The Man Who Changed America Forever With A Steamboat

In 1814, construction began on Fulton’s ship the Torpedo, aptly named for the newfangled weapons that were used against British warships in the War of 1812, but Robert Fulton died while it was being built. Due to his complete involvement in its construction, the workmen were unable to proceed after his death and the vessel was abandoned.

Fulton devoted himself to the promotion of the use of torpedoes to protect American harbors and waterways, including Baltimore Harbor and Lake Erie during the War of 1812; as Alan Rems states in his essay “Man of War,” published by the U.S. Naval Institute, his offer was not taken up and they played no part in the defense of the country during those years. However, this may have spurred him on to create yet another new type of weapon, a submarine gun that would shoot ordinary artillery shells through the water. However, this too was ignored by the government despite Fulton’s warm relationship with government officials — as was Fulton’s own idea to nominate himself as Secretary of the Navy, despite being championed by Dolley Madison, the influential wife of President James Madison, who encouraged her husband to consider the candidacy of the brilliant inventor, as Rems notes in his story.

However, Fulton’s genius was well-recognized by the U.S. Navy, which subsequently named no less than five ships after the brilliant inventor, including the USS Fulton, launched on June 12, 1901, and four others. 



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