to employ this important invention, not only in the defense of Charleston, but to disperse or destroy the Federal blockading fleet by means of one or more small swift steamers, with low decks, and armed only with “spar-torpedoes” as designed by Captain Lee. I sent him at once to Richmond, to urge the matter on the attention of the Confederate Government. He reported his mission as follows:
In compliance with your orders, I submitted the drawing of my torpedo and a vessel with which I propose to operate them, to the Secretary of War. While he heartily approved, he stated his inability to act in the matter, as it was a subject that appertained to the navy. He, however, introduced me and urged it to the Secretary of Navy. The Secretary of War could do nothing, and the Secretary of the Navy would not, for the reason that I was not a naval officer under his command. So I returned to Charleston without accomplishing anything. After a lapse of some months I was again sent to Richmond to represent the matter to the Government, and I carried with me the indorsement of the best officers of the navy. The result was the transfer of an unfinished hull, on the stocks at Charleston, which was designed for a gunboat-or rather floating-battery, as she was not arranged for any motive power, but was intended to be anchored in position. This hull was completed by me, and a second-hand and much worn engine was obtained in Savannah and placed in her. Notwithstanding her tub-like model and the inefficiency of her engine, Captain Carlin, commanding a blockade-runner5 took charge of her in an attack against the New Ironsides. She was furnished with a spar designed to carry three torpedoes of one hundred pounds each. The lateral spars suggested by you, Captain Carlin declined to use, as they would interfere very seriously with the movements of the vessel, which, even without them, could with the utmost difficulty stem the current. The boat was almost entirely submerged, and painted gray like the blockade-runners, and, like them, made no smoke, by burning anthracite coal. The night selected for the attack was very dark, and the New Ironsides was not seen until quite near. Captain Carlin immediately made for her; but her side being oblique to the direction of his approach, he ordered his steersman, who was below deck, to change the course. This order was misunderstood, and, in place of going the “bow on” as was proposed, she ran alongside of the New Ironsides and entangled her spar in the anchor-chain of that vessel. In attempting to back the engine hung on the centre, and some delay occurred before it was pried off. During this critical period Captain Carlin, in answer to threats and inquiries, declared his boat to be the Live Yankee, from Port Royal, with dispatches for the admiral. This deception was not discovered until after Carlin had backed out and his vessel was lost in the darkness.