Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/294
286 8ou// rn llixiurical Society Papers.
was used in the electrical defences around Richmond, and in those at Charleston.
The department was completely organized before the ist of Janu- ary, 1863, both in personnel and material, and occupied nine well- constructed stations on the James River alone, connected by tele- graph, and with the office of the Secretary of the Navy.
The effective work of this organization consisted in the partial destruction of the Commodore Barney, a gunboat, and the loss of many lives in August, 1863, and the complete destruction of the Commodore Jones, a large gunboat, and nearly all her crew in May, 1864,
These were the first vessels ever injured in war by any system of electrical defences.
In a long letter from the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Mallory, to me after the war, he says : ' ' The destruction of the Commodore Jones, the leading vessel of Admiral Lee's fleet, which was ascend- ing the James river to co-operate with General Butler in the attack on Drewry's Bluff by causing the retirement of that fleet, undoubt- edly saved Drewry's Bluff, the key of Richmond."
Again he says: "I always regarded the sub-marine department under your command as equal in importance to any division of the army."
About the same time I received the most flattering letters from General Robert E. Lee, Admiral Buchanan and others on the sub- ject of my services in command of the submarine defences; and it is with painful surprise I find you have forgotten a long letter of the same nature written me by yourself, as you do not even allude to any act of mine in your work.
In March, 1864, I ran down the James river from Richmond to its mouth in a small steam launch, and attacked the flagship Minnesota with a " spar torpedo," doing her considerable injury, and returned to Richmond without the slightest loss of any kind.
This was the only instance during our war, and the first, of course, where the " spar torpedo " was used with effect and without the loss of the attacking party, and therefore the only instance to establish the efficiency of the method. On this occasion the Russian sul- phuric acid, &c., fuse was used, the same that Captain Glassell used against the ' ' ironsides. ' '
I commanded the submarine defences as a regularly organized electrical system in all its details and requirements until near the end