The Swede Who Helped Defeat the South -- He may not have figured in Gone With the Wind, but John Ericsson, the famous Swedish inventor, helped the Union win the war against the Confederacy. Born near Filipstad on July 31, 1803, Ericsson joined the Swedish army in 1820. Eventually, he migrated to England, where he lost in a competition to create a new locomotive for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway when his "novelty" heat engine developed trouble.
Disappointed, he moved to America, where he gained fame for his other inventions, which included, above all, the marine propeller. His acclaim was cemented when his warship, the Yankee Monitor, defeated the Confederate Merrimac on May 9, 1862. This victory saved the northern fleet and led to the Union naval forces quickly taking command of the sea, closing off Confederate ports by blockade.
Ericsson also invented the steam fire engine and the hot-air (or caloric) engine, and made several improvements in steam boilers. Even though this son of Filipstad lived abroad for much of his life, he placed his inventions at the disposal of the Swedish navy.
After a successful life as an inventor, John Ericsson died on March 8, 1889, in the United States. Because he had requested to be buried at Filipstad on his native ground, his remains were transported to Sweden on the American armed cruiser Baltimore. He arrived back home with full honors and a magnificent hearse bearing his body. All the residents of Filipstad turned out to welcome home their now-famous native son.
On July 31, 1895, the John Ericsson Mausoleum was consecrated on the anniversary of Ericsson's birth. Once more, the town honored its great son, and the streets were decorated with flags, flowers, and several triumphal arches. The mausoleum lies at Östra Kyrkogården (tel. 0590/611-00) today and is often visited by Americans (at least, Yankees), among others. Every year since 1929, the John Ericsson Society places a wreath of flowers, in the shape of a propeller, at this mausoleum. Every July 31, Filipstad also stages a mock naval battle between the Merrimac, the armored vessel of the Confederates, and Ericsson's smaller gunboat, the Monitor. The Monitor always wins, of course.