March 9, 1862: Monitor v. Merrimack

One hundred and fifty-nine years ago all wooden fleets around the globe became obsolete in one day.  Change in human affairs is often gradual and imperceptible, but sometimes it is as sudden and as quick as a bolt of lighting.  The development of armored, self-powered ships was gradual, but after March 9, 1862 it was obvious to even the most hide bound naval officer that the future had suddenly arrived.






John Ericsson, designer of the Monitor, was an unusually productive inventor even by Nineteenth Century standards, the age of invention.  In addition to the Monitor, which went from paper plans to launch in an astounding 100 days, he invented the surface condenser, the hot air engine and a solar machine which used solar energy to run an engine.  He did some of the first work on torpedos and advanced hoop gun construction techniques.  He designed the Princeton in 1843, the first two screw propellor ship in the US Navy and probably the most advanced warship of its day.  Ericsson lived from July 31, 1803-March 8, 1889, a long life but seemingly too brief for the amount of work he packed into it.


Published in: on March 9, 2021 at 11:30 pm  Comments Off on March 9, 1862: Monitor v. Merrimack  
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Louisbourg 1745

To most Americans today, even well-educated Americans, colonial American history is a tabula rasa.  That is unfortunate.  Outside of its intrinsic interest, colonial American history allows us to examine the first stirrings of themes that would be of vital importance in later American history.

In 1745, Great Britain and France were at war, part of the European conflict initiated by Frederick the Great when he seized Silesia from Austria.  A state of war involving Great Britain against France  was certainly not unusual in that period.  Between 1689 and 1815 France and Britain were almost always at war, with the periods of peace actually only truces between bouts of what some historians have deemed the Second Hundred Years War.

New Englanders were alarmed that New England fishing fleets off the Grand Banks would suffer from French raiders based out of the fortress of Louisbourg on Ile-Royale (Cape Breton Island).

The British did not have troops in New England to do anything about Louisbourg, but that did not stop William Shirley, Governor of Massachusetts.  By a narrow margin the Massachusetts legislature voted to attack the Fortress.  3200 Massachusetts militia were mustered for the task, joined by 450 militia from New Hampshire and 500 from Connecticut.   Rhode Island supplied a ship, and New York chipped in ten cannon.  Pennsylvania and New Jersey supplied funds. (more…)

Published in: on March 9, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Louisbourg 1745  
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