TUSCALOOSA, August 12, 1863.
His Excellency Governor BONHAM, Columbia, S. C.:
SIR: Eighteen months ago I visited Columbia for the express purpose of exhibiting to your predecessor, Governor Pickens, and his council, a plan, of my devising, for arming small, active steamers, &c., with torpedoes for attacking and destroying the enemy's ships of-war along our coast. My plan was warmly approved by the Governor and his council, and, at their request, I visited Charleston, where I left drawings and explanations of my plan.
I expected much from the known promptness and energy of South Carolina, and had no doubt but in a few months small, active torpedo steamers, as tugs, &c., would break up effectually the blockade of Charleston.
I also sent drawings and explanations of my plan to Mobile, and have every reason to believe that parties from Mobile, without giving me credit for it in any way, availed themselves of my plan for obtaining constracts for buildings large steamers to carry out this mode of warfare from your State Legislature.
No inventor likes to lose both the credit and the profits of his inventions, but I took no steps to interfere with what I nevertheless felt to be in infringement of my rights.
My chief regret is, that in attempting to do some great thing in getting up torpedo ships, nothing, so far as I am aware, has yet been accomplished in this way for the relief of Charleston. I recommended, to save time and money, the use of small, active steamers, and, if my suggestions had been acted on, you can imagine how different the state of affairs might have been at Charleston. The enemy is now thundering at your doors, and my present purpose is to furnish you a plan for using even pleasure yachts and pilot-boats for destroying the enemy's ships-of-war off your port.
An ordinary sail-boat, with one or two torpedoes, as shown in the drawing, the hull and sails painted lead color, as for running the blockade, and a crew of half a dozen resolute men, such as you could find by scores in Charleston, might on any favorable night surprise and destroy the largest ship-of-war off your port. But little time and money are required to test this matter, and I humbly trust it may meet your approval, and be immediately carried out by you or by the authorities at Charleston.
My plan of using torpedo steamers was approved by 7 naval officers, to whom it was exhibited, and I have no doubt the plan of using sailing vessels will also be approved in our present exigency.
The steamer Atlanta, it appears from the newspapers, was armed with a torpedo at here bow, on the plan I have proposed, but she ran aground, and was captured, before reaching the enemy. I sincerely trust the plan will be carried out by other steamers, and also by sailing vessels. I hope the States will not wait for the Confederate Government to do all for their defense on the water, but will bestir themselves at once in their own defense.
Should you desire further explanations, please inform me. The practice of my profession at this juncture compels me to write in haste, which I trust you will readily excuse for the sake of the cause. I beg leave to refer you to Colonel Chesmut and Colonel Clarkson.
Very respectfully, yours, &c.,
JOHN B. READ.