The Monitor is the second studio album by New Jersey Indie rock band Titus Andronicus. The LP is based loosely on the American Civil War, singer Patrick Stickles explained to the NME: "It doesn't take place in olden times, nor does it necessarily feature any characters that participated in that conflict. Really, it is a record about how the conflicts that led our nation into that great calamity remain unresolved, and the effect that this ongoing division has on our personal relationships and our behaviour and how they're all out to get us (or maybe not?) and yadda yadda yadda."
The album title is a reference to the USS Monitor, the first ironclad warship commissioned by the United States Navy, and this epic 14-minute track refers to the battle between the Monitor and the CSS Virginia, which took place on March 8–9, 1862. The release date of the record is according to Stickles, the band's "way of celebrating the 148th anniversary of this historic event."
The Battle of Hampton Roads was arguably most important naval battle of the American Civil War from the standpoint of the development of navies, its major significance being that it was the first meeting in combat of ironclad warships. Both sides claimed victory but present-day historians agree that the result was victory for neither.
The lettering of the album title on the CD cover is taken from an actual letter written by Abraham Lincoln.
The album features guest appearances by various friends of Patrick Stickles portraying various historical figures in spoken word parts. They include Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn and Vivian Girls guitarist Cassie Ramone who play Walt Whitman and Jefferson Davis, respectively. Stickles explained the casting of the Hold Steady singer to Spinner UK: "Craig Finn was an easy one, because Walt Whitman was one of my favorites for the time period, representing a unique and important thing in that time. Craig is a really great guy, really very open and magnanimous. I think Walt Whitman would have appreciated what he called the adhesiveness of his character.Furthermore, he's definitely in the top tier of lyricists today, and Walt Whitman was obviously the premier poet of that time, in my mind. And [Finn] lives in Brooklyn, and that's where Walt Whitman was from, so it's pretty much a slam dunk, as far as I'm concerned."
There's a lot going on in this 14-minute track. Ponytail guitarist Dustin Wong performed the guitar solo, and there are also a horn section and even bagpipes, which were played by Brett Bondar, a resident of New Paltz, New York, where the album was recorded.