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Otsego Herald

July 25, 2013

Submarine Attack


From the Otsego Herald

for Saturday, July 24, 1813

Compiled, with comments


British Warship Attacked

Bushnell the second — We understand a gentleman at Norwich has invented a diving boat, which by means of paddles he can propel under water at the rate of three miles an hour, and ascend and descend at pleasure. He has made a number of experiments, and been three times under the bottom of the Ramillies, off New-London.

In the first attempt, after remaining under some time, he came to the top of the water like the porpoise for air, & as luck would have it came up but a few yards from the stern of the Ramillies, and was observed by the centinels on deck, who sung out — “boat ahoy”— immediately on hearing which, the boat descended without making a reply....

In the third attempt he came up directly under the Ramillies, and fastened himself and his boat to her keel, where he remained half an hour, and succeeded in perforating a hole through her copper, and while engaged in screwing a torpedo to her bottom, the screw broke and defeated his object for that time.

So great is the alarm and fear on board of the Ramillies of some such stratagem being played off upon them, that Com. Hardy has withdrawn his force from before New-London, and keeps his ship under way all the time, instead of lying at anchor as formerly.

COMMENT: During the American Revolution, David Bushnell (1740-1824) had constructed the first naval submarine, the Turtle, a hand-powered device intended to sneak under the hulls of enemy warships and attach a torpedo (bomb) to their hulls. It failed in its only attempt. The operator of this similar War of 1812 device (whose identity remains unknown) was trying to sink HMS Ramillies, a 74-gun ship-of-the-line and flagship of Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy (1769-1839). He was directing the British naval blockade at New London, Connecticut — a blockade primarily intended to prevent the “escape” of two US Navy frigates bottled up in the Thames River.

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