Torpedo Warfare (an excerpt)

 by Admiral D. D. Porter, U.S. Navy

The Confederates were the first to use the torpedo-boat, and began by launching several cigar-shaped vessels, each about fifty feet long, propelled by steam, and carrying a torpedo on the end of a boom, which could be run out, lowered under a ship’s bottom, and fired. These vessels were called “Davids,” in allusion, I suppose, to the story of David and Goliath. The “Davids” were rather crude affairs, and drowned their own people oftener than those they were in pursuit of, but they kept our blockading forces very uneasy, harassing them continually. On the night of October 5, 1863, a “David” got alongside the iron-clad New Ironsides, off Charleston, and, exploding a torpedo against her side, shook the ship terribly, and did considerable damage. On the night of February 17, 1864, a “David” attacked the sloop-of-war Housatonic, lying at anchor outside Charleston Harbor, and blew a hole in the ship’s bottom, which caused her to sink in a few moments. After the war it was discovered, on examination of the wreck of the Housatonic by divers, that the torpedo-boat which destroyed her had run partly into the opening made by the explosion, so that all on board the “David” found a watery grave.

Porter, D. D., Admiral, U.S. Navy, “Torpedo Warfare,” The North American Review, Volume 127, Issue 264, September - October 1878, page 231, Cedar Falls, Iowa: University of Northern Iowa

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