CSS ''David''

  • Warships Of History
  • 2 mins

By Crusader1307

The deployment of The Union blockade of the Coastline of The Confederacy (during The American Civil War, 1861-1865) – was a major problem for The South. Importing and exporting goods and weapons needed for it's survival was of utmost importance. With a small Navy, the South needed a new type of ship capable of harassing and defeating the Blockade. The CSS “David” was the answer. The David was a form of “semi-submserible” vessel, which was a forerunner to today's submarines. While submersible vessels were NOT a new idea to warfare (DaVinci designed one (not built) and The “Turtle” proved effective against The British Navy during The American Revolutionary War), The David Class of ships, were a true innovation. Based on French designs and theories, they were made of iron and steel composite. Davids were roughly 50 feet long with a 6 foot beam (height). They had a 5 foot draft. Only it's small Conning/Observation Tower (placed amid-ships) could be seen. The vessel was totally submerged. Steam powered and operated by 4 Crew and 1 Officer, David's also burned Anthracite Coal (which gave off no smoke). Operating only at night, this made The David's a frightening weapon. It is speculated some 20 were constructed. Looking all of a large cigar tin, The David featured a 25 to 35 foot iron spar (or extension), welded to the front of the vessel. Attached, was a 134 pound, 32 inch long “torpedo” device. The theory of deployment was simple. The David would travel (unseen) to the hull of an enemy ship (below the waterline). After sufficient speed was built up, the spar torpedo would be rammed into the wooden hull (jamming itself). A waterproof laynard was then be pulled by the vessel's Officer, igniting a percussion spark system that would then detonate. The resulting explosion would “break” the ship free. Obviously, many David's went down or were seriously damaged in this “suicide run” tactic. Oddly, many David crews DID survive. In fact, 2 David Class submersibles did survive the war intact. They were used as landfill during the rebuilding of the City of Charleston, South Carolina (during The Reconstruction Era of 1865-67), and simply buried. In 1998, ground radar determined the location these two vessels underneath downtown Charleston. Unfortunately, due to the cost and obvious disruption to business (for The City), no plans to excavate them will be accomplished.