The David

 

Also known as "the little david", the Davids were small steam powered torpedo boats that operated around Charleston about the same time as the Hunley. In fact, one was sometimes used as a towing vessel for the Hunley.

The David was conceived and designed by Dr. St. Julian Ravenel, who recruited David Ebaugh to build her. She was privately funded and built at Stoney Landing up on the Cooper river, out of view of the many Northern spies in Charleston.

The David was designed to ride very low in the water and attack by ramming a spar torpedo. However, she was not a submarine- she had an open cockpit and was powered by a small steam boiler. Some books claim that the davids used water filled ballast tanks to ride low in the water, however, the builder described filling the hull with thousands of pounds of iron to lower the water line.

The David made a somewhat successful attack against the federal New Ironsides; at least damaging her enough to cause her to withdraw and make repairs. This was the first successful torpedo attack in history. The original David almost made history again with a bold attack on a Federal ironclad on the Stono river, however its torpedo failed to detonate.

Several other Davids were built, although sources conflict on the actual number (anywhere from 4 to 50!). Ebaugh built two more Davids himself and described several more built by others with his original plans. He also was building two more: a 100 ft long version and a 163 ft long version. The former was burned during the evacuation of Stoney Landing and the latter was captured by Federal forces at Charleston. Pictures that appear to represent the large Davids have been found at the Navy Historical Site, but due to the lack of information for these, I can only speculate on the facts involved. I suspect that the 100 ft David was burned as Ebaugh claimed, and these two pictures are of the same 163 ft David, the first at Charleston, unfinished, the second at a northern shipyard as it would likely have been refitted and tested, as many captured vessels were.

The Old Santee Canal Park Museum at Stoney Landing Plantation has a (somewhat truncated) full-sized model of the David. They also have a nice museum exhibit with a smaller model (see photos). Photos there imply that the David's revolutionary hull design may have been based on the Winans' cigar boats (see photo at right). For more information on these vessels, click here.

More Images in the Gallery

For more on The David:

Solomon, Robert, M.D., Editor. The C.S.S. David: The Story of the First Successful Torpedo Boat. 1970. The R.L. Bryan Company. Colombia SC. Copies are available from the Old Santee Canal Park Museum.

Stoney Landing

David underway

Winans' boats, the basis for the David's design ?

Large David in Charleston at the end of the war.

Possibly the other large David at the end of the war.

Scale model, Old Santee Canal Park

Full-sized model, Old Santee Canal Park

 

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