Confederate rocket powered boat


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9 March 2008
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Mark K. Ragan in his excellent book “Union and Confederate Submarine Warfare in the Civil War” (pp. 108-109) mentioned such a boat. Below is the part of the text, that is the only source of information about this novel craft:

While Marshall and the other founders of the Triton Company tried to secure the services of engineer-machinist Thomas Smith, E. C. Singer and his group of Mobile engineers, including Hunley, McClintock, and Watson, may have been taking notice of a strange contraption being tested in Mobile Bay. Extant descriptions show the invention was similar in design to the weapon tested by Pascal Plant in the Potomac River the year before. The new device was called a "rocket-powered torpedo." Like most other secret weapons tested during the Civil War, documentation on this invention is incomplete and confusing. This variety of rocket torpedo was born in the imagination of Col. E. H. Angamar, a Louisiana engineer engaged in planting underwater mines in Mobile Bay. Colonel Angamar's "Submarine Rocket Project" first appears in Confederate records in early November 1862, and according to the Confederate Engineering Bureau, he was assigned "to make satisfactory experimental tests of an invention designed to destroy the ships of our enemy."

It is not known whether Colonel Angamar and his men had any ties to Singer's group of engineers then hard at work building their submarine boat in the Park and Lyons machine shop. It appears as though the two groups of men had radically different ideas regarding marine warfare, for Colonel Angamar was not only trying to develop a rocket powered torpedo, he was also attempting to build a rocket powered torpedo boat from which to deploy his weapon. Whether the colonel was a good engineer is unknown, but he certainly had a knack for financing a far-sighted project: according to records kept by "The Committee of Safety" at Mobile, Colonel Angamar received some $20,000 to finance his scheme.

In late April of 1863, Angamar's "rocket boat and the twin boats from between which the rocket boat is to be started" had been completed. Confederate records indicate the "rocket propellant' for the project was shipped from the Confederate powder works at Augusta, Georgia, on April 15, and that "Angamar expected in a short time to attack one of the enemy's ships." According to Mobile's chief engineer, Confederate Brig. Gen. Danville Leadbetter, Colonel Angamar was sent to Richmond on May 22 to report on his rocket-powered torpedo experiments. By June 4, Angamar and his staff had completed their rocket-powered boat, "drawing 18 feet of water, and a twin boat for rowing and aiming it." "A flat boat with cranes for hoisting the torpedo boat," had also been built. According to Angamar, his experiments with the novel craft had been a success, although General Leadbetter let Richmond know that he had "no confidence"in the project.

By July 1, as Robert E. Lee was feeding troops into the spreading conflagration at Gettysburg, Colonel Angamar and his staff of nineteenth century rocket engineers were apparently ready to unleash their secret weapon on the Union fleet anchored at the mouth of Mobile harbor. Angamar requested from the Mobile Engineering Department charts of Mobile Bay and tracing paper from which he planned to plot his course of attack. Unfortunately, this is the last bit of information concerning either the colonel or his rocket-powered torpedo boat. No records regarding his alleged attack are known to exist, and the name of E. H. Angamar disappears from the surviving Mobile war records. Whether he was killed in his attempt or whether in fact such an attack ever took place remains a mystery. The lack of information regarding the fate of Colonel Angamar and his $20,000 rocket-powered torpedo boat is good example of how vague and incomplete surviving Civil War records are—especially in the area of experimental weaponry.

As you can see, there is not much to even make an attempt at drawing a reconstruction plan. Does anyone know anything more about this vessel?

Best regards,
Hmmm... :-\

Sounds like one for the "Mythbusters" crew.

Regards & all,

Thomas L. Nielsen
another way of getting rich and Gettyburg would be enough to distract people while the guy gets going . Though ı would like to proven wrong , ı have so much fondness for such things that might be described with the word steampunk .

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