duty until retiring from active duty in late 1886. Worden died in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 1897.
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