Potential Savannah Torpedo Boat

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DaveBrt

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NA Catalog Chapter 2, Volume 35, p. 43

Savannah Ga 25th October 1862

Mr Nelson Tift
Savannah Ga.

Dear Sir,
Wishing to avail myself of the presence of the little "Tug propeller" in the Great Oguchee, to turn her into a "Lee Torpedo Ran" in the manner I have this day explained to you, I have to request that you should visit her tomorrow at the Bridge of the S. A. G. RRd {Savannah, Albany & Gulf RR} to inform me:
1. Whether she can be transformed into a Torpedo Ram with one gun
2. How long & at what cost it could be done
3. What is her present value?
4. What would be her speed & draft of water when completed.

Respy your obdt sevt
G. T. Beauregard
Genl Comdg
 

JohnDLittlefield

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There was talk of building torpedo boats (Lee's rams initially, but David-style after the summer of 1863) in several key Confederate ports (including Savannah, Wilmington, and Mobile), but I can't see that any were ever deployed or even finished- most were not even started...

"Were some of these rams built at the same time in the Yazoo River they could dash into and clear the Mississippi River and aid materially in the recapture of New Orleans. If effective here they would be equally efficient at Port Royal, Savannah, and in James River. Let me bespeak for Captn Lee the consideration due to his zeal intelligence and capacity as a practical Engineer.
Respectfully Yr Obt Svt
(signed) G. T. BEAUREGARD." 13 October 1862



By mid-March 1864, requests were being made for ‘Davids’ to be used by Savannah forces.[1] Flag-Officer John Tucker could not grant the request, but planned to provide some information for torpedo boats to be constructed in Savannah.
"The one I have had, the ‘David,’ belongs to a company. They have called on me to return the ‘David,’ which, of course, I am obliged to do. The station is building two of these boats to be turned over to me when completed, but I fear that will be some time yet. I will send drawings and explanations which will enable you to have one or more boats constructed at Savannah."[2]
A month later, W. W. Kennison reports info from deserters, that, “No ‘David’ boats are at Savannah, nor torpedoes.”[3] However, within two weeks plans were being implemented for torpedo boat construction in Savannah, albeit of an unknown design. In April 1864, engineer John J. Clarke requested skilled laborers to work in a mechanical shop proposed to build torpedo boats.[4] In mid- May 1864, requests were still being made from Savannah Army officers for David-class boats to be sent there from Charleston or for aid in realizing the construction of local vessels.
In December, after the fall of Savannah, the Cleveland Morning Leader reports that a torpedo boat had been confiscated at Savannah.[1] Dahlgren confirms the prize in a diary entry from 4 January 1865, “Secured an unfinished torpedo boat, which was at a wharf in the city when, but by some hocus-pocus had been looted and got down among the bushes of St. Augustine Creek.”[2] A few days later, in a report to Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, Dahlgren reports that there were actually two torpedo boats,

"Among the articles found here after our troops entered was a torpedo boat, which I have received from General Sherman and sent to Port Royal. As yet it is only the unfinished wooden shell; no machinery was found about the place, but may be among some that was thrown overboard. There is another torpedo boat in the yard of the builder, not finished, which I may be able to secure. Some drawings and models [presumably sent from Tucker in Charleston] were found in the shipyard where the torpedo boats were built, of torpedo boats and ironclads, which will hardly be considered as an accession to the skill and knowledge of our builders. I transmit them, however."[3]


The same day, Dahlgren sent instructions to Lieutenant-Commander Scott regarding affairs in the Savannah River.
"The torpedo boat in the yard is to be launched when fit, and, with all its appurtenances [sic] transferred to the naval commandant at Port Royal. The divers will work at the obstructions in the South Channel (the North is said to be under contract) and at the raising of the steam machinery of the torpedo boats, reported to have been sunk off the wharf."[4]
Work continued to raise the presumed scuttled machinery of the boat from the river in an attempt to get it in working order, “The hull of one torpedo boat has been taken to Port Royal, and if the machinery can be gotten it may be possible to turn it to some account, but this must be a work of some time.”[5] The ultimate fate of these two vessels remains unclear, as does the design of the vessels. However, iconographic (a photograph and a painting) material suggests these vessels were of a unique design.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Periodicals sure became smitten by the idea of Confederate torpedo boats. I've never had the sense to compare dates, which articles and illustrations appeared when. None seem like the Hunley- have no idea if any were meant to depict a David or something else? Like an idiot didn't save the date- Harper's. Referred to as an ' infernal machine ', that's the Minnesota meant to be the target.

sub6.JPG
 
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rebelatsea

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"Some drawings and models [presumably sent from Tucker in Charleston] were found in the shipyard where the torpedo boats were built, of torpedo boats and ironclads, which will hardly be considered as an accession to the skill and knowledge of our builders. I transmit them, however."

Now those we'd all love to see !
 

JohnDLittlefield

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"Some drawings and models [presumably sent from Tucker in Charleston] were found in the shipyard where the torpedo boats were built, of torpedo boats and ironclads, which will hardly be considered as an accession to the skill and knowledge of our builders. I transmit them, however."

Now those we'd all love to see !
ABSOLUTELY!!! I have been unable to locate them.
 

JohnDLittlefield

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Periodicals sure became smitten by the idea of Confederate torpedo boats. I've never had the sense to compare dates, which articles and illustrations appeared when. None seem like the Hunley- have no idea if any were meant to depict a David or something else? Like an idiot didn't save the date- Harper's. Referred to as an ' infernal machine ', that's the Minnesota meant to be the target.

View attachment 297614
One prime example of a steam launch referred to as a “David,” can be found in the report of Lieutenant Commander J. H. Upshur, of the ironclad Minnesota, after his vessel was attacked by a torpedo boat in early April 1864.

Sir,- I have to report that last night about 2 o’clock, while riding to the ebb tide, a dark object was discovered slowly passing the ship, about two hundred yards distant. It was thought to be a boat, and hailed; to the hail was answered ‘Roanoke.’ By this time it was directly abeam, seemingly without any power of locomotion. The officer of the deck promptly gave orders to the tug astern to go and examine it, and repeated his orders several times before getting any reply, and, while endeavoring to have this order executed, the object, a ‘David,’ approached the ship just abaft the port main chains and exploded a torpedo under her, the ‘David’ making off in the direction of the Nanesmond river. Several muskets and a round shot were fired at it, and every effort made to send in pursuit, but the tug allowed her steam to go down, which was not discovered until the ‘David’ had disappeared. Vessels were sent in search, but failed to find her.[1]
Upshur’s vessel, Minnesota, had suffered an attack by Squib, a steam-launch torpedo boat designed by William A. Graves, not a David-style torpedo boat. It was not submersible, nor was it made of iron as depicted in the sketch.
[1] Report of J. H. Upshur to Union Acting Rear Admiral S. P. Lee, 9 April 1864, ORN Vol. 9 (1899), 593; reprinted in Barnes 1869, 133.
 
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georgew

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There was talk of building torpedo boats (Lee's rams initially, but David-style after the summer of 1863) in several key Confederate ports (including Savannah, Wilmington, and Mobile), but I can't see that any were ever deployed or even finished- most were not even started...

"Were some of these rams built at the same time in the Yazoo River they could dash into and clear the Mississippi River and aid materially in the recapture of New Orleans. If effective here they would be equally efficient at Port Royal, Savannah, and in James River. Let me bespeak for Captn Lee the consideration due to his zeal intelligence and capacity as a practical Engineer.
Respectfully Yr Obt Svt
(signed) G. T. BEAUREGARD." 13 October 1862



By mid-March 1864, requests were being made for ‘Davids’ to be used by Savannah forces.[1] Flag-Officer John Tucker could not grant the request, but planned to provide some information for torpedo boats to be constructed in Savannah.
"The one I have had, the ‘David,’ belongs to a company. They have called on me to return the ‘David,’ which, of course, I am obliged to do. The station is building two of these boats to be turned over to me when completed, but I fear that will be some time yet. I will send drawings and explanations which will enable you to have one or more boats constructed at Savannah."[2]
A month later, W. W. Kennison reports info from deserters, that, “No ‘David’ boats are at Savannah, nor torpedoes.”[3] However, within two weeks plans were being implemented for torpedo boat construction in Savannah, albeit of an unknown design. In April 1864, engineer John J. Clarke requested skilled laborers to work in a mechanical shop proposed to build torpedo boats.[4] In mid- May 1864, requests were still being made from Savannah Army officers for David-class boats to be sent there from Charleston or for aid in realizing the construction of local vessels.
In December, after the fall of Savannah, the Cleveland Morning Leader reports that a torpedo boat had been confiscated at Savannah.[1] Dahlgren confirms the prize in a diary entry from 4 January 1865, “Secured an unfinished torpedo boat, which was at a wharf in the city when, but by some hocus-pocus had been looted and got down among the bushes of St. Augustine Creek.”[2] A few days later, in a report to Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles, Dahlgren reports that there were actually two torpedo boats,

"Among the articles found here after our troops entered was a torpedo boat, which I have received from General Sherman and sent to Port Royal. As yet it is only the unfinished wooden shell; no machinery was found about the place, but may be among some that was thrown overboard. There is another torpedo boat in the yard of the builder, not finished, which I may be able to secure. Some drawings and models [presumably sent from Tucker in Charleston] were found in the shipyard where the torpedo boats were built, of torpedo boats and ironclads, which will hardly be considered as an accession to the skill and knowledge of our builders. I transmit them, however."[3]


The same day, Dahlgren sent instructions to Lieutenant-Commander Scott regarding affairs in the Savannah River.
"The torpedo boat in the yard is to be launched when fit, and, with all its appurtenances [sic] transferred to the naval commandant at Port Royal. The divers will work at the obstructions in the South Channel (the North is said to be under contract) and at the raising of the steam machinery of the torpedo boats, reported to have been sunk off the wharf."[4]
Work continued to raise the presumed scuttled machinery of the boat from the river in an attempt to get it in working order, “The hull of one torpedo boat has been taken to Port Royal, and if the machinery can be gotten it may be possible to turn it to some account, but this must be a work of some time.”[5] The ultimate fate of these two vessels remains unclear, as does the design of the vessels. However, iconographic (a photograph and a painting) material suggests these vessels were of a unique design.
Reading this again I hope that at least one set of machinery was salvaged and described. These boats would have been candidates for a pair of the British engines from Clyde Bank. If the hull sent to Port Royal is the same hull show in a photo tied to a dock with an unusual long run aft, its propulsion was very likely one of the Clyde Bank engines. If the Confederate purchasing officer was really smart, he would have ordered not just the engine and boiler, but also the condenser, drive shaft and propeller, all made to work with each other. The trick would be to build the hulls to the point where you still had access (sort of drop in) for putting in the machinery. The aft quartering photo of a modified David fits the bill for this. The upper areas of the stern are essentially open all the way forward and though we don't have a scale for the photo, it appears to me that you can shoehorn in the engine and 3'6" x 3'6" x 10- ft boiler. It looks to me as if the 20 ft long, 3 inch dia driveshaft would also fit in that long run aft. If the propeller is forward of the rudder there should have been better steering at low speeds. What intrigues me is that we get reports for several orders in which a condenser is mentioned. They really aren't much use up inland water ways due to all the junk in the water. But they work well off-shore. With bypass plumbing, they could be used off-shore and shut off as you come into a river. There are two primary advantages to a condenser: 1) a quieter exhaust, 2) improved fuel consumption (15-20%). The skinny style TBs had limited bunkerage for coal, so the condenser might have been justified.
 

DaveBrt

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National Archives Catalog, Chapter 2, Volume 50

Charleston, June 2, 1864

Maj Genl Patten Anderson
Lake City, Fla.

The Major Genl Comdg direct that you stop the torpedo boats and apply all the available strength of McAlpins Company to removing railroad iron {probably the Florida RR iron for use on the Lawton to Live Oak connection}. When that is accomplished, the Co must be ordered to Savannah.
H. W. Feilder, AAG (for MG Sam Jones)
-----
same date

Maj Genl J F Gilmer
Savannah, Ga

Genl Anderson has been ordered to send up the Engineer Co Capt McAlpins as son as the railway iron is move.
same signature
-----
June 4, 1864

Brig Genl B H Robertson
Adams Run, S. C. (on Charleston & Savannah RR, 25 miles west of Charleston)

Locate a Rigger has been ordered to report to you to get up Engine from Yankee Steamer. He goes down in the morning train. Order some one to meet him at Adams Run Station to carry him to the wreck.
S. C. Warwick ADC
 
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Story

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Dahlgren confirms the prize in a diary entry from 4 January 1865, “Secured an unfinished torpedo boat, which was at a wharf in the city when, but by some hocus-pocus had been looted and got down among the bushes of St. Augustine Creek.”[2]
Is 'hocus-pocus' more or less severe than 'shenanigans'?

Rhetorical, never-mind.

Has this been data-mined for the topic at hand?
John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren papers, 1794-1889
10,000 items ; 38 containers plus 3 oversize ; 15.6 linear feet
http://findingaids.loc.gov/db/search/xq/searchMfer02.xq?_id=loc.mss.eadmss.ms007060&_faSection=overview&_faSubsection=did&_dmdid=
 

JohnDLittlefield

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Is 'hocus-pocus' more or less severe than 'shenanigans'?

Rhetorical, never-mind.

Has this been data-mined for the topic at hand?
John Adolphus Bernard Dahlgren papers, 1794-1889
10,000 items ; 38 containers plus 3 oversize ; 15.6 linear feet
http://findingaids.loc.gov/db/search/xq/searchMfer02.xq?_id=loc.mss.eadmss.ms007060&_faSection=overview&_faSubsection=did&_dmdid=
Sorry to say, not by me. I only had two days at the LoC and LOTS to search through! Most of my time in DC has been at the Nat Archives.
 
Last edited:

DaveBrt

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Got interrupted before I could finish my thoughts on the 3 transcriptions just above.

First, where were these TBs being built? Anderson commanded Florida and was not in posession of Jacksonville.

Second, the South was being denuded of infantry formations to meet the 1864 Union offensives -- Jones will shortly write that the Charleston/Savannah area has no infantry unit in it and even two companies that had been serving heavy guns for over a year had been called to Virginia. I suspect Jones ordered the Engineer Company to Savannah just to give him raw manpower in the area.

Third, the order to raise the Yankee steamer's engine was right after the Water Witch capture and, apparently, in the same place.
 
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georgew

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Got interrupted before I could finish my thoughts on the 3 transcriptions just above.

First, where were these TBs being built? Anderson commanded Florida and was not in posession of Jacksonville.

Second, the South was being denuded of infantry formations to meet the 1864 Union offensives -- Jones will shortly write that the Charleston/Savannah area has no infantry unit in it and even two companies that had been serving heavy guns for over a year had been called to Virginia. I suspect Jones ordered the Engineer Company to Savannah just to give him raw manpower in the area.

Third, the order to raise the Yankee steamer's engine was right after the Water Witch capture and, apparently, in the same place.
Where was the engineering company stationed at this point?
 

rebelatsea

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Got interrupted before I could finish my thoughts on the 3 transcriptions just above.

First, where were these TBs being built? Anderson commanded Florida and was not in posession of Jacksonville.

Second, the South was being denuded of infantry formations to meet the 1864 Union offensives -- Jones will shortly write that the Charleston/Savannah area has no infantry unit in it and even two companies that had been serving heavy guns for over a year had been called to Virginia. I suspect Jones ordered the Engineer Company to Savannah just to give him raw manpower in the area.

Third, the order to raise the Yankee steamer's engine was right after the Water Witch capture and, apparently, in the same place.
Water witch was a paddle steamer, it had been intended to fit her machinery to an unfinished ironclad at Savannah. I can't see anyway that large-ish paddle machinery cold be adapted for a torpedo boat.
 
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DaveBrt

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Where was the engineering company stationed at this point?
Removing railroad iron. I take this to mean Florida RR iron in the Jacksonville/Fernandina/Baldwin area. But that was only a part of the company -- my first transcription says to consolidate the company on the RR job. I don't know where the part was that was not yet on the RR job.
 
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