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John Ericsson, USS Monitor, and Union Naval Strategy

John Ericsson, USS Monitor, and Union Naval Strategy

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Published by Scott Abel
This is my first historiographical essay. It is about the US Navy during the Civil War with a special focus on strategy and technology. I made some changes from Dr. Carol Wilson's suggestions but it is mostly the same.
This is my first historiographical essay. It is about the US Navy during the Civil War with a special focus on strategy and technology. I made some changes from Dr. Carol Wilson's suggestions but it is mostly the same.

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Published by: Scott Abel on Dec 28, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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United States History OneScott Abel Nov. 28, 2006Honor code:
Fuller, Howard. “John Ericsson, the Monitors, and Union Naval Strategy.”
 International Journal of Naval History
. Vol. 2. No. 3. (2004): 1-21Weddle, Kevin. “The Blockade Board of 1861 and Union Naval Strategy.”
Civil War History
. Vol. 48, No. 2. (2002): 123-142
The United States Navy played an important role in the victory of Union forcesduring the American Civil War through strategy and technology. Howard Fuller’s articlestresses the importance of the “trinity” of the naval architect John Ericsson, the Union Naval Strategy, and the
U.S.S. Monitor 
. Fuller places emphasis on the importance of the
U.S.S. Monitor 
and John Ericsson in the American Civil War. Kevin Weddle writes onhow the establishment of the critical Union Blockade came to be and how a few brilliantmen helped transform an unprepared navy into an excellent weapon against the rebels.Howard Fuller and Kevin Weddle agree that the Union Navy gained victory over theConfederacy, because of naval strategy, superiority in material, and brilliant leadership.Both authors write about the same time period and locations. They study theyears of the American Civil War between 1861 and 1865. The locations of the blockadesand naval action include the 3,500 miles of coastline from Virginia to Texas. Also, theMississippi River and the many rivers diverting from it play an important role towardsthe Union victory. However, there are also locations that are important in the North, suchas Washington D.C. and the many Navy Yards where the Union Navy was beingdeveloped.Howard Fuller focuses most of his effort on the development of the Monitor andthe Union ironclads. The US Navy Yards laid down eighty two armored warships and of that, sixty-one had turrets during the Civil War. The
U.S.S. Monitor 
was the prototype of a new generation of steam-powered warships that were clad in iron and had its cannons ina rotating turret. New classes of ironclads would be built in the image of the
. Fuller explains how the blockade of Southern ports was the centerpiece toUnion Naval Strategy and how closing their ports would prevent them from exploiting2
their lucrative cotton trade with nations like Great Britain. Fuller also writes about theConfederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory, who believed the ironclads were theonly way to beat the Union Navy.For the Union, the ironclads were costly and time consuming to make. It wasinitially estimated that the cost of twenty ironclads would be $16,530,000, but it was later revised to cost $10 million. Ericsson’s design is acknowledged as superior to anythingany other contractor could produce, despite its expensiveness. For example, it providednot only more armor, but for an upgrade from 11-inch guns to 15-inch guns. Theseironclads were needed for the assault on New Orleans to suppress fire from forts guardingthe city. These ironclads’ futuristic design struck fear into the hearts of the defenders of  New Orleans and improved the Navy’s Public Relations. Fuller surprisingly only brieflymentions the duel at Hampton Roads and puts more emphasis on the fact that the
was on patrol duty at least a month before the engagement.Fuller concluded that the amphibious assaults along the eastern coast weregenerally a waste of resources. Instead, priority was placed on the Army’s progress onland. Fuller also concluded the blockade was the main theme surrounding Union NavalStrategy and that many ironclad assaults were just distractions for the Navy and helpedwith the nation’s morale. He states the main purposes of the ironclads were to deter, andif necessary, act as coastal defense against foreigners, use against Confederate ships, andassault Confederate coastal defenses. Fuller goes into detail about the Union assaults onConfederate fortresses in Mobile Bay, around Charleston, and in North Carolina. Hismain sources include issues of period
Scientific American
, Ericsson’s letters, and books3

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