The Civil War Connections Blog

An Answer to “Stupidity” & “Captain Ericsson, I congratulate you…” (Scientific American, 3/29/1862)

Last week I posted about a Scientific American article that called out the US Navy and government for their “stupidity” in regards to not building enough ironclad warships.  Ironically, exactly one week later, in what would have been the very next issue of Scientific American there was an article published on a new ironclad ship that was being built in Philadelphia.  The article entitled “EXTRA WORKERS NEEDED TO BUILD SHIP” talks about how construction on this ship had begun and there are over 1400 men already at work on the ship in some way and they were still in need of more workers.


Something else noteworthy in this installment of Scientific American there is a letter that was written from Alban C. Stimers, who was the Chief Engineer aboard the Monitor during the Battle of Hampton Roads, to John Ericsson the designer of the Monitor. Stimers is more than complimentary in his letter to Ericsson.  He writes about how great the design of the ship is and how much it helped them in battle against the CSS Virginia, referred to as the Merrimack.


Click for more to read the letter in its entirety.

Hampton Roads, March 9, 1862.

MY DEAR SIR: After a stormy passage, which proved us to be the finest seaboat I was ever in, we fought the Merrimack for more than three hours this forenoon and sent her back to Norfolk in a sinking condition. Ironclad against ironclad. We maneuvered about the bay here and went at each other with mutual fierceness. I consider that both ships were well fought. We were struck 22 times—pilot house twice, turret 9 times, side armor 8 times, deck 3 times. The only vulnerable point was the pilot house. One of your great logs (9 by 12 inches thick) is broken in two. The shot struck just outside of where the captain had his eye, and it has disabled him by destroying his left eye and temporarily blinding the other. The log is not quite in two, but is broken and pressed inward 1 _ inches. She tried to run us down and sink us, as she did the Cumberland yesterday, but she got the worst of it. Her bow passed over our deck and our sharp upper edged side cut through the light iron shoe upon her stem and well into her oak. She will not try that again. She gave us a tremendous thump, but did not injure us in the least. We are just able to find the point of contact.

The turret is a splendid structure. I do not think much of the shield, but the pendulums are fine things, though I can not tell you how they would stand the shot, as they were not hit.

You are very correct in your estimate of the effect of shot upon the man on the inside of the turret when it was struck near him. Three men were knocked down, of whom I was one; the other two had to be carried below, but I was not disabled at all and the others recovered before the battle was over. Captain Worden stationed himself at the pilot house, Greene fired the guns, and I turned the turret until the captain was disabled and was relieved by Greene, when I managed the turret myself, Master Stodder having been one of the two stunned men.

Captain Ericsson, I congratulate you upon your great success. Thousands have this day blessed you. I have heard whole crews cheer you. Every man feels that you have saved this place to the nation by furnishing us with the means to whip an ironclad frigate that was, until our arrival, having it all her own way with our most powerful vessels.

I am, with much esteem, very truly, yours,

Chief Engineer.

Captain J. ERICSSON,
No. 95 Franklin Street, New York



Scientific American Volume 1006 Issue 13 (Mar 29, 1862) (text version of the letter)