Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 02.djvu/15
Electrical Torpedoes as a System of Defence.
war, stamp the fact upon the times, so as to render it, as it is now, a system of defence that no nation dares neglect.
And how did it become so?
I trust to history for the answer.
If any one had to contend with the abuse and sneers, and ridicule whilst in the performance of torpedo duty day and night, that fell upon me during the war, he would realize that as late as the summer of 1863, some of the ablest men of the day did not regard torpedo warfare as worthy of consideration, and the very attempts of Fulton and of Bushnell, and of the Russians, were used by those men in argument that my attempt would also be fruitless.
Much of the light has to struggle through mediums of darkness and resistance, and gradually breaks in upon us. Our theories rarely assume a practical form, but as in many other circumstances so in naval and military matters we are controlled by theory (nearly every association having one of its own) until the test, the practice comes, and then in war see how the mist vanishes and light appears! Some have made the lucky casts and win.
Can any one think of a war that did not cause him to wonder at his own want of forethought? How weapons, and methods are changed! How rank is capsized! How he came out of the struggle other rounds higher on the ladders of science and of art!
And every discovery of a new or improved weapon proves to be a step towards greater civilization and peace.
Apropos of the foregoing, I remember that a distinguished Admiral sent word to me when under a flag of truce during the war, that if I came down to his squadron again in a certain boat, (in which I had made the first successful attack with the "Lee--Spar--Torpedo") he would not respect the flag, as he did not acknowledge that I was engaged in civilized or legitimate warfare. This glanced from my armor as many a worse shot did from my own side, though for other reasons, for I felt that as he was the only sufferer then, he saw the matter from but one point of view, but that time would set it even as I replied in substance to the officer, ---- respice finem. The end indeed was not far off, for the official reports of the day were that the admiral took up my torpedo mines as the territory was conquered, and turned them against us; and certain it is that his squadron was soon after armed with the "Lee--Spar--Torpedo."
To those who know me, I trust that this letter is unnecessary, but then there is the world beside, and who knows how many in