Ridgeway Civil War Research Center,
A virtual examination of artifacts of the American Civil War


Civil War Artillery
by Harry Ridgeway

Mines and Torpedos
Artillery 6200 mines torpedos

This is the "Ridgeway Civil War Research Center...", a research tool for educational purposes only, and is provided at no cost to the reader. Some of the relics listed are retained in the author's collection, most reside in other collections and are not owned by the author. None of the items listed in this section are for sale, please refer to relicman.com sales listings for items offered for sale. This is a work in progress, I list items as I get to them, there are many patterns that are not listed yet, this list will be regularly updated as I get pictures and descriptions for more items. I will also correct mistakes, so if you see any please tell me. All items listed are believed to be authentic to the Civil War or as otherwise described. Any excavated relics have been recovered from private property with owners permission. This information is available for research purposes, pictures may be used by permission only.
All projectiles listed have been disarmed.

Most information on this page is from:
Field Artillery Projectiles of the American Civil War, 1993 Edition. by Thomas S. Dickey and Peter C. George.
Civil War Heavy Explosive Ordnance, A Guide to Large Artillery Prjectiles, Torpedoes, and Mines, by Jack Bell.
Artillery Fuses of the Civil War, by Charles H. Jones.
Pictures are by the author, unless otherwise indicated.


A0646. / A0647...Confederate platform torpedo, and 18 inch ball used to anchor frame torpedo

Although contemporary accounts describe these as "torpedoes" these devices were completely immobile. The "frame torpedo" was mounted on a platform in the shipping lane and depended on a ship to hit it. Note that the device was made in two parts, the seam around the middle was threaded and assembled on arming. This presumably would create a point of weakness, forcing the charge to blow upward to inflict maximum damage on the ship's bottom. The fuze is a pressure sensitive fuze, and this is smashed. Two of the bolts used to fasten the device to the platform are present, both are bent. There is a side hole filled with an iron bolt, and sealed with a leather washer, this may have been used to fill the device once the fuze was installed. When the iron bolt was first loosened it revealed that the torpedo was completely empty inside. The torpedo field was cleared after capture by the Federals, and this example was found on the banks near the field. It had probably been pulled from the platform, this might explain the bent bolts and the smashed fuze, then abandoned. The rest of the torpedoes were apparently recovered and most were taken to West Point for analysis, where they reside today. This torpedo field was located near Chapins Bluff on the James River and both the frame torpedo and an 18 inch ball were recovered together on the banks near this bluff. The report of its capture and a schematic drawing are both published in the "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies", Series I, Volume 7 pg. 543. The schematic shows a line of 36 frame torpedoes, followed by a line of 36 floating torpedoes, the latter was tethered to 18 inch balls used as anchors. The 18 inch ball is made as a typical cannon ball, open cavity and tapered hole. There was no effort to develop a cannon or a mortar of this caliber, this seems strange design for an anchor, but it would have been relatively easy to manufacture and get into the field quickly. The report clearly shows that 18 inch balls were used to anchor the line of floating torpedoes. Possibly this one was pulled from the torpedo field with force, then abandoned, most of the floating and the frame torpedoes were taken to West Point Foundry where they were disassembled and analyzed, and most are still there today.
Torpedo measures: length 24in., body width 12in., 400 lbs estimated. Ball is 18inch diameter, 250lbs estimated.
Reference: "Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies", Series I, Volume 7 pg. 543.
Reference: "Torpedoes, Another Look at the Infernal machines of the Civil War", by Michael P Kochan, and John C Wideman,page 52, actual item photographed.
Reference: Artillery Fuses of the Civil War, by Charles H Jones, page 132, actual example photographed.

A0175...Confederate platform torpedo
Although contemporary accounts describe these as "torpedoes" these devices were completely immobile. The "frame torpedo" was mounted on a platform in the shipping lane and depended on a ship to hit it. Note that the device was made in two parts, the seam around the middle was threaded and assembled on arming. This presumably would create a point of weakness, forcing the charge to blow upward to inflict maximum damage on the ship's bottom. Originally this had a pressure sensitive fuze, however this was removed and an eyelet was fashioned and threaded to exactly fit the fuze hole. All of these "mines" were found laying on the bottom of a river near Wilmington, they had been used to secure a floating bridge. The torpedo was clearly Confederate wartime manufactured, but the modification and bridge use was probably done after the Civil war.
Reference: "Torpedoes, Another Look at the Infernal machines of the Civil War", by Michael P Kochan, and John C Wideman, page 52.
Reference: Artillery Fuses of the Civil War, by Charles H Jones, page 132.

A0675...Fuse for frame torpedo, (reproduced model).
This is a close reproduction of the fuse for a frame torpedo similar to the one found on the torpedo recovered from the Richmond defenses. The cap is cut away for viewing the complex mechanics of this fuse. Fuze was manufactured for study by Mike Kochan, author of "Torpedoes, Another Look at the Infernal machines of the Civil War", by Michael P Kochan, and John C Wideman.

A0673. / A0677...Fuse for torpedo, Savannah style, and covering cap for Raines pressure sensitive fuse.
A cache of these fuses, unused, was found near Savannah, and nowhere else. Presumably they were intended for use in torpedos in the Savannah River. Diameter of threaded throat, tapered to 1.3in., length 4.5 in. Recovered: Savannah cache Ref: This discovery was documented and explained in North South Trader, December 1981. Fuze measures 4.5in. overall.

A0674...Fuse for torpedo, Savannah style (reproduced model).
This is a close reproduction of the Savannah fuse for a Confederate torpedo. The torpedo fuses were complex because water had to be kept out, yet primers had to be easily detonated. A tube was fitted in the center onto wh76ich an extremely sensitive paper primer was set. The cap covering was a thin brass or copper cover that was was soldered to the fuse sleeve. Then the tube with the timer was slipped in and the fuse fastened onto a keg torpedo. The torpedo was to be positioned in the shipping lanes to await a Federal ship to strike mashing the cover and detonating the primer by crushing. Ref: This discovery was documented and explained in North South Trader, December 1981. Fuze was manufactured for study by Mike Kochan, author of "Torpedoes, Another Look at the Infernal machines of the Civil War", by Michael P Kochan, and John C Wideman.

A0511. / A0676...Short fuse and fragment from 8 in. land mine. and land mine fuse, loading plug

Note the fuze is upside down in these pictures, unfortunately I cannot corect the picture because I no longer have these items, and flipping it with layers in adobe is beyond my capabilities at this point.
The fragment has the curvature equivalent to an 8 in. ball, but is thicker than the typical 8 in. ball. The fuse fits the big fuse hole, then there is a smaller hole right beside it, also threaded. The fuse section is 42mm in diameter, and 46mm tall It has a smaller threaded section on the bottom and a smaller yet threaded section above topped by a square nut on top. The D&G book lists a land mine that is 5.69 in. and another that is 9.88 in.. The curvature of this frag clearly matches an 8 in. ball. (7.88 approx.). The fuse appears to be part of a fuse and not the whole fuse. Yet it fits the larger of the two holes, which means that whatever else there is was screwed onto either the top or bottom, where it is recessed. The design does not seem to match any of the drawings presented in the D&G reference. Recovered: near Fort Blakeley Alabama Frag is from 8 in. ball.
Ref: Dickey & George, Field Artillery (1993 Edition), pg. 510.


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