Construction of Houston Torpedo Boat, Spring 1865

DaveBrt

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#41
Double hmmm. I don't think Walker proposed to use both of their engines. As for the condition of their equipment, I seem to remember reading that this eastern line was in very poor shape. Perhaps their problem was the road itself versus the rolling stock? I wonder if someone intervened on behalf of the RR on the grounds that they needed both locomotives to provide service for military shipping. I do know that at one point Magruder suspended civilian passengers on that line.
The Eastern Texas RR was not completed to the Texas & New Orleans RR until the summer of 1864, and I have no proof that it was completed then. I agree that only one locomotive is in question regarding the TB, but the RR had 2 and they were both functional in May 1865.

Magruder used the Texas railroads, based on Houston, as the essential backbone of his defense plan for the coast. I find it very hard to believe he would use one of his essential locomotives, that could service the whole central and eastern coast, for the construction of one TB that might be able to defend one spot on the coast. I just do not see him making that trade-off.
 

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#42
The Eastern Texas RR was not completed to the Texas & New Orleans RR until the summer of 1864, and I have no proof that it was completed then. I agree that only one locomotive is in question regarding the TB, but the RR had 2 and they were both functional in May 1865.

Magruder used the Texas railroads, based on Houston, as the essential backbone of his defense plan for the coast. I find it very hard to believe he would use one of his essential locomotives, that could service the whole central and eastern coast, for the construction of one TB that might be able to defend one spot on the coast. I just do not see him making that trade-off.
Tend to agree with you, but I think part of the confusion may be due to Magruder's replacement in Texas by Walker and then Magruder's later return in command. Both commanders put real effort into getting the TB's completed, but I'm not sure what priority Walker placed on the Eastern Texas line. I get the impression that Walker concentrated on Texas until ordered by Kirby-Smith to do otherwise. Kirby-Smith at one point considered seizing the Close Foundry at Galveston and Walker talked him out of it. I was always under the impression that the ground work for the link between E Texas and Louisiana was completed, but the rail never laid between the Sabine River and a final station in Louisiana bayou country.
 
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#43
The Eastern Texas RR was not completed to the Texas & New Orleans RR until the summer of 1864, and I have no proof that it was completed then. I agree that only one locomotive is in question regarding the TB, but the RR had 2 and they were both functional in May 1865.

Magruder used the Texas railroads, based on Houston, as the essential backbone of his defense plan for the coast. I find it very hard to believe he would use one of his essential locomotives, that could service the whole central and eastern coast, for the construction of one TB that might be able to defend one spot on the coast. I just do not see him making that trade-off.
Hi Dave. Hypothetically, suppose we wanted to use one of the Eastern engines and boilers, but the progress on building the TB's is behind schedule and the Lubbock Mills TB is more advanced and the engine/boiler of the Comet already secured. Do you suppose a compromise allowing the Eastern RR to keep using both locomotives until the second TB was ready for its machinery makes sense? I also wonder what you need and how long it would take the RR workshop at Houston to pull the engine and boiler? We've not seen any correspondence identifying a second source for the engine of the second TB and the English engine that came in unexpectedly was designed for a much smaller TB at Wilmington. Do you suppose they still intended to use an Eastern locomotive engine?
 

DaveBrt

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#44
Hi Dave. Hypothetically, suppose we wanted to use one of the Eastern engines and boilers, but the progress on building the TB's is behind schedule and the Lubbock Mills TB is more advanced and the engine/boiler of the Comet already secured. Do you suppose a compromise allowing the Eastern RR to keep using both locomotives until the second TB was ready for its machinery makes sense? I also wonder what you need and how long it would take the RR workshop at Houston to pull the engine and boiler? We've not seen any correspondence identifying a second source for the engine of the second TB and the English engine that came in unexpectedly was designed for a much smaller TB at Wilmington. Do you suppose they still intended to use an Eastern locomotive engine?
The Eastern Texas RR's report in 1865 says they were not yet open for business. I believe the locomotives and cars were on a long term lease to the Texas & New Orleans RR and were primarily hauling military supplies, troops and food items to support the desperate military and civilian population. This was such a crucial requirement that it is hard to believe Magruder would allow an operable locomotive to be taken out of service (Comet may have been operable, but she was on one end of a destroyed RR), unless he was absolutely convinced that the TB could protect the coast. If he were so convinced, why are there no documents that discuss such use and the need to finish the TB? His special orders and telegrams are in the National Archives.

As far as taking a locomotive apart for TB use, that was not a problem. Comet was taken apart in Victoria; Sharp took apart 15 locomotives.
 
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#45
George, the plan was sent in late 1862, but to whom and where, and where the construction was to take place seems to have been lost in the mist of time ( or that D***D arsonist) again.
Hi Rebel: The Letterbook of Lt. J.H. Carter, CSN at Shreveport has a series of entries that confuse the issue. In No 158 of March 9, 1864, Carter to Mallory, Carter states, "...Your letters of December 29th/63 and Jany 4th by the hands of Mr. Mead Naval Constructor, have been received. In a few days I will leave here with Mr. Mead for Texas for the purpose of making the necessary examinations for the construction of the iron clad Torpedo boat. From my knowledge of the conditions of this Department, and the scarcity of labor and material, such a vessel as the plan and specifications call for, cannot be built within fifteen months or two years, if at all, and at a cost of not less than one million of dollars. Confederate Money in Texas is at a discount of twenty for one..."
Ltr No. 161 of March 22, 1864 to Constructor Mead added, "...In addition to the duty on which you have visited Texas, I wish you to ascertain if it is practicable to build at or near Houston, one or more Small Torpedo Boats similar to those now being used in Charleston Harbor..."
This sounds as if Richmond wanted to know if a large armored TB could be built at Galveston. You wonder if the inquiry refers to a vessel of the same class as the 160-ft Singer designs for Wilmington and Selma. But the letter to Mead suggests a more practical proposal for a different class of TB. You wonder if Richmond suggested the smaller boats or if this was Carter's own initiative. I suspect that the smaller TBs were Carter's idea. He apparently didn't know that the Navy had bee using its own TB design (Graves).
In a letter of April 25th, 1864 (no 174) he writes Mallory "...I have had an interview with Maj.Gen. Magruder who is now in Shreveport on the subject of building an iron clad vessel in the water of Texas. In his opinion, no iron clad can be built in Texas. The mere building of the vessel he thinks might possibly be done, but the iron armor and machinery for driving cannot be had. He has had surveys made of the harbor of Galveston and Buffalo Bayou and no vessel drawing over five feet water built in Buffalo Bayou could get out..."
You wonder if the Navy's interest primed Magruder, who discussed the issue with Kirby-Smith at Shreveport. Then Singer and Dunn of the Torpedo Company organization make their pitch for a smaller class of TB's and convince the Army Brass that engines can be secured and the hull ironed in Texas. So the picture shifts from a still-born Navy initiative to the Confederate Army who already have a neutral to positive impression of Singer's organization based upon known results. So Singer gets the support of the senior service in the Confederacy by offering a strong threat to Union forces off Galveston, helping to keep the port open for runners. What's not to like?
It would be really interesting to know just what the Navy design and specifications entailed. Their previous proposal to the State of Texas was a centerline gun boat, not a torpedo boat. Who designed the Navy torpedo boat?
The timing is interesting as R.W. Dunn made his pitch to Kirby-Smith on April 21st of 1964. I wonder if Magruder was still in Shreveport as orders from that H.Q. and Houston began coming fast.
 

rebelatsea

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#46
Hi Rebel: The Letterbook of Lt. J.H. Carter, CSN at Shreveport has a series of entries that confuse the issue. In No 158 of March 9, 1864, Carter to Mallory, Carter states, "...Your letters of December 29th/63 and Jany 4th by the hands of Mr. Mead Naval Constructor, have been received. In a few days I will leave here with Mr. Mead for Texas for the purpose of making the necessary examinations for the construction of the iron clad Torpedo boat. From my knowledge of the conditions of this Department, and the scarcity of labor and material, such a vessel as the plan and specifications call for, cannot be built within fifteen months or two years, if at all, and at a cost of not less than one million of dollars. Confederate Money in Texas is at a discount of twenty for one..."
Ltr No. 161 of March 22, 1864 to Constructor Mead added, "...In addition to the duty on which you have visited Texas, I wish you to ascertain if it is practicable to build at or near Houston, one or more Small Torpedo Boats similar to those now being used in Charleston Harbor..."
This sounds as if Richmond wanted to know if a large armored TB could be built at Galveston. You wonder if the inquiry refers to a vessel of the same class as the 160-ft Singer designs for Wilmington and Selma. But the letter to Mead suggests a more practical proposal for a different class of TB. You wonder if Richmond suggested the smaller boats or if this was Carter's own initiative. I suspect that the smaller TBs were Carter's idea. He apparently didn't know that the Navy had bee using its own TB design (Graves).
In a letter of April 25th, 1864 (no 174) he writes Mallory "...I have had an interview with Maj.Gen. Magruder who is now in Shreveport on the subject of building an iron clad vessel in the water of Texas. In his opinion, no iron clad can be built in Texas. The mere building of the vessel he thinks might possibly be done, but the iron armor and machinery for driving cannot be had. He has had surveys made of the harbor of Galveston and Buffalo Bayou and no vessel drawing over five feet water built in Buffalo Bayou could get out..."
You wonder if the Navy's interest primed Magruder, who discussed the issue with Kirby-Smith at Shreveport. Then Singer and Dunn of the Torpedo Company organization make their pitch for a smaller class of TB's and convince the Army Brass that engines can be secured and the hull ironed in Texas. So the picture shifts from a still-born Navy initiative to the Confederate Army who already have a neutral to positive impression of Singer's organization based upon known results. So Singer gets the support of the senior service in the Confederacy by offering a strong threat to Union forces off Galveston, helping to keep the port open for runners. What's not to like?
It would be really interesting to know just what the Navy design and specifications entailed. Their previous proposal to the State of Texas was a centerline gun boat, not a torpedo boat. Who designed the Navy torpedo boat?
The timing is interesting as R.W. Dunn made his pitch to Kirby-Smith on April 21st of 1964. I wonder if Magruder was still in Shreveport as orders from that H.Q. and Houston began coming fast.
I have no answers, don't know whether John Littlefield has . I also don't know when James Meads was promoted from Chief Carpenter to full constructor. That must have irritated the hell out of Joseph Pearce - assuming he knew of course.
 
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#47
I have no answers, don't know whether John Littlefield has . I also don't know when James Meads was promoted from Chief Carpenter to full constructor. That must have irritated the hell out of Joseph Pearce - assuming he knew of course.
Unfortunately, I have nothing to add. I will offer an opinion... I don't think there was a single Navy TB design, but that's little more than a gut feeling. Much of the confusion comes from the vague use of the term "torpedo boat", which as far as I can tell, was anything with a spar stuck on the bow (or a rope hung off the stern!).
 



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