War of the Rebellion: Serial 047 Page 0595 Chapter XL. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-CONFEDERATE.

Search Civil War Official Records

ments from South Carolina that are, and have so long been, serving outside of their State. If you could get Jenkins and Kershaw both, they would be invaluable to you.

Very truly, yours,



NAVY DEPARTMENT, C. S., Richmond, December 19, 1863.


Member of Congress, Richmond, Va.:

SIR: Your letter of the 11th instant, upon the subject of torpedo vessels, and inclosing notes of General Beuaregard, has been received.

The effect of submarine torpedoes exploded in contact with the bottoms of vessels is generally understood. For, though experiments have been very limited, their results,a nd particularly the results of the attempt upon the Ironsides at Charleston, and upon a gunboat on the James River, have been instructive and satisfactory.

As to the best means of thus using submarine torpedoes in offensive war, much speculation and many interesting devices have been called forth. But as yet no practicable plan, that I am aware of, has been devised for the construction of such a vessel as this mode of warfare demands, and as General Beauregard evidently refers to. That they may be carried beneath the water at the end of a spar attached ot the stem of a vessel, and exploded by impact against an opposing ship, with terrible effect upon it, and without serious injury to the torpedo vessel, is well understood.

The chief characteristics of such a vessel, as General Beauregard indicates, should be a "speed of 10 or 12 miles an hour, and shot-proof above the water" (and recent tests show that they should be so below water to a certain extent) against the enemy's 15-inch guns at close quarters. But the means by which these requirements, apparently inconsistent, are to be obtained and combined; the size, form, and details of the essel and machinery, he does not indicate, nor have they ever, to my knowledge, been determined or suggested. Such vessels could only be built, within any reasonable time,a board. And whether the Government of England or France, where they might be most readily built, would permit the construction of ironclad torpedo-boats within their jurisdiction, may well be doubted. But if built aborad, they must necessarily be sea-going vessels, and large enough to cross the ocean, and to force an entrance to our ports-and large enough to carry the loyal required for the voyage, aided, perhaps, by temporary sails. I mention these points, not in opposition to their construction, if practicable, but to show some of the difficulties to their construction, if practicable, but to show some of the difficulties in the day, and to have the benefit of your aid in overcoming them, if possible.

To construct a "steamer of 400 or 500 tons, built like a blockade runner, but made shot-prof," would be impracticable. No vessels of this character, possession the requisite mobility, sped, invulnerability and draught of water have ever been built, or, to my knowledge, planned.

Upon the subject of invulnerability, it may be proper ot remark that no adequate, defensive armor, applicable to such vessels, against the heavy naval ordnance now in use, has yet been devised.