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[78]

In the Franco-Chinese war, the French torpedoes destroyed the whole Chinese fleet. The iron-clad flagship was blown to atoms by a torpedo boat.

Thus the Confederacy, having set all the world to building ironclads, taught it how powerless they are against torpedoes.

Our torpedoes were very rude. Some were demijohns charged with gunpowder. The best were beer-kegs loaded with gunpowder, and exploded by sensitive primers. These were anchored in every channel open to an enemy.

The official reports show that sixty-eight Federal vessels were destroyed by torpedoes during the war between the States. Twelve were sunk in Mobile Bay. The great ironclad Tecumseh was the first and greatest victim. She was leading Farragut's fleet into Mobile Bay, and running close into Fort Morgan, when a torpedo struck her. She instantly careened and went down, carrying in her one hundred and fifty officers and men. With them lies their noble Captain Craven, one of the bravest and best of American captains. As his ship was struck, Craven was by the foot of the ladder leading up to the open deck, from which he could escape. The pilot came running to get out that way; Craven stepped back, saying, ‘After you, pilot,’ and went down with his ship. The pilot lived to record this act, more noble than Sydney's.

Eight of the Tecumseh's men were out on her deck when she went down. They sprang into the sea. Some were rescued by our men; others were picked up by the Hartford's boats, for when brave old Farragut saw the Tecumseh sink, he took the head of his fleet, hove to under the fire of our guns, and lowered his boats to save those struggling men.

Seeing this, noble old Dick Page, commanding the Confederate forts, ordered: ‘Pass the order to fire no shot at those boats saving drowning men.’

These are the chivalries which make war glorious.

While their stationary, defensive torpedoes were so destructive, Confederate ingenuity was active in creating aggressive torpedo boats, which, making no noise nor smoke, and lying deep in the water, could, at night, approach and sink a ship at anchor.

The United States frigate Ironsides was the greatest ironclad then in existence. She lay in Charleston harbor, and was an object of great desire to the young Confederate naval officers. And one night Lieutenant Glassell, of Virginia, went out to attack her.

His boat was the torpedo David. She was made of boiler-iron,


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