Electronic Detonation of Mines and Torpedoes in the U.S. Civil War
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Electronic Detonation of Mines and Torpedoes during the U.S. Civil War
The first use of torpedoes was during the American Revolution. David Bushnell, who was an American inventor and graduate of Yale, created a keg torpedo that was used during the American Revolution. He filled kegs with gunpowder and floated them down the Delaware in hopes that they would collide with British ships and explode.1 Other sitings of torpedoes were seen by the Russians during the Crimean War and in Canton, China in 1857-58. Other experiments with torpedoes were seen in other parts of the world but few people took them seriously except for the inventors.2 The first real enhancement and development of torpedoes took place during the American Civil War, namely by Matthew Fontaine Maury. Maury, who was a native Virginian, charted the ocean currents and wrote several books about the geography of the sea. When the outbreak of the Civil War occurred, he resigned his commission in the U.S. Navy and joined the Confederacy, being placed on the advisory council for recommendations for the protection of the Confederate waterways.3 Maury experimented with tiny cans of powder and a large washtub filled with water. He decided to detonate the mines using a percussion trigger connected with a rope lanyard. This was successful, however he wanted something better- an electric torpedo fired by a spark passing through a long, insulated cable.4 Despite his desire, the cables could not be obtained.
Milton F. Perry, Infernal Machines: The Story of Confederate Submarine and Mine Warfare, (Louisiana State University Press, 1965) pp 6-11
A.A. Hoehling, DAMN THE TORPEDOES! Naval Incidents of the Civil War, (Winston-Salem, John F. Blair) pp 123-31