The Civil War Connections Blog

“It strikes me there’s something in it…”

The Ironclad Board was not pleased when it learned that the design Bushnell was promoting belonged to John Ericsson.  But Bushnell would not give up on Ericsson’s strange design.  He used his friendship with Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles to insinuate himself into a meeting with President Lincoln and the Ironclad Board on September 13, 1861. Lincoln, who took a keen interest in war technology, was impressed with Ericsson’s model and reportedly said, “All I have to say is what the girl said when she stuck her foot into the stocking. It strikes me there’s something in it.”

Commodore Smith and Captain Paulding were willing to consider Ericsson’s proposal.  But Captain Smith adamantly refused, even with the President’s endorsement.  He told Bushnell to “take the little thing home and worship it, as it would not be idolatry, because it was in the image of nothing in the heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters under the earth.”

Bushnell realized the only way to truly persuade the board was for Ericsson to explain his strange vessel in person, for, as Bushnell reasoned, “Ericsson is a full electric battery himself.”