Confederate Commerce-Destroyers. The Blockade of the Confederacy (an excerpt)

by Horatio L. Wait

            A submarine torpedo-boat, built of boiler-iron, was made by the Confederates to attack the fleet off Charleston. She was to be worked by hand-power. Lieutenant Payne of the Confederate navy, with eight men, started in her; but she was swamped by the sea, and they were all lost. The boat was raised, refitted, and started a second time. She was again swamped by the sea near Fort Sumter. This time six men lost their lives in her. She was again raised, and a third attempt was made. She sank again, and all her crew were lost. After the lapse of some time she was once more raised. Then Lieutenant Dixon and eight men made a fourth attempt. This remarkable persistence in such a desperate undertaking shows the determined spirit of the men we had to contend with. Lieutenant Dixon ran out to the steam-sloop Housatonic on the outer blockade, about nine o'clock at night. The officer of the watch saw a ripple on the surface of the water, that looked in the darkness like a moving plank. He slipped the chain, started the engine, and opened fire with small arms; but before the Housatonic could gather head-way, Dixon exploded his torpedo under her, and she sank in twenty-eight feet of water. The torpedo-boat also sank—from what cause is not known. Captain Gray of the Confederate Torpedo Corps, in his report, wrote: " I am of opinion that she went into the hole made in the Housatonic by the explosion of the torpedo, and did not have power sufficient to back out, and consequently sank with her.” But our divers, who went down to examine the wreck of the Housatonic some time after, found the torpedo-boat lying on the bottom, at a distance of many yards from the Housatonic.

Waite, Horatio L., “Confederate Commerce-Destroyers.  The Blockade of the Confederacy,” The Century, A Popular Quarterly, Volume 56, Issue 6, October 1898, pp 927-928, New York: The Century Company

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