Naval History and Heritage Command

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Ajax I (Monitor)

(Mon: dp. 2,100; 1. 225'; b. 43'8"; dph. 13'4"; dr. 12'6"; s. 5.5 k.; cpl. 85; a. none; cl. Canonicus)


A Greek hero during the Trojan War, second only to Achilles' prowess and valor. The son of Telemon of Salamis and Periboea, Ajax vied with Ulysses for the arms which had belonged to the fallen Achilles. Maddened by disappointment and anger when they were awarded to the latter, Ajax slew the Greek army's flock of sheep, mistaking them for enemies. When he regained his senses and realized what he had done, he killed himself from shame and despair.


The contract for construction of Manayunk was signed by agents of the Navy and the shipbuilding firm of Snowden and Mason on 15 September 1862, and the keel of that Canonicus-class monitor was- laid down shortly thereafter at Pittsburgh, Pa. The ship was ready to be launched in April 1864, but her entry into water was delayed by the very low level of the Ohio River. She finally slid down the ways on 18 December 1864; but, by that time, most of the naval phase of the Civil War had ended. Therefore, the ship's fitting out was halted before she received her two 15-inch Dahlgren smooth-bore guns. She was towed to the naval station at Mound City, Ill., and laid up until 1867 when she was towed down the Mississippi and again laid up, this time at New Orleans. While there, Manayunk was renamed Ajax on 15 June 1867.

Commissioned on 1 January 1871, Lt. Comdr. Charles Love Franklin in command, the monitor was made seaworthy and moved to Key West, Fla. She operated out of that base on coast defense maneuvers with the North Atlantic Squadron until decommissioned on 1 July 1871 and laid up at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Following extensive repairs there, Ajax was recommissioned on 13 January 1874, Comdr. Joseph N. Miller in command, and returned to Key West, her base for further operations with the North Atlantic Squadron until again inactivated on 27 July 1875 and laid up at Port Royal, S.C. Recommissioned on 5 November 1875, the ship remained at Port Royal until moved to the James River. In ensuing years, she was moored at Brandon and at City Point, Va., before being placed in ordinary at Richmond on 30 June 1891.

On 26 September 1895, Ajax was transferred on loan to the New Jersey Naval Militia and moored at Camden. During the Spanish-American War, the monitor was returned to the Navy and recommissioned on 9 July 1898 for service at Baltimore as a guard ship under the auspices of the Auxiliary Naval Force. However, the rapid American success in that conflict obviated such defensive measures; and the ship was decommissioned on 1 September 1898 before work to make her battle worthy had been completed.

Ajax was sold at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on 10 October 1899.

Published: Thu Jun 11 12:57:38 EDT 2015