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The beginnings of submarine warfare: a Confederate photograph of 1864--the first “David,” figuring in an heroic exploit This peaceful scene, photographed by Cook, the Confederate photographer at Charleston, in 1864, preserves one of the most momentous inventions of the Confederate navy. Back of the group of happy children lies one of the “Davids” or torpedo-boats with which the Confederates made repeated attempts to destroy the Federal vessels in Charleston Harbor, and thus raise the blockade. The Confederates were the first to employ torpedoes in the war, at Aquia Creek, July 7, 1861. Captain F. D. Lee, C. S. N., was working on designs for a torpedo ram early in the war, and Captain M. M. Gray, C. S. N., in charge of the submarine defenses of Charleston, with a force of sixty officers and men under him, was particularly active in developing this mode of warfare. The “David” in the picture appears to be the first one built in the Confederacy; she was constructed at private expense by Theodore Stoney, of Charleston. She was driven by steam, and on the night of October 5, 1863, in command of Lieut. W. T. Glassell, with a crew of three volunteers from the Confederate gunboats, she succeeded in exploding a torpedo under the new “Ironsides,” putting her out of commission for a time. The little “David” was almost swamped. Her crew took to the water to save themselves by swimming. Lieutenant Glassell and James Sullivan, fireman, were captured after being in the water nearly an hour. Engineer C. S. Tombs, seeing that the “David” was still afloat, swam back to her, where he found Pilot J. W. Cannon, who could not swim, clinging to her side. Tombs clambered aboard and pulled Cannon after him, and together they managed to build a fire under the boiler and bring the little vessel safely back to Charleston.

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