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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/337

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The First Marine Torpedoes.

(October, 1861), by one of his skillful associates, Lieutenant Robert D. Minor, also of Fredericksburg.

He thus describes themĀ :

"These torpedoes were in pairs, connected together by a span 500 feet long."

The span was floated on the surface by corks, and the torpedo barrels, containing 200 pounds of powder, also floated at the depth of twenty feet, empty barregas, painted lead color, so as not really to be seen, serving for the purpose.

The span was connected with a trigger in the head of each barrel, so set and arranged that when the torpedo, being let go in a tide way under the bows and athwart the hawse had fouled, they would be drifted alongside, and in so drifting tauten the span, and so set off the fuse, which was driven precisely as a ten seconds shot fuse, only it was calculated to burn fifty-four seconds, because it could not be known exactly in which part of the sweep along tide the strain would be sufficient to set off the trigger. The torpedoes were launched at three fine frigates, the Minnesota, the Roanoke and the Cumberland.

Finding that they all missed, I attributed it to the fact that such a fuse could not burn under a pressure of twenty feet of water. The conjecture was confirmed by experiment. The fuse could burn very surely at the depth of fifteen feet, never at twenty feet.

Some time afterwards those torpedoes were discovered by the enemy. Spans, barrels and barregas were soon got up, and carried off as relics.

The enemy prevented any further attack in this way by dropping the end of his lower studding sail boom in the water "every night, anchoring boats or beams ahead."

Grew in Favor.

To obtain insulated wire an agent was sent to New York in secret, but failed, and as there was neither wire factory or insulating material in the South, the difficulties of preparing electrical torpedoes to which he attached the greatest importance and greatly preferred, seemed insuperable, until by a remarkable coincidence, in the following spring, it happened that the enemy attempting to lay a cable across Chesapeake Bay to Fortress Monroe were forced to abandon the attempt and left the wire to the mercy of the waves, which cast