About John Ericsson - Designer of The Monitor
Although born and raised in Sweden, John Ericsson eventually immigrated to America where in 1861, he signed a contract with the U.S.
Navy to build an ironclad vessel. At the outbreak of the Civil War, both the Union and Confederacy began experimenting with ironclad
warships. As the Confederacy began converting the captured USS Merrimac into the ironclad CSS Virginia, Ericsson began
working on the Union's answer.
Ericsson's contract stipulated that if his design failed, he would have to return his payment
for the ship to the U.S. government, but he didn't care, since he was doing the ship out of love for America. "I love this country,
I love its people and its laws; and I would give my life for it just as soon as not," he explained.
Fortunately, no repayment
was necessary. Ericsson's design, conceived eight years earlier and presented to Napoleon III of France (who, though impressed, did
nothing to develop the concept) included his invention of the "screw" propeller, a low silhouette, and revolving two-gun turret, and
was a success. Although its famous four-hour duel with the Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads in March 1862 was a tactical
draw, the Monitor prevented the destruction of the Union fleet at Hampton Roads. After the battle, the Navy ordered another
56 of Ericsson's "monitors," as the design came to be known.
Ericsson's engineering works were numerous, and in addition to the
Monitor, he is also best known for his circa 1829 design of the Novelty steam locomotive, built with partner John Brathwaite in England.
achievements revolutionized naval warfare and gained him international recognition.
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