How did Confederate underwater mines work?

historicus

Private
Joined
Oct 12, 2016
Almost all of us probably know that Confederate underwater mines sunk several Union battleships during the Civil War. Furthermore, most people here probably already know that the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Sunni Insurgents and the Taliban in the Second Persian Gulf War all made mines by putting a bunch of explosives in a container and having a battery in the container with wires that go to a detonator (such as nichrome wire or a flash bulb of a camera), and that the wires in the battery also go to a set of electrical contacts. When a person steps on the ground above the mine or when a vehicle (such as a tank or humvee) drives over the ground above the mine, the pressure of the person's body or the pressure of the vehicle's weight pushes the electrical contacts in the mine together, closing a circuit, which detonates the mine.

I suppose that the Confederates could probably obtain some sort of wire (like nichrome wire or the flashbulb in a camera) to detonate the explosives in underwater mines. I mean, they had telegraphs back then. Maybe a fancy detonator such as nichrome wire would not even be necessary. Maybe electrical current going through a telegraph wire could detonate explosives. However, during the American Civil War, there were not batteries (not to my knowledge, anyway). The Confederacy couldn't just go buy a battery at Walmart. I don't know if anyone in the Confederacy even knew of the concept of how an electrical circuit worked. To my knowledge, the only type of technology involving electricity back then was telegraphs. I know that Confederate underwater mines were made to detonate when a ship collided with the mine. The pressure of a ship colliding with a mine somehow detonated the Confederate mines. Since the Confederates did not have access to batteries or electrical wires (to my knowledge, anyway), how did Confederate underwater mines work?
 
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Lubliner

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Almost all of us probably know that Confederate underwater mines sunk several Union battleships during the Civil War. Furthermore, most people here probably already know that the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War and the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Sunni Insurgents and the Taliban in the Second Persian Gulf War all made mines by putting a bunch of explosives in a container and having a battery in the container with wires that go to a detonator (such as nichrome wire or a flash bulb of a camera), and that the wires in the battery also go to a set of electrical contacts. When a person steps on the ground above the mine or when a vehicle (such as a tank or humvee) drives over the ground above the mine, the pressure of the person's body or the pressure of the vehicle's weight pushes the electrical contacts in the mine together, closing a circuit, which detonates the mine.

I suppose that the Confederates could probably obtain some sort of wire (like nichrome wire or the flashbulb in a camera) to detonate the explosives in underwater mines. I mean, they had telegraphs back then. Maybe a fancy detonator such as nichrome wire would not even be necessary. Maybe electrical current going through a telegraph wire could detonate explosives. However, during the American Civil War, there were not batteries (not to my knowledge, anyway). The Confederacy couldn't just go buy a battery at Walmart. I don't know if anyone in the Confederacy even knew of the concept of how an electrical circuit worked. To my knowledge, the only type of technology involving electricity back then was telegraphs. I know that Confederate underwater mines were made to detonate when a ship collided with the mine. The pressure of a ship colliding with a mine somehow detonated the Confederate mines. Since the Confederates did not have access to batteries or electrical wires (to my knowledge, anyway), how did Confederate underwater mines work?
See here;
https://civilwartalk.com/threads/torpedo.164733/#post-2147913
Lubliner.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Sir...

From the Charleston Mercury, 12/2/1861
Our Richmond Correspondence.
RICHMOND, November 28.

When the war broke out, there was a great lack of telegraphic wire, acids, &c. Dr. MORRIS, the President of the Southern Telegraph Company, has displayed great energy in remedying this lack. He has brought sulphuric acid from all parts of the Confederacy, and even from Mexico; and he has started a wire factory at the Tredegar Works in this City, which is now, as I learn, turning out excellent wire.

In 'Infernal Machines', Perry writes of the South having to resort to using a supply of Union telegraph cable. IIRC, it was washed up on the Virginia coast. Apparently it was pretty beat up but was the best they had at that time.

Infernal Machines by Milton F. Perry

Found a reference in 'Infernal Machines the Story of Confederate Submarines and Mine Warfare' by Milton F. Perry that states of mines being connected with "...3,500 foot insulated cooper cable which had been purchased in Nassau for ten dollars a foot."

Not a bad mark-up...

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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