Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 28, 2012

Explosion aboard USS Princeton

February 28, 1844: A pleasure cruise on the Potomac River turns to horror. The USS Princeton was the first warship of the US Navy with a steam engine driving the propeller. The ship was designed by John Ericsson, a Swedish-American inventor. Supervising construction at the Philadelphia Navy Yard was Captain Robert F. Stockton who was key in getting political support for the new ship. The ship launched on September 5, 1843 and was commissioned on September 8 with Captain Stockton at the helm.

The engines were designed by Ericsson as were the collapsible funnel, an improved range-finder, and better recoil systems for the ship’s two guns. One gun, called “Oregon,” was also designed by Ericsson. Oregon was a 12-inch smooth bore muzzle loader. It was made of wrought iron and could fire a 225-pound shot five miles. It used a 50-pound charge. It was made using a “built-up construction” method, meaning it had hoops of iron around the breach end, making it able to withstand a greater charge.

The second gun, “Peacemaker,” was designed by Stockton. Based on Ericsson’s gun, but without the hoop build up, it used increased thickness at the breach to reinforce a known weakness in the gun. The Princeton arrived in Washington, D.C. on February 13, 1844. Three trial runs with passengers aboard and displaying the awesome firepower of the guns went smoothly. On this date, President John Tyler, his Cabinet, and ≈ 200 guests were aboard when the cruise turned disastrous. “Peacemaker” was fired without incident several times. On the last shot, the breach exploded and killed eight people, including US Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur and the Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, and injured 20 more.

Stockton, a man from an influential family and an officer in the Navy, immediately redirected the blame to Ericsson. Even though it was not Ericsson’s gun that had exploded, his name was tarnished and his relationship with the Navy suffered. Stockton, ever the politician, not only emerged unscathed, he went on to be promoted as high as Commodore before he retired. Ericsson, at the outbreak of the Civil War, went on to design a completely unique armored ship. The USS Monitor played a pivotal role in the war.

When a man points a finger at someone else, he should remember that four of his fingers are pointing at himself. – Louis Nizer

It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame. – Oscar Wilde

Blame someone else and get on with your life. – Alan Woods

Responsibility:  A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor.  In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. – Ambrose Bierce

Also on this day:

Dord – In 1939, the unknown word DORD was found in Webster’s Dictionary.
B&O Railroad – In 1827, a law was passed to form the B&O Railroad.
Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen – In 1983, the final episode of M*A*S*H was televised.

Tagged with: ,

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Bobby Dias said, on February 28, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Those were politicians like Barack Obama, always blaming somebody else when something goes wrong.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: