The Civil War Connections Blog

It’s kinda obvious who read the instructions….

The Ironclad Board’s September 16, 1861 document continued – with their recommendations for construction:


We have made a synopsis of the propositions and specifications submitted, which we annex, and now proceed to state, in brief, the results of our decisions upon the offers presented to us.

J. Ericsson, New York, page 19 – This plan of a floating battery is novel, but seems to be based upon a plan which will render the battery shot and shell proof. We are somewhat apprehensive that her properties for sea are not such as a sea-going vessel should possess. But she may be moved from one place to another on the coast in smooth weather. We recommend that an experiment be made with one battery of this description on the terms proposed, with a guarantee and forfeiture in case of failure in any of the properties and points of the vessel as proposed.

Price, $275,000; length of vessel, 172 feet; breadth of beam, 41 feet; depth of hold, 11 feet; time, 100 days; draught of water, 10 feet; displacement 1,255 tons; speed per hour, nine statute miles.

John W. Nystrom, Philadelphia, 1216 Chestnut Street, page 1 – The plan of (quadruple) guns is not known, and cannot be considered. The dimensions would not float the vessel without guards, which we are not satisfied would repel shot. We do not recommend this plan.

Price, about $175,000; length of vessel, 175 feet; breadth of beam, 27 feet; depth of hold, 13 feet; time, four months; draught of water, 10 feet; displacement, 875 tons; speed per hour, 12 knots.

William Perine, New York, 2777 post office box, presents three plans. The specifications and drawings are not full. The last proposal (No. 3, page 2) for the heavy plating is the only one we have considered; but there is neither drawing nor model, and the capacity of the vessel, we think, will not bear the armor and armament proposed.

Price, $621,000; length of vessel, 225 feet; breadth of beam, 45 feet; depth of hold, 15 feet; time, 9 months, draught of water, 13 feet; displacement, 2,454 tons; speed per hour, 10 knots.

John C. Le Ferre, Boston, page 9 – Description deficient. Not recommended. Sent a model, but neither price, time, nor dimensions stated.

E. S. Renwick, New York, 335 Broadway, presents drawings, specification, and model of an iron-clad vessel of large capacity and powerful engines, with great speed, capable of carrying a heavy battery, and stated to be shotproof and a good sea-boat. The form and manner of construction and proportions of this vessel are novel, and will attract the attention of scientific and practical men. She is of very light draught of water, and on the question whether she will prove to be a safe and convertible sea-boat we do not express a decided opinion. Vessels of somewhat similar form, in that part of vessel which is immersed, of light draught of water on our western lakes, have, we believe, proved entirely satisfactory in all weathers. To contract the effect of waves, when disturbed by the winds, by producing a jerk, or sudden rolling motion of flat, shoal vessels, it is proposed to carry a sufficient weight above the center of gravity to counterpoise the heavy weight below, which is done in this ship by the immense iron armor. If, after a full discussion and examination by experts on this plan, it should be decided that she is a safe vessel for sea service, we would recommend the construction upon it of one ship at one of our dock yards.

The estimate cost of this ship, $1,500,000, precludes action upon the plan until further appropriations shall be made by Congress for such objects.

Time not stated; length of vessel, 400 feet; breadth of beam 60 feet; depth of hold, 33 feet; draught of water, 16 feet; displacement, 6,520 tons; speed per hour, at least 18 miles.

Whitney & Rowland, Brooklyn, Greenpoint, page 13, propose an iron gunboat, armor of bars of iron and thin plate over it. No price stated. Dimensions of vessel, we think, will not bear the weight and possess stability. Time, 5 months. Not recommended.

Length of vessel, 140 feet; breadth of beam, 28 feet; depth of hold, 13 feet; draught of water, 8 feet.

Donald McKay, Boston, page 16 – Vessel, in general dimensions and armor, approved. The speed estimated slow. The cost precludes the consideration of construction by the board.

Price, $1,000,000; length of vessel, 227 feet; breadth of beam, 50 feet; depth of hold, 26 feet; time, 9 to 10 months; draught of water, 13 feet; displacement, 1,215 tons; speed, not stated.

William H. Wood, Jersey City, N.J., page 14 – Dimensions will not float the guns high enough; not recommended.

Price, $225,000; length of vessel, 160 feet; breadth, 34 feet; depth of hold, 22 feet; time, 4 months; draught of water, 13 feet; displacement, 1,215 tons; speed, not stated.

Merrick and Sons, Philadelphia, pages 7 and 8. – Vessel of wood and iron combined. This proposition we consider the most practicable one for heavy armor. We recommend that a contract be made with that party, under the guarantee, with forfeiture in case of failure to comply with specifications; and that the contract require the plates to be 15 feet long and 36 inches wide, with a reservation of some modifications, which may occur as the work progresses, not to affect the cost.

Price, $225,000; length of vessel, 220 feet; breadth of beam, 60 feet; depth of hold 23 feet; time, 9 months; draught of water, 13 feet; displacement, 3,296 tons; speed per hour, 9 knots.

Benjamin Rathburn,_____________, page 20We do not recommend the plan for adoption.

Price not stated; length of vessel not stated; breadth of beam, 80 feet; depth of hold, 74 feet; time not stated; draught of water, 25 feet; displacement, 15,000 tons; speed not stated. Specifications incomplete.

Henry R. Dunham, New York, page 11. – Vessel too costly for the appropriation; no drawings or specifications; not recommended.

Price, $1,200,000; length of vessel, 325 feet; breadth of beam 60 feet; depth of hold not stated; time, 15 to 18 months; draught of water, 16 feet; displacement not stated; speed per hour, 12 miles.

C.S. Bushnell, & Co., New Haven, Conn., page 121, propose a vessel to be iron-clad, on the rail and plate principal, and to obtain high speed. The objection to this vessel is the fear that she will not float her armor and load sufficiently high, and have stability enough for a sea vessel. With a guarantee that she shall do these, we recommend on that basis a contract.

Price, $235,250; length of vessel, 180 feet; breadth of beam,_____feet; depth of hold, 12 2/3 feet; time, 4 months; draught of water, 10 feet; displacement,________tons; speed per hour, 12 knots.

John Westwood, Cincinnati, Ohio, page 17. – Vessel of wood, with iron armor; plan good enough, but the breadth not enough to bear armor. No detailed specification; no price or time stated; only a general drawing. Not recommended.

Neafie & Levy, Philadelphia, page 5. – No plans or drawings, therefore not considered. Neither price nor time stated. Length of vessel, 200 feet; breadth of beam, 40 feet; depth of hold, 15 feet; draught of water, 13 feet; displacement, 1,748 tons; speed per hour, 10 knots.

Wm. Norris, New York, 26 Cedar Street, page 6. – Iron boat without armor. Too small, and not received.

Price, $32,000; length of vessel, 83 feet; breadth of beam, 25 feet; depth of hold, 14 feet; time, 60 to 75 days; draught of water, 3 feet; displacement, 90 tons; speed not stated.

Wm. Kingsley, Washington, D.C., page 10. – proposes a rubber-clad vessel, which we cannot recommend. No price or dimension stated.

A. Beebe, New York, 82 Broadway, page 18. – Specification and sketch defective. Plan not approved.

Price, $50,000; length of vessel, 120 feet; breadth of beam, 55 feet; depth not stated; time, 100 days; draught of water, 6 feet; displacement, 1,000 tons; speed per hour, 8 knots.

These three propositions recommended, viz: Bushnell & Co.,New Haven,Connecticut; Merrick & Sons,Philadelphia; and J. Ericsson,New York, will absorb $1,290,250 of the appropriation of $1,500,00, leaving $209,750 yet unexpended.

The board recommends that armor with heavy guns be placed on one of our river craft, or, if none will bear it, to construct a scow, which will answer to plate and shield the guns, for the river service on the Potomac, to be constructed or prepared by the government at the navy yard here for immediate use.

We would further recommend that the department ask of Congress, at its next session, an appropriation, for experimenting on iron plates of different kinds, of $10,000.

All of which is respectfully submitted.


Hon. Gideon Welles,
Secretary of the Navy Ironsides