Wednesday, April 9, 2014

April 9, 1864: Torpedo attack on the U.S.S. Minnesota

On this day 150 years ago, the Confederate spar torpedo boat C.S.S. Squib attempted to sink the Union steam frigate U.S.S. Minnesota.
Off Newport News, Va., April 9, 1864.

SIR: I have to report that last night about 2 o'clock, while riding to the ebb tide, a dark object was discovered slowly passing the ship about 200 yards distant. It was thought to be a boat, and hailed; to the hail was answered "Roanoke." By this time it was directly abeam, seemingly without any power of locomotion. The officer of the deck promptly gave orders to the tug astern to go and examine it, and repeated his orders several times before getting any reply, and while endeavoring to have this order executed, the object, a "David," approached the ship just abaft the port main chains and exploded a torpedo under her, the "David" making off in the direction of the Nansemond River. Several muskets and a round shot were fired at it and every effort made to send in pursuit, but the tug Poppy had failed to keep the required lookout and also had allowed her steam to go down, which was not discovered until the "David" had disappeared. Vessels were sent in search, but failed to find her. I submit the accompanying report of Acting Ensign Birtwistle, officer of the deck at the time specified. It is difficult to say how far the ship may be damaged, although she manifests no leak. The shock was quite severe and I should be glad to have a survey to ascertain the extent of injury sustained.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieutenant-Commander, Commanding U. S. S. Minnesota.

Acting Rear-Admiral S.P. LEE,
Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

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