John Ericsson – Ironclad warship Monitor

Maria and I had a fantastic 4-week trip to the US where we visited Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington. We were primarily interested in historical sites and managed to see a lot, but of course, not all, there are so many memorials and history. A distant relative there emigrated participated in the civil war on the Union side. He wrote many letters home to his mother in Denmark. These letters are fortunately saved. He describes in one of his letters about the naval battle at Hampton Road between the Merrimack ironclad ships and the Union Monitor. The latter was also ironclad and designed by the Swedish born John Ericsson and his Monitor helped the Union to win the civil war (1861-1865). This blog is about what I found of memorials for this event.

USS Constitution Boston Historical Park

In Boston, we visited the USS Constitution Museum and were aboard the “Old Ironside”  as the USS Constitution is called.

Displayed in the museum: The famed Civil War battle between Confederate Virginia and  Union Monitor in 1862. – Monitor’s great success inspired a class of warships “Monitors”.

Excerpt from Vilhelm Wermuth’s letter to his mother in Denmark, where he reports on the battle between Confederate “Virginia” and Union “Monitor”. The letter is written in old Danish and therefore the translation a bit difficult:

Dear Mother, Brother and Sisters! Newport News, April 15, 1862. 

With the greatest pleasure, I received that package about 3 weeks ago, and see that you all thanks to Good is healthy and also thanks to Good the same for me. I wrote on March 10th to you. The day after, two days ago, it has been a sea battle that has never been seen before. The Confederates came with a machine that no ball can go through and 7 cannon boats in addition. On March 8, they sank a frigate called “Cumberland” and burned a line-ship that blow up. They bombed our camp, but luckily for us, they did no harm, it was just 4 man wounded. On Sunday the 9th of March they came back and should really give us, but then at night one of our devil machines had arrived (USS Monitor), which a well-known Swede Erickson has invented and there was a struggle on life and death between them, and eventually Merninae (CSS Virginia) the enemy had to withdraw. Two days ago, they have come out again and we are waiting to see a battle between them every day, but now we have two of the devil machines so we do not doubt about the outcome.

The letter at its full length can be read at my blog  “Vilhelms breve fra borgerkrigen“.  He always finishes with loving greetings to old friends and family:

Greet all my sweetheart and you dear Mother be many thousands of greetings from your faithful devoted son to death. W.A.L. Wermuth.

Wilhelm Adolf Leopol Wermuth

Vilhelm Wermuth posted this picture home to his mother with the words:

By this I send you my portrait, I think it will be as lovely as the money, but it does not really look like me. I look so sad. There was also rainy weather that day and then there is another mistake. I have borrowed the cap from a Dane at another regiment.

John Ericsson is born Johan 31. July 1803 in Langban, Filipstads municipality, Värmlands Län, Sverige. During his lifetime, John Ericsson revolutionized several facets of technology. He is best known for his work during the Civil War when he transformed naval warfare through his design of the iron-plated USS Monitor. The movements of Ericsson’s pencil across his drafting board were as crucial to victory as the movements of Lincoln’s armies across battlefields.

John Ericsson, posing with a model of his “tin can of a raft”. The National Portrait Gallery,  Washington. He achieved fame during the Civil War when he designed the ironclad warship Monitor, the Federal response to the threat of Confederate ironclad Virginia (the refitted USS Merrimack).  

Lone Sailor

The “Lone Sailor” located in downtown D.C. on Pennsylvania Avenue. We stopped by several times to admire this Navy Memorial and also enjoy coffee and sandwich at the baker “Paul” which can be recommended. Read more about the Navy Memorial at Maria’s blog “The US Navy Memorial in Washington DC“.

Opposite the “Lone Sailor” is a must-see Navy Memorial visitor center with a display of the highlights of the Navy history.  Highlights of 1862 are the battle at Hampton Road 9. Marts between Monitor and Merrimack.

Ericsson memorial - Mr Google street view

When arriving back to Denmark we realized that we have missed the John Ericsson National Memorial at the Rock Creek Park Trail which runs along the North shore of the Potomac River. I have from Mr. Google Street map borrowed this picture of the memorial. This picture is taken on a cloudy day quite different from our hot and sunny days.

We found a dcbikeblogger who works in Washington DC and uses his lunch breaks to go for a bike ride and discover sites and events in the city.  He has posted this blog  “The John Ericsson National Memorial“. I highly recommend seeing this and also his other very interesting blogs from Washington DC.

Ericsson memorial Fairmont, Philadelphia-1

In Philadelphia Fairmount park we enjoyed this John Ericsson memorial. A lot of people were sitting and enjoying the water we, therefore, had to crop the picture.

US Postage issued a 5 cent stamp in 1926 in honor of John Ericcson. – Biography of “The man who made the Monitor”.

John Ericcson died at the age of 85, on the anniversary of the famous Battle of Hampton Roads of which his famous Monitor played a central role. He was initially interred at New York City’s Marble Cemetery. His wish was to rest at Swedish soil. The year after was his coffin carried by the US ironclad cruiser “Baltimore” to Stockholm, Sweden. After a ceremony, the coffin was by train transported to the Östra kyrkogården (East Cemetery) in Filipstad, Värmlands Län, Sweden.

john-ericssonmonumentet Philipsstad Sweden

A large monument or chapel to honor John Ericsson was erected at the Filipsstad cemetery. Read more about it here Scientific America.





  1. Henry, you have here a remarkable treasure!! A letter from 1862, plus a picture, an eye witness to the battle. I enjoyed reading the history of Ericsson, but your treasures are priceless!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Cox, I agree I just wish some in my family had saved old letters. Vilhelm in this story wanted to come home and visit his old mother. He survived the war and vent to Nevada and California in a hunt for silver and gold. After1880 there were no more letters and according to the family story, his mother was very sad. I have tried searching the database ancestry,com and the last hit was census 1880 where he was living in Nevada and his occupation Mining supply.


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