Thursday, August 4, 2016

Confederate Torpedoes


General Gabriel J. Rains
Confederate Torpedoes edited by Herbert M. Schiller contains The Torpedo Book by Gabriel J. Rains and Notes Explaining Rebel Torpedoes and Ordinance by Peter S. Michie. Schiller produced a valuable reference book for students of Civil War weapons technology. In Confederate Torpedoes, Schiller assembled a collection of illustrations including never-before-published plates from Rains' and Michie's reports. The book contains new photographs of the torpedo specimens at the US Military Academy as well as other museums and private collections. The editor introduces each book with brief biographies of the authors. Schiller includes an updated list of vessels damaged and sunk by Confederate torpedoes including additional details on the incidents.  He also includes an appendix with plates not referenced in Rains' book.

Singer Torpedo

The development of Confederate torpedoes began during the Union advance from Yorktown in the Peninsular Campaign. Rains planted torpedoes to impede General George McClellan's forces as they advanced toward Williamsburg. Generals on both sides



CSS Hunley

The Confederate torpedoes were successfully used on many occasions, the most famous may be the spar torpedo on the CSS Hunley that destroyed the USS Housatonic, the torpedo field in Mobile Bay that sunk the gunship USS Tecumseh, and USS Cairo sunk by a wicker-covered demijohn torpedo on the Yazoo River.


Brigadier General Gabriel J. Rains was director of the Confederate Torpedo Bureau during the Civil War. He organized the system of torpedoes and mines that protected the harbors of Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, and other port cities, and invented an early land mine that was successfully used in battle. Brigadier General Peter S. Michie served as chief engineer of the Union's Army of the James and was stationed in Richmond for a year after the war. Michie was Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy at the US Military Academy from 1871 to 1901. Physician and historian Herbert M. Schiller edited the two works presented in Confederate Torpedoes. Schiller is the author or editor of numerous books on the Civil War including Sumter is Avenged: The Siege and Reduction of Fort Pulaski, The Bermuda Hundred Campaign: "Operations on the south side of the James River, Virginia - May, 1864," and The Autobiography of Major General William F. Smith 1861-1864. Schiller graduated from Wake Forest University with an M.A. in history.

This is an excellent edition for Civil War students and scholars who want to learn more about the many devices used by the Confederacy to sink Union ships and protect ports and rivers.

No comments: