Open main menu

Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/338

This page has been validated.
330
Southern Historical Society Papers.

it up on the beach near Norfolk, where by the kindness of a friend, it was secured for Captain Maury's uses. With part of this he was enabled to mine James river below the obstruction with electrical torpedoes, which destroyed every Federal vessel that attempted to pass them, and kept their powerful fleet at bay during the entire war, and with part to enable other southern harbors to be similarly protected.

Meantime, torpedoes we're rapidly growing in public favor, new designs and improvements, suggested by experience, were multiplied by the active brain of the many clever young naval officers, whose withdrawal from the United States navy left it paralyzed for years, and torpedoes of all kinds were left to be found in all our waters whenever Federal ships appeared.

Lieutenant Beverly Kennon, of Virginia, set them afloat in the Potomac, and later, was instrumental, he said, in procuring the first actual destruction of the Cairo in Yazoo river by Masters McDaniel and Ewing, with a ground torpedo a demijohn filled with powder and fired with a trigger by a string leading to the operator hidden on the bank. General Rains, chief of the army torpedo bureau, adopted the beer keg, filled with powder, and fitted with a percussion primer at each end, as the best form, and set hundreds of them afloat, to be carried by current and tide against the enemy's vessels below. Captain Francis D. Lee, of General Beauregard's staff, recommended the star torpedo—i. e., a torpedo set upon the end of a twenty-foot spar, rigged upon the bow of a boat, to be fired by impact upon the sides of the vessel attacked; and with Captain Maury designed and constructed, at his own expense, a semi-submarine torpedo, called a "David," rigged with a star torpedo, with which at Charleston, Lieutenant Glassell struck and permanently disabled the new ironside, the most powerful vessel then afloat. Shortly after, and with a submarine torpedo boat, the first ever used, designed and constructed with his private means by Mr. Horace L. Hundley, of New Orleans, but then living in Mobile, who was drowned in her, Lieutenant Dixon, of Mobile, of the army, with unsurpassable courage, attacked the Federal steamer Housatonic, and sunk her almost instantaneously; but Dixon and daring crew, and his pioneer submarine torpedo boat, all went to the bottom with their victim, where divers found them after the war lying side by side.

And John Maxwell, of Richmond, with matchless intrepidity,