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A blog of Nineteenth Century history, focusing, but not exclusively, on the American Civil War seen through the prism of personal accounts, newspaper stories, administrative records and global history.
A thousand tales. A miscellany. A maze of historical tangents.

A Capitol View

A Capitol View
Images of 1861 juxtaposed- Union Square, New York vs. Capitol Square, Richmond

Friday, January 31, 2014

"Sir: In obedience to your order, I report the following experience . . .

Report of Commander Parker, U. S. Navy, commanding Potomac Flotilla, transmitting report of Lieutenant-Commander Eastman, U. S. Navy, on torpedoes taken from the Rappahannock River.

                                                                                    U.S. S. KING PHILIP,
                                                                   Blakistone Island, May 21, 1864.

 SIR: I have the honor to forward herewith a copy of a report of Lieutenant-Commander Eastman in relation to the construction of the torpedoes lately removed from the Rappahannock River and the manner of using them as demonstrated by the explosion of one of them in the St. Marys River on the 18th instant by my order.

                 Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                FOXHALL A. PARKER,
                                                    Commander, Commanding Potomac Flotilla.


             Secretary of the Navy.

                                                          U. S. SCHOONER MATTHEW VASSAR
                                                                                                 May 18, 1864.

 Sir: In obedience to your order, I report the following experience in the use of a torpedo taken from the rebels in the Rappahannock River:
 The torpedo is a cylindrical tin vessel, with a second small cylinder at the top, and with three apertnres, one on the side and bottom, for the purpose of receiving the powder, which apertures are afterwards closed with a gutta-percha wad, and on the wad outside is a covering of beeswax and tallow.
 The other aperture is at the top, and is for the purpose of receiving a friction primer, which is pnt in first, and the aperture then made water-tight by filling in with beeswax and tallow mixed.
 The friction primer is attached to the end of a wire, which extends from the outside to the center of the vessel, so that the primer lies in the middle of the powder always.
 To prevent the primer from having any lateral motion, three wires are soldered on to the sides of the vessel and join in the middle nearly, so that the primer may pass through their bent ends without danger of catching or moving.
 The small cylinder at the top of the torpedo is covered with a tin cap so as to hold the pulling line and prevent it from being touched until the torpedo is sunk, at which time time cap is removed and the line led out to the shore.
 The torpedo holds about 50 pounds of fine priming powder, and I enclose here a diagram showing dimensions, etc.
 After informing myself thoroughly as to the manner of using this new weapon (by carefully opening one), I exploded ammother in the following manner:
 Having attached a sinking weight to the two handles which are on the sides, I pulled with a small boat into the channel and then ran my line ashore, and after this was done, I carefully removed the tin cap and lowered the torpedo in 3 fathoms water.
 The boat was then pulled ashore and the line pulled from about 50 yards back in the bushes, when, without any noise, a column of water 60 feet high and 5 feet in diameter was thrown up, and, covering the woods with spray, fell, sending a circular wave about 1 foot high to the surrounding shore.
 The appearance was grand, and if a ship was directly over one of these torpedoes she would, in all probability, be sunk; but if alongside (except receiving a quantity of water on deck), I do not believe she would be injured.
 With the information gained, I feel competent to use the remaining torpedoes against the rebels whenever it is required of me.

                                                                                            T. H. EASTMAN,
                                                                    Lieutenant-Commander, U. S. Navy.

 Commanding Potomac Flotilla.

-Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.; Series I- Volume 5: Operations on the Potamac and Rappahannock Rivers (December 7, 1861-July 31, 1865); Atlantic Blockading Squadron (April 4, 1861-July 15, 1861)

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