In 1841 the sons of Col. John Stevens of Hoboken, New Jersey - Robert L. and Edwin A. Stevens - proposed to the Navy Department the construction of an ironclad vessel of high speed, with screw propellers and all machinery below the water line. This proposal was accepted and an Act of Congress, approved 14 April 1842 authorized the Secretary of the Navy to contract for the construction of a shot arid shell proof steamer, to be built principally of iron, on the Stevens plan. The armor was to be 4½” thick, a thickness believed by the Stevens to be sufficient to resist any gun then known. But experiments made by John Ericsson with his big wrought iron gun proved that 4½” armor was insufficient, and the construction of the vessel was thus delayed. In 1854 the builders constructed a larger battery, to be plated with 6¾” of iron, but this in turn was never finished, and by the time of the Civil War the Navy had little interest in completing the ship, which would have been far too large for use against the Confederacy. This was referred to as the "Stevens Battery", and during the Civil War and beyond it remained on the ways as an unfinished hulk.
To demonstrate the practicality of the plan of the "Stevens Battery," the Stevens brothers built and fitted out at their own expense a small ironclad vessel known as E. A. Stevens, or Naugatuck, which they offered to the Government during the Civil War. She was taken into the Revenue Service by the Treasury Department and loaned to the Navy. She operated with the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron from 2 April until 26 May 1862. She exchanged shots with CSS Virginia and took part in engagements with batteries at Sewell’s Point and Drewry’s Bluff, her commanding officer receiving high commendations from Commodore John Rodgers for his gallantry and for the excellent performance of his ship. Naugatuck returned to the Treasury Department, and on 18 August 1889, reported at Baltimore, Maryland, to be sold.
Despite some prodding by Edwin Stevens, official enthusiasm for the larger vessel was never rekindled. Stevens never abandoned hope, and upon his death in 1868 left a large bequest to the State of New Jersey to finish the project. Though work resumed, with the design brought up to date with the idea of perhaps completing the Battery as a large, fast single-turret monitor, by 1874 the available funds were exhausted with the ship still far from completion. The "Stevens Battery" was ultimately broken up on her building ways, according to some sources as early as 1874-75 though others date place the project's end about a decade later.
Part of the text is incorporated from the United States Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.