Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 04.djvu/235

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Torpedo Service in Charleston Harbor.


from my friend, Mr. George A. Trenholm, and at his expense equipped them with torpedoes for a practical experiment against the blockading vessels at anchor off the bar.

Commodore Ingraham then refused to let me have the officers or men who had volunteered for the expedition, saying that my rank and age did not entitle me to command more than one boat. I was allowed, some time after this, to go out alone with one of these boats and a crew of six men, to attack the United States ship "Powhatan" with a fifty-pound torpedo of rifle-powder attached to the end of a long pole, suspended by wires from the bow and stern, beneath the keel of the boat, and projecting eight or ten feet ahead, and seven feet below the surface.

I started out with ebb-tide in search of a victim. I approached the ship about 1 o'clock. The young moon had gone down, and every thing seemed favorable, the stars shining over head and sea smooth and calm. The bow of the ship was towards us and the ebb-tide still running out. I did not expect to reach the vessel without being discovered, but my intention was, no matter what they might say or do, not to be stopped until our torpedo came in contact with the ship. My men were instructed accordingly. I did hope the enemy would not be alarmed by the approach of such a small boat so far out at sea, and that we should be ordered to come alongside. In this I was disappointed. When they discovered us, two or three hundred yards distant from the port bow, we were hailed and immediately ordered to stop and not come nearer. To their question, "What boat is that?" and numerous others, I gave evasive and stupid answers; and notwithstanding repeated orders to stop, and threats to fire on us, I told them I was coming on board as fast as I could, and whispered to my men to pull with all their might. I trusted they would be too merciful to fire on such a stupid set of idiots as they must have taken us to be.

My men did pull splendidly, and I was aiming to strike the enemy on the port-side, just below the gangway. They continued to threaten and to order us to lay in our oars; but I had no idea of doing so, as we were now within forty feet of the intended victim. I felt confident of success, when one of my trusted men, from terror or treason, suddenly backed his oar and stopped the boat's headway. This caused the others to give up apparently in