Historic America

Civil War Ballads: USS Monitor

“USS Monitor” was written by the heavy metal band Civil War for their album Gods and Generals (2015), named after Jeff Shaara’s historical novel. Guitarists Oskar Montelius and Rikard Sundén, drummer Daniel Mullback, and keyboardist Daniel Mÿhr left the band Sabaton to form Civil War in 2012.

I know that the sun goes down
As sure as the world still spins around
This is the new and modern way

Speak of the Devil; here I am
Came from the Viking land
Caught in the cold couldn’t understand
Stuck in the woods of wilderness

Blessed with the fury
Off we go to conquer other shores
I do really want it all
Please open the door

Hold your fire; save your life
Armored in steel the USS monitor
This is judgment day
The rise of the ironclad

In England but things turned bad
Inventions of mine just could not stand
The west was at war and needed help

Inferno on the river
Armed with iron like a wall
So treat me better than before
And the hammer will fall

Hold your fire; save your life
Armored in steel the USS Monitor
This is judgment day
The rise of the ironclad

John Ericsson, Swedish-born inventor of the ironclad USS Monitor

This song is interesting because it’s not so much about the ship, USS monitor, but the ship’s inventor, John Ericsson (1803-1889). Ericsson was born in Sweden and designed and built steam engines with John Braithwaite, an English engineer. He moved to New York in 1839 at the encouragement of an American ship captain, Robert Stockton.

Unfortunately, he became rivals with Stockton, which led to an incident in which a gun Stockton designed exploded, killing Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur and Secretary of the Navy Thomas Walker Gilmer. Stockton blamed the accident on Ericsson.

Years later, Ericsson presented designs for an ironclad ship to Emperor Napoleon III of France, but the ship was never built. When the Civil War broke out in the United States, he submitted plans for the USS Monitor to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles at Welles’ urging. The design included the first rotating turret.

On March 9, 1862, the USS monitor met the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia, and fought it to a stalemate. This was the first battle in history between iron ships.

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