Negotiations for the building of the “monitor.”In 1877, at the request of ex-Secretary Gideon Welles, C. S. Bushnell, of New Haven, one of the associate owners of the Monitor, embodied, in a letter to the former, his recollections of the negotiations which led to the building of that vessel. That letter immediately following, and letters of comment by Captain Ericsson and ex-Secretary Welles, have been sent to the editors for publication, by the Reverend Samuel C. Bushnell, son of the builder:
The date of the following letter from Captain Ericsson to the son of Mr. C. S. Bushnell indicates that the above letter was submitted to Captain Ericsson before it was sent to Ex-Secretary Welles:
Ex-Secretary Welles, under date of Hartford, 19th March, 1877, addressed the following letter to Mr. C. S. Bushnell:
Captain Ericsson's version of the visit to Washington, as given in Colonel William C. Church's paper on John Ericsson in The Century magazine for April, 1879, is as follows:
With his previous experience of the waste of time and patience required to accomplish anything at Washington, Captain Ericsson, who is not, it must be said, like the man Moses, “ exceeding meek,” would not himself go to the capital to secure attention to his ideas. There were associated with him three men of practical experience, great energy and wealth, who had become interested in the Monitor and were determined that it should have a trial. One of these was Mr. C. S. Bushnell, of Connecticut. He went to Washington, but failed in the attempt to persuade the iron-clad board that the designer of the Princeton was worthy of a hearing. Nothing remained except to induce Ericsson to visit Washington in person and plead his own cause with that rude but forcible eloquence which has seldom failed him in an emergency. To move him was only less difficult than to convince the Navy Department without him. At last a subterfuge was adopted. Ericsson was given to understand that Mr. Bushnell's reception at Washington had been satisfactory and that nothing remained but for him to go on and complete the details of a contract for one of his vessels. Presenting himself before the board, what was his astonishment to find that he was not only an unexpected but apparently an unwelcome visitor! It was evident that the board were asking themselves what could have brought him there. He was not left long in doubt as to the meaning of this reception. To his indignation, as well as his astonishment, he was informed that the plan of a vessel submitted by him had already been rejected. The first impulse was to withdraw at once. Mastering his anger, however, he stopped to inquire the reason for the determination of the board. The vessel had not sufficient stability, Commodore Smith exclaimed; in fact, it would upset and place her crew in the inconvenient and undesirable position of submarine divers. Now, if there is anything which especially distinguishes the Monitor, with its low free-board, it is the peculiarity which it has in common with the raft it resembles — its inability to upset. In a most earnest and lucid argument, Captain Ericsson proceeded to explain this. Perceiving that his explanation had its effect, and his blood being well warmed by this time, he ended by declaring to the board with great earnestness: “ Gentlemen, after what I have said, I consider it to be your duty to the country to give me an order to build the vessel before I leave this room.” Withdrawing to one corner, the board consulted together and invited Captain Ericsson to call again at 1 o'clock. Promptly at the hour named he appeared at the Navy Department. In the board-room he found Commodore Paulding alone. The commodore received him in the most friendly manner, invited him into his private office, and asked that he would repeat the explanation of the morning as to the stability of the vessel. Between the two interviews, Ericsson had found time to make at his hotel a diagram presenting the question of stability in a form easily understood. With this diagram, he repeated his previous demonstration. Commodore (afterward Admiral) Paulding was thoroughly convinced, and with frankness which did him great credit said: “Sir, I have learnt more about the stability of a vessel from what you have now said than all I knew before.” This interview ended with a request to call again at 3 o'clock. Calling at 3, Ericsson was at once invited to pass into the room of secretary Welles. Here, without farther parley, the secretary informed him that the board now reported favorably upon his plan of a vessel, and wished him to return to New York and commence work upon it at once. The contract would be sent on for signature. Before this contract was received, the keel-plates for the first Monitor had passed through the rolling-mill.editors.
|Union soldier's Candlestick.|