Three Famous Americans in the Civil War


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John Ericsson, Inventor from Sweden

When John Ericsson (1803-1889) of Sweden was only ten years old, he built a model sawmill that was perfect in every detail. Before he was fifteen years old, he had mastered the skills and knowledge needed to hold a job as a draftsman, surveyor, and engineer. As Ericsson grew older, he became interested in steam-driven ships. This interest led him to the United States in 1839, and he began to build ships for the United States navy. Ericsson was happy and successful in the United States. In 1848 he became an American citizen.

When the Civil War broke out, Ericsson supported the Union. He hated slavery. He was happy to use his talents to help fight against it. It was fortunate that Ericsson was on the side of the Union. This is why:

The Confederates covered an old warship, the Merrimack, with iron plates. They armed it heavily with guns and sent it out to attack Union ships. On its first day out, March 8, 1862, the Merrimack met and easily sank two Union ships. It was clear that wooden ships could not endure against the ironclad ship. With their new weapon, the Confederates hoped to break the Union's blockade of the Confederate coast.

On March 9 the Merrimack sailed out again. Its crew was looking forward to another day of victories. Instead of meeting helpless wooden ships, though, the Merrimack met a Union ship, the Monitor, which was also an ironclad. For about four hours the ships bounced shells off each other's hulls, but little damage was done. Finally, both ships returned to their bases. The Merrimack never sailed again. It was destroyed by the Confederates themselves to keep the Union from capturing it.

Where does Ericsson come into the story? It was he who suggested to the United States government that an ironclad could and should be built. This was only three months before the famous Monitor-Merrimack battle. It was he who designed the Monitor and who took charge of building it. If this Swedish-born American had not made his contribution, the story of the Civil War would have been very different.

  1. How old was Ericsson when he came to the United States?

  2. Underline the sentence that tells why Ericsson helped the North rather than the South.
  3. Circle the sentence that tells what the Confederates hoped to accomplish with their ironclad ship.
  4. Underline the sentence that tells why the Confederates destroyed the Merrimack.
  5. The last sentence in the story of Ericsson suggests that without his boat the story of the Civil War might have been very different. Describe how the war may have been different.
    Write your answer below.
Carl Schurz, General and Statesman

Carl Schurz (1829-1906) was born in Germany. He came to the United States in 1852. Schurtz was forced to leave Germany when a revolution he took part in failed. At the age of thirty-four, he became a Major General during the Civil War. In 1869 Schurz was elected United States Senator from Missouri. As a senator and later as Secretary of the Interior, he performed outstanding services. He fought vigorously to have the American Indians treated fairly. Then, as a newspaper writer, book author, and speaker, he helped others understand and love his adopted country. Carl Schurz wrote on every imaginable subject – from a two-volume biography of Henry Clay to the political, social, and economic events of his times. He was a reformer and crusader. He exposed and publicized corruption in government. He courageously opposed the political bosses of the times. One person speaking of Schurz said, "You knew where to find him always and that was in the right place."

  1. Why did Schurz leave his homeland?

  2. Schurz held all the positions listed below.
    Check only the ones mentioned in the story.
    ___ Lawyer ___ Minister to Spain
    ___ Army officer ___ Senator
    ___ Newspaper owner ___ Newspaper writer
    ___ Secretary of the Interior


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