Sunday, March 4, 2012

February/March 1862: Mystery Belvidere Man Tests Torpedo

In early March 1862, an article appeared in The Trenton Republican, and was reprinted in the March 7, 1862 edition of The Belvidere Intelligencer, which told of the invention of a "submarine battery" by an unnamed Belvidere man. 

The newspaper article stated: "A professional gentleman of Belvidere, N.J. has invented a submarine battery of singular efficiency.  It resembles a large conical shell, is furnished with a simple mechanical power, which forces it through the water beneath the surface in any direction desired by the operator, and when running against a vessel is forced by contact to dive and explode with terrific force only when passing the keel.  The whole battery rotates in the water while in progression, and traveling entirely under water, is not affected by wind or waves.  The powder used is almost perfectly white, and develops four times the bulk of gas that common gunpowder gives out in ignition.  Some further experiments are to be made on the Delaware River."

The identity of this Belvidere professional gentleman is still a mystery.  In 1996-97, when this writer was researching for Bugles, Battles & Belvidere: The History of Warren County, NJ in the Civil War, 1861-1865, I mistakenly thought that the man inventing a "submarine battery" might have been New Jersey inventor Edwin A. Stevens, the inventor of "The Stevens Battery" - a semi-submersible ironclad gunboat.  However, thanks to Internet resources, Stevens has been ruled out as the man testing a torpedo-like device on the Delaware River.  If anyone knows the identity of the Belvidere inventor and what happened to his invention, please let us know.

Copyright 1997-2012: Jay C. Richards

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