Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 6, 1863 (Thursday): David Vs New Ironsides

CSS David

October 6, 1863

Major Elliott reports two submarine affairs near the Ironsides, also several wooden gunboats. The Ironsides appears to have escaped injury from last night's attempt to destroy her.
The following are copies of signal messages sent by the enemy and translated by our signal corps on Sullivan's Island:
Admiral D-:
Trouble among the navy vessels. Heavy musketry fire near the Ironsides.
Enemy quiet now. I did not receive any explanation of the firing near the Ironsides.
Have not yet learned the cause of the alarm. Firing seemed to be around the Ironsides; it continued some fifteen minutes. The admiral is outside; I will signal to him.
Admiral D-:
G- is anxious to learn the cause of the firing last night. Will you be kind enough to inform me, so that I can communicate it to him?
General G-:
The admiral sends me the following dispatch: "An attempt was made last night to blow up the Ironsides by a small steamer and a torpedo. It failed signally, although the torpedo exploded at the right moment. There were 4 men in the boat, 2 of whom are prisoners."

Official Records, Vol. 1, Vol. 28, Part 1, Page 141 (excerpt).

The David was not a submarine, but had a very low profile and burned smokeless antracite coal.  Altogether not a very detectable craft, it managed to ram the New Ironsides and break off a charge in it.  The attack failed to sink the New Ironsides, and two of the David's crew fell into Union hands when they jumped overboard, believing incorrectly their ship was about to sink.  It sailed back down the channel to safety.  The David was left in place after the war and the area silted over.  It is believed to be under Tradd Street and Murray Boulevard on the battery in Charleston.

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