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Torpedo War, and Submarine Explosions

Date: 1810
Overall: 214 x 275 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Classification:Books and journals
Object Name: Book
Object No: 00003685
Place Manufactured:New York

User Terms

    A book titled "Torpedo war, and submarine explosions" by Robert Fulton, Fellow of the American Philosophical Society, and of the United States' Military and Philosophical Society, 1810.

    HistoryDedicated to James Madison, President of the United States and distributed to all members of the Congress by Fulton in an attempt to gain support for further research. Fulton had been experimenting with torpedoes, mines and submarines since 1797, envisaging a powerful, new arsenal which would serve to redress the numerical inferiority of the United States to their European rivals. Congress was not convinced. Fulton failed to solve the problems of propelling and steering the torpedo - problems later overcome by Robert Whitehead and which revolutionised naval warfare - just as Fulton had so audaciously predicted.

    Plate I shows a view of the Danish brig DOROTHEA as she was blown up on 15 October 1805 in England for the British Admiralty. The experiment was based on the tides carrying the torpedo to and below the ship where it was detonated by time fuse. Earl St Vincent said "...Pitt was the greatest fool that ever existed, to encourage a mode of war which they who commanded the seas did not want, and which, if successful, would deprive them of it."

    Three further experiments were conducted in New York Harbour in 1807. The first two failed but the final was a success. Plate II represents the anchored torpedo, so arranged as to blow up a vessel which should run against it. One hundred pounds (100lbs) of powder were loaded into the torpedo; when a ship struck a certain lever, the torpedo exploded. It was designed to protect harbours and was in fact a mine.

    Plate III represents a clockwork torpedo, as prepared for the attacks of a vessel while at anchor or under sail, by harpooning her in the larboard and starboard bow. In effect a harpoon was fired into the ship to make fast a rope with a torpedo attached to it; the torpedo then exploded by time fuse. The harpoon would be fired from the stern of a row boat (ship's boat).

    Plate IV shows the stern of a row-boat fitted with harpoon and torpedo experiment. Plate V has 3 figures showing three methods of attack by harpoon. This method was based on ship's boats with crews of 12 men. Fulton advocated a "fleet" of these row-boats. He goes through the tactics, costs, equipment requirements and thoughts on the probable effect of this invention, both strategically and morally (the imaginary inhumanity of torpedo war, as Fulton puts it.)
    Additional Titles

    Web title: Torpedo War, and Submarine Explosions

    Primary title: Torpedo war, and submarine explosions

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