Construction of Houston Torpedo Boat, Spring 1865

DaveBrt

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#1
The following in documents are found in the National Archives, RG 109, Chapter 2, Volume 103 Special Orders District of Texas, New Mexico & Arizona, March - May, 1865

SO 109 Houston, April 19, 1865
2. The services of the following named men, being indispensable for the construction of the Torpedo Boat, their detail is hereby extended for the period of sixty (60) days and will remain on their present duty: Pri. F. S. James, Co. A, Spaight's Regt as carpenter.

SO 120 April 30, 1865
3. I. The Torpedo Boat in process of construction at Lubbocks Mill on Buffalo Bayou, under the superintendence of J. D. Braman, of Singers Special Service Corps, and commenced under order of Maj. Genl. Walker will be continued on to completion.
Capt. Henry S. Lubboch, Comdg Marine Dept will afford Mr. Bramon, all the assistance in his power to facilitate the work, and which may not interfere with operations of the Marine Dept.
II. The Depot Qr. Mr. will fill all requisitions for this boat, made by Lieut. F. A. Rice A. A. Q. M., Marine Dept. and approved by Capt. H. S. Lubbock, Comdg. Marine Dept. As the early completion of this Boat is desired Capt. Lubbock will put upon the work as many mechanics as possible. Mr. Braman is instructed to make his reports through the Commander of the Marine Dept.

SO 129 May 9, 1865
17. In accordance with instructions from Dept. Hd. Qrs. Lieut. J. S. Phillips C. S. Navy will take command of the Torpedo Boat, now being constructed on the Bayou as soon as it is completed. He will in the meantime devote his attention to such arrangements and preparation as may be necessary to insure its rapid completion.

SO 131 May 11. 1865
16. Upon application of Capt. H. L. Lubbock, Commodore Marine Dept. the details of the following-named men are extended until further orders, for the purpose of building Torpedo Boats:
Pri. W. J. Smith Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. Louis Leon Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. David Gilmer Co F Spaights Regt
Pri Jerry O'Bryan Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. A. G. Jackson Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. J. Cline Co D Spaights Regt
Pri. Wm. Burns Co E Spaights Regt
Pri. R. C. Crevet Co A Spaights Regt
Pri. J. Lynch Co A Spaights Regt

All the above SOs were issued by Magruder's HQ.
 

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#2
The following in documents are found in the National Archives, RG 109, Chapter 2, Volume 103 Special Orders District of Texas, New Mexico & Arizona, March - May, 1865

SO 109 Houston, April 19, 1865
2. The services of the following named men, being indispensable for the construction of the Torpedo Boat, their detail is hereby extended for the period of sixty (60) days and will remain on their present duty: Pri. F. S. James, Co. A, Spaight's Regt as carpenter.

SO 120 April 30, 1865
3. I. The Torpedo Boat in process of construction at Lubbocks Mill on Buffalo Bayou, under the superintendence of J. D. Braman, of Singers Special Service Corps, and commenced under order of Maj. Genl. Walker will be continued on to completion.
Capt. Henry S. Lubboch, Comdg Marine Dept will afford Mr. Bramon, all the assistance in his power to facilitate the work, and which may not interfere with operations of the Marine Dept.
II. The Depot Qr. Mr. will fill all requisitions for this boat, made by Lieut. F. A. Rice A. A. Q. M., Marine Dept. and approved by Capt. H. S. Lubbock, Comdg. Marine Dept. As the early completion of this Boat is desired Capt. Lubbock will put upon the work as many mechanics as possible. Mr. Braman is instructed to make his reports through the Commander of the Marine Dept.

SO 129 May 9, 1865
17. In accordance with instructions from Dept. Hd. Qrs. Lieut. J. S. Phillips C. S. Navy will take command of the Torpedo Boat, now being constructed on the Bayou as soon as it is completed. He will in the meantime devote his attention to such arrangements and preparation as may be necessary to insure its rapid completion.

SO 131 May 11. 1865
16. Upon application of Capt. H. L. Lubbock, Commodore Marine Dept. the details of the following-named men are extended until further orders, for the purpose of building Torpedo Boats:
Pri. W. J. Smith Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. Louis Leon Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. David Gilmer Co F Spaights Regt
Pri Jerry O'Bryan Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. A. G. Jackson Co F Spaights Regt
Pri. J. Cline Co D Spaights Regt
Pri. Wm. Burns Co E Spaights Regt
Pri. R. C. Crevet Co A Spaights Regt
Pri. J. Lynch Co A Spaights Regt

All the above SOs were issued by Magruder's HQ.
Well done Dave! This clears up an issue about the build site. It also clears up the question of whether this boat was building at the Chubb shipyard on Buffalo Bayou. Perhaps Andy has some period information on the location of Lubbocks Mill. There still remain the questions of what type of TB they were assembling and if this is the same boat found at Lynchburg in June by Union forces doing an inventory of Confederate material. As the soldiers detailed appear to be mechanics, perhaps this is the fabled fifth submarine reported to have been built at Shreveport by the Singer organization and transferred disassembled to Houston. It's interesting that the SO of May 11 implies the detachment was to be used "for the purpose of building Torpedo Boats (plural).
 

DaveBrt

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Well done Dave! This clears up an issue about the build site. It also clears up the question of whether this boat was building at the Chubb shipyard on Buffalo Bayou. Perhaps Andy has some period information on the location of Lubbocks Mill. There still remain the questions of what type of TB they were assembling and if this is the same boat found at Lynchburg in June by Union forces doing an inventory of Confederate material. As the soldiers detailed appear to be mechanics, perhaps this is the fabled fifth submarine reported to have been built at Shreveport by the Singer organization and transferred disassembled to Houston. It's interesting that the SO of May 11 implies the detachment was to be used "for the purpose of building Torpedo Boats (plural).
Yes, the statement is "boatS" and the writing is very clear.

Other SOs mention a shipyard and sawmill at San Jacinto.

Another SO orders the evaluation of the engine of a boat and its value. No obvious connection to the TB.
 
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On March 17, 1865, an order was issued to impress parts of the locomotive "Comet" of the San Antonio & Mexican Gulf RR. The impressed parts (not specified) were to be shipped to Houston. For naval purposes?
Hi Dave. Do you have any idea of what type of boiler this locomotive may have used? Also, just an interesting aside, Captain Lubbock had an employment history as an engineer in a shipyard before the war. A good man to supervise a shipyard and Braman had the background to supervise assembly of stationary and spar torpedoes. Lt Phillips is an interesting choice to command a TB. He was the officer that had actually converted the Webb at Shreveport including provisions for deploying a spar torpedo. Read arrived from Richmond with his own officers and displaced Phillips who had already planned a breakout of the towboat. Phillips had also conducted a survey of building yards, machinery and availability of RR iron in Texas for construction of an ironed vessel. He reported that there was no shortage of RR iron. As for engines, those of the salvaged Neptune at Galveston were available although reported in need of repair. For TBs it is possible that one or more of the English engines found their way to Galveston. Another less likely possibility would have been the engines from the small steamers Ace or Dime on the Sabine.
 

rebelatsea

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On March 17, 1865, an order was issued to impress parts of the locomotive "Comet" of the San Antonio & Mexican Gulf RR. The impressed parts (not specified) were to be shipped to Houston. For naval purposes?
Quite possibly , the engine portion of a railroad locomotive could quite easily be converted to drive a ships propeller, the boiler and firebox could go with it too.
 

rebelatsea

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Hi Dave. Do you have any idea of what type of boiler this locomotive may have used? Also, just an interesting aside, Captain Lubbock had an employment history as an engineer in a shipyard before the war. A good man to supervise a shipyard and Braman had the background to supervise assembly of stationary and spar torpedoes. Lt Phillips is an interesting choice to command a TB. He was the officer that had actually converted the Webb at Shreveport including provisions for deploying a spar torpedo. Read arrived from Richmond with his own officers and displaced Phillips who had already planned a breakout of the towboat. Phillips had also conducted a survey of building yards, machinery and availability of RR iron in Texas for construction of an ironed vessel. He reported that there was no shortage of RR iron. As for engines, those of the salvaged Neptune at Galveston were available although reported in need of repair. For TBs it is possible that one or more of the English engines found their way to Galveston. Another less likely possibility would have been the engines from the small steamers Ace or Dime on the Sabine.
With reference to the ironed vessel :
In late 1862, the Confederate Navy Department supplied plans of a large ironclad, believed to be a Muscogee type vessel, to the State of Texas. A large quantity of iron was also obtained.
Nothing further was done to identify a location for construction or to advertise for contracts. (so far as I am aware).
 

DaveBrt

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With reference to the ironed vessel :
In late 1862, the Confederate Navy Department supplied plans of a large ironclad, believed to be a Muscogee type vessel, to the State of Texas. A large quantity of iron was also obtained.
Nothing further was done to identify a location for construction or to advertise for contracts. (so far as I am aware).
Howdy Rebel. Interesting. On a practical basis you wonder where they would have built a vessel of this type. Lynchburg or the yard across the river from there might have worked for hull construction, but it is doubtful that even with dredging it was feasible up Buffalo Bayou. For completion the hull would have to be taken down to Galveston. There is also the issue of Red Fish Bar in Galveston Bay. They had to dredge to get the Harriet Lane across and get her out of range of Union boarding parties. Houston was probably out as the only account I ever found of a good sized vessel brought up there was a runner that needed a major freshet from a storm to get enough water in the river. To the best of your knowledge, did the CSN ever contemplate a down-sized Muscogee type?
 
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With reference to the ironed vessel :
In late 1862, the Confederate Navy Department supplied plans of a large ironclad, believed to be a Muscogee type vessel, to the State of Texas. A large quantity of iron was also obtained.
Nothing further was done to identify a location for construction or to advertise for contracts. (so far as I am aware).
Rebel - if the plans supplied went to the State of Texas, then the logical agencies to carry out such a plan would have been the Army Engineering Dept and the Texas Marine Dept. I've never heard of the Marine Dept building something from scratch, although putting out contracts for a number of conversions. The CSN really ignored Texas until the capture of the Harriet Lane, but the initiative to turn the Lane into a ram similar to the conversions at Algiers for the River Defense Service and Louisiana State Navy gunboats came from the Texas Marine Dept and Leon Smith was to be her captain. This was quashed when Mallory shipped officers and about 20 men to Galveston to assert the CSN's authority. The Lane was a complete dud in terms of commerce raiding, the ram project never happened and eventually the Lane was turned into a runner (a slow one) and sent to Havana.
 

rebelatsea

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Howdy Rebel. Interesting. On a practical basis you wonder where they would have built a vessel of this type. Lynchburg or the yard across the river from there might have worked for hull construction, but it is doubtful that even with dredging it was feasible up Buffalo Bayou. For completion the hull would have to be taken down to Galveston. There is also the issue of Red Fish Bar in Galveston Bay. They had to dredge to get the Harriet Lane across and get her out of range of Union boarding parties. Houston was probably out as the only account I ever found of a good sized vessel brought up there was a runner that needed a major freshet from a storm to get enough water in the river. To the best of your knowledge, did the CSN ever contemplate a down-sized Muscogee type?
The only other centre wheeler design was the one that led to Missouri.
THE JAMES MARTIN CENTREWHEEL SLOOP CONTRACT.jpg
 

DaveBrt

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Special Order 190 July 8, 1864, District of Texas

4. In obedience to instructions from Dept Hd Qrs, the Marine Dept will furnish necessary transportation for the movement of negroes, tools, material etc engaged in the manufacture of Torpedo Boats, upon the request of Mr R. B. Dunn Chf of Torpedo Service or his authorized agents.


Sounds like the start up of operations, to me.
 
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Special Order 190 July 8, 1864, District of Texas

4. In obedience to instructions from Dept Hd Qrs, the Marine Dept will furnish necessary transportation for the movement of negroes, tools, material etc engaged in the manufacture of Torpedo Boats, upon the request of Mr R. B. Dunn Chf of Torpedo Service or his authorized agents.


Sounds like the start up of operations, to me.
Similar orders were issued in Savannah, but little beyond the plan and shop setup seems to have actually occurred there.
 

georgew

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George, I know nothing specific about Comet, but she was probably a standard 4x4x0 American locomotive, meaning firetube boiler, with description like http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Specification_For_The_General.htm or http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Specification_For_The_James_S._Corry.htm.
Hi Dave. Do you have any idea of the operating pressures for an engine like the Comet? Or how she would have been rated in terms of horsepower? In railway usage would such an engine use a gearbox of some type or were they direct-drive to the wheels? I'm trying to get a feel about what you have to do to adapt an engine and/or boiler of this type for marine screw propulsion.
 

DaveBrt

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Hi Dave. Do you have any idea of the operating pressures for an engine like the Comet? Or how she would have been rated in terms of horsepower? In railway usage would such an engine use a gearbox of some type or were they direct-drive to the wheels? I'm trying to get a feel about what you have to do to adapt an engine and/or boiler of this type for marine screw propulsion.
George, I think @rebelatsea will be able to answer those kind of questions better than I can.
 

USS ALASKA

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In railway usage would such an engine use a gearbox of some type or were they direct-drive to the wheels? I'm trying to get a feel about what you have to do to adapt an engine and/or boiler of this type for marine screw propulsion.
George, I think @rebelatsea will be able to answer those kind of questions better than I can.
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/locomotive-engines-as-maritime-propulsion.131429/
178

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

georgew

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Well done Dave! This clears up an issue about the build site. It also clears up the question of whether this boat was building at the Chubb shipyard on Buffalo Bayou. Perhaps Andy has some period information on the location of Lubbocks Mill. There still remain the questions of what type of TB they were assembling and if this is the same boat found at Lynchburg in June by Union forces doing an inventory of Confederate material. As the soldiers detailed appear to be mechanics, perhaps this is the fabled fifth submarine reported to have been built at Shreveport by the Singer organization and transferred disassembled to Houston. It's interesting that the SO of May 11 implies the detachment was to be used "for the purpose of building Torpedo Boats (plural).
Hi Dave: Did a bit of digging over the last couple of days. There were two separate TB's of the Singer type under construction at two different sites. Braman was superintending one and Chubb the other. This program was apparently initiated in January of 1864 which dovetails with the correspondence of the CSN at Shreveport over the next few months. The original propulsion was to be a twin-cylinder oscillating inline engine to be manufactured by Hiram Closes' foundry at Galveston driving a single six foot diameter propeller at 120 rpm. The description of this design as of August, 1864, was a length of 114 ft, beam of 14 feet. No depth of hold mentioned. The drawings for this vessel apparently came from Charleston. At first I wondered if it was a scaled-down fusiform hull like the blockade runner "large David" aka Preston built at Charleston. But factoring in the information supplied General Magruder about depth on bars along Buffalo Bayou (worst case 5 feet), and indications that Singer had meetings with Capt. Lee at Charleston, it appears to me that it is more likely that the hull design was much more conventional. Lee's prototype (Torch) was based upon the hull of a Maury gunboat. I now suspect that the Singer design was similar but with a hull fineness ratio more common with a blockade-runner (10:1). The CSN commander at Shreveport had estimated that an ironed vessel would take a minimum of 15 months for completion if not longer and he wasn't far wrong. Dunn's vessel was apparently the lead ship and running behind of receiving an engine as the Close foundry was buried in orders. Presumably this would be the source for the second TB (Chubb). Just before the end of the war a runner brought in an English engine originally intended for Wilmington. On May 1, 1865, Gen Magruder was back in Texas and confirmed that Chubb's TB was to be completed. Gen. Kirby-Smith authorized them originally and Gen. Walker got the program started. I have one circumstantial support for the idea that the hull configuration was more conventional. At least one of the boats was among captured material at Lynchburg, described as incomplete with a civilian builder (Chubb?) A fusiform configuration hull would have caused a lot of comment. I don't believe that either of the hull had received its railroad iron shield, so Union troops may have just assumed they were looking at a transport. A completely separate issue was the report by a deserter of a floating box-like structure he saw anchored in the main channel at Galveston. He was told it was a torpedo boat. Depending on the size (not revealed) he could have been looking at the cuddy of a David-type boat, or a flat-decked vessel deep in the water.
 
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factoring in the information supplied General Magruder about depth on bars along Buffalo Bayou (worst case 5 feet), and indications that Singer had meetings with Capt. Lee at Charleston, it appears to me that it is more likely that the hull design was much more conventional. Lee's prototype (Torch) was based upon the hull of a Maury gunboat. I now suspect that the Singer design was similar but with a hull fineness ratio more common with a blockade-runner (10:1).



The CSN commander at Shreveport had estimated that an ironed vessel would take a minimum of 15 months for completion if not longer and he wasn't far wrong. Dunn's vessel was apparently the lead ship and running behind of receiving an engine as the Close foundry was buried in orders. Presumably this would be the source for the second TB (Chubb). Just before the end of the war a runner brought in an English engine originally intended for Wilmington. On May 1, 1865, Gen Magruder was back in Texas and confirmed that Chubb's TB was to be completed. Gen. Kirby-Smith authorized them originally and Gen. Walker got the program started. I have one circumstantial support for the idea that the hull configuration was more conventional. At least one of the boats was among captured material at Lynchburg, described as incomplete with a civilian builder (Chubb?) A fusiform configuration hull would have caused a lot of comment.
I completely agree with the above.
My only additional comment, which is trivial and presumptive, would be that Lee's ram was more likely based on a Porter designed hull*, which, I believe, @rebelatsea (John) has determined would have been ~106 ft in length.

* from Lee's report to General Beauregard (1 May 1863)- "Naval Constructor Porter who was sent to Charleston to fulfill any requirements for the construction of the Torpedo Ram, instructed me to make use of the unfinished frame of a Gun boat commenced over one
year before by Mr [F.M.] Jones (Ship builder) and afterwards abandoned."
 



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