On October 5th 1863, during the American Civil War, two ships would clash in the night. The USS New
Ironsides lay at anchor just off of Morris Island near Charleston South Carolina. Around 9pm, the crew
was below decks with only the night officer of the deck (OOD) to keep watch. Something crept close in
the water and the OOD hailed the unidentified object. Unfortunately, the ship came closer and a
confederate Sailor sent a shotgun blast right at the OOD. No more than a minute later a torpedo
exploded on the starboard side of New Ironsides. The crew woke to the violent explosion and all hands
went to battle stations.
The crew drove off the invading confederate ship, the CSS David, and was able to stay afloat from the
attack. The next day the confederates were convinced that the USS New Ironsides had to go to the yards
for repairs. In reality, she just needed some minor maintenance and she was ready for service soon
afterwards. The OOD on watch died of his injuries on October 10th.
Keep in mind
For added context, the torpedo used from the CSS david was not like the torpedoes we know of today. It
was a spar torpedo which was an explosive device attached at the end of a long pole. The CSS David itself
was a partially submerged ship where it’s entire design was stealth with one torpedo to attack. With this
in mind it is easy to see how this ship could creep up on another and deliver a surprise attack.
Check out my previous blog post here.
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