Rebel Torpedo


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, September 12, 1863

Reading original Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War is one of the best ways of gaining a deeper understanding of the War. We have made our entire collection of papers available online to allow you to read detailed reports of the key events in the war.

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Sioux Battle

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Rebel Torpedo

Quincy Gilmore

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Beauregard Cartoon

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Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Fort Sumter after Bombardment

Fort Sumter After the Bombardment

James Island

James Island, South Carolina

Charleston Campaign

Charleston Campaign










[SEPTEMBER 12, 1863.




ABOVE we give illustrations of a REBEL TORPEDO sent down the Stono River, South Carolina, on the night of August 16. It consists, says our correspondent, who furnishes the sketches, "of two cylinders of tin, the upper one acting on a buoy, the lower containing sixty pounds of powder. These are connected by an iron tube, into which is placed an old smooth-bore musket with the stock sawed off. The detailed drawing shows the arrangement for setting it off. Ten of them were sent down in pairs, connected by about 250 feet of rope. One exploded under the Pawnee's stern, blowing her launch to pieces, and shaking the whole ship. Two others exploded near; two floated down to the bar and exploded there; two others went up Folly River on the flood tide, and were secured by the mortar-schooner C. P. Williams, from one of which the drawings have been made."


THE years 1824-5-6 were periods of immense commercial activity. Unfortunately the basis of that unexampled and permanent prosperity was Paper—practically unlimited issues of bank promises to pay; and when the gigantic bubble burst in 1827 more than two-thirds of the English banks were overwhelmed, the Bank of England terribly shaken, and, according to Mr. Huskisson, the country was within four-and-twenty hours of a state of barter. That, however, could be no reason why Lovegold and Company should not profit as largely as possible by the impetus given to speculations of all kinds by "cheap" money. We did profit largely, and, as a firm, did not sustain much loss when the crash came. Mr. Pryse, my partner, was less fortunate—emerging from the chaos of 1827 with riven heart and dreadfully scorched fingers; altogether a distracted, and, it was really apprehended, a permanently "blighted being." He, however, survived the shock five-and-twenty years; but so burned into his brain were the incidents of the catastrophe that, when dying, at the early age of sixty, almost the last sentence he was heard to mutter was an incoherent stringing together of the words, "Cruel, treacherous woman!" "Serk mines!"—and "That unhanged thief, Burroughs!" with which pestilent persons and projects my shamefully ill-used partner would have had no concern whatever but for the great paper prosperity.

I must preface the story of Mr. Pryse's shocking misadventure by remarking that, being really very good-looking, he believed himself to be an Adonis, whose fascinations few women could resist. This, I must do him the justice to say, was his only considerable weakness. To that inordinate vanity it was owing that he was still a bachelor at five-andthirty—he not having up to that time met with a lady whose attractions in person, purse, and pedigree balanced his own merits. Not one of the three requisites—beauty, fortune, birth (he was a great stickler for birth)—could possibly be dispensed with; and it was precisely with these three baits that the Father of Mischief angled for and hooked my partner.

Mr. Kenneth Temple was a gentleman approaching middle age, who, on the death of his father, Sir Willoughby Temple, would come into possession of large entailed estates, and, on the decease of an aunt, would be entitled to a reversion of over forty thousand pounds. Both father and aunt were not only aged, but ailing persons; so, having assured ourselves beyond a doubt of that cardinal fact, we accommodated Mr. Temple to a large sum on the usual terms, he being a fast gentleman, for whom the very handsome income allowed by his father was wholly insufficient. In 1825 Sir Willoughby died; a few months afterward the aunt departed this life, and the new baronet was a very

wealthy man. His account with us was liberally settled, and, strange to say—at least it appeared strange to us—Sir Kenneth was no sooner possessed of immense wealth than a passion for adding, still adding, to the heap grew upon him. His mode of living became parsimonious, while he dived unhesitatingly into the whirlpool of reckless speculation—South American loans, bubble companies—and, wonderful to say, always emerged with plunder. He had conceived an exalted opinion of Mr. Pryse's judgment in such matters, and was, in consequence, often at our office. I altogether disapproved of such ventures, and constantly refused to be in any wise an agent for the purchase or sale of shares, or to permit the funds of the firm to be invested in such schemes. My partner nibbled to the extent of a few thousands on his own private account, and made money thereby. Pryse was not a man to venture out of his depth, and I had no fear that he would in the end—sooner or later as that might come—be a large loser.

One of the unlucky dabblers was Major Burroughs, a relation of Sir Kenneth Temple. He had put all his eggs in one basket—that basket being the Serk Silver Mining Company. Serk is an island in the Channel, not very distant, I believe, from Guernsey, in which silver had been found. The real or pretended discovery was skillfully puffed, and a company for working the new Peru quickly formed, with a (paper) capital of one hundred thousand pounds. The concocters of the scheme were lucky enough to catch at least one bona fide share buyer, Major Burroughs, whose gullibility was so absolute that he not only invested in the company the whole of his capital, about fifteen thousand pounds, but did the same with the proceeds of the sale of his commission. At one time, I believe, the shares were at a premium, but the fall had been so rapid and constant that, at the commencement of 1827, the quotations were nominal—no real business in them being possible. In that unpleasant state of things Sir Kenneth Temple was solicited by his kinsman for an advance upon the shares. He declined the request, but, naturally desirous of obliging a relative, introduced Major Burroughs to Mr. Pryse; nor did he scruple to attempt serving that gentleman by volunteering a confident opinion that Serk Silver Mine shares would command a premium when the project was more fully understood. He himself had his hands just then completely full, but perhaps Mr. Pryse would advance two or three thousand pounds upon the said securities. Mr. Pryse begged to be excused, and the negotiation, if such it could be called, fell through.

The unfortunate major, a general of very insinuating address, by-the-way, being at his wit's end for want of cash, came to us one day, and informed us of that dreary fact. After which promising prelude, he asked if Lovegold and Company would discount his acceptance at six months for two hundred pounds. He would not haggle about interest and commission. We did not for a moment imagine he would. Cent. per cent. per annum would simply have made him a present of two hundred pounds. The liberal offer was declined with thanks, but I intimated that if his relative Sir Kenneth would lend his name there would be no difficulty. Major Burroughs thereupon left, and, knowing the baronet, I expected to hear no more of the matter. I was mistaken. To my great surprise the major returned with a note from his relative, guaranteeing payment at maturity of the major's acceptance for two hundred pounds. The applicant got the money and went away rejoicing. Shortly afterward the baronet called.

"You are probably surprised I did not lend Burroughs the money myself," said Sir Kenneth.

"Not in the least; you intend that if the necessity arise, the screw should be put on in our names, not yours."

"Right. Still, as far as a few hundred pounds go, there is not much risk. His orphan niece, Miss Vandeleur, who will in a few months come

of age and into the uncontrolled possession of fifty thousands pounds, would not suffer him to be troubled; for to her it is a mere bagatelle, prudent beyond her years as she is said to be. I think," continued the baronet, with some hesitation—"I think I might venture to guarantee for five hundred pounds. Burroughs, a good fellow in his way, has, I think, no other very enormous vice but that of poverty. Still, it is as well to be cautious. Miss Vandeleur is expected in town very shortly; I will confer with her respecting a loan to her uncle. It will signify nothing that she has not attained her majority. Her word will amply suffice. I am really anxious to assist Burroughs, if I can do so safely."

Nothing more was said at the time, but a few days subsequently we received a note from Sir Kenneth, in which it was stated that Miss Vandeleur had arrived in town, and was staying with her uncle and guardian, Major Burroughs. She had promised to see the baronet harmless to the extent of one thousand pounds, which sum accordingly, inclusive of the two hundred already advanced, he, Sir Kenneth, guaranteed to repay us should the major make default. As it was, however, feared that Burroughs had contracted a habit of gaming upon a large scale whenever be had the means of gratifying that ruinous propensity, the eight hundred pounds should be handed to him by installments not exceeding one hundred pounds per month. Miss Vandeleur would reside at the hotel with her uncle during her probably long stay in town, and being with him would naturally much increase his personal expenses. This was one of her reasons for assisting him with the loan, and he would be distinctly informed that her guarantee would not go beyond the thousand pounds. The note concluded with an intimation that the baronet was about to start immediately for Paris, and would be some time absent from Paris.

I casually remarked that Miss Vandeleur appeared to be a strict young lady in money matters. Pryse thought it likely that the "prudence" was the baronet's rather than hers, he being desirous of not taking any one's "moral" guarantee for a larger sum than that stipulated for. My partner added that the Vandeleurs were a family that had flourished for many centuries in Norfolk.

The major was fiercely eager to obtain the whole sum at once in a lump—a request which of course could not be complied with, pressing as his necessities might be; and he left the office in high dudgeon.

His anger with us did not long endure. The very next day he returned, and accompanied by Miss Vandeleur herself. I was gone out. Pryse saw them; and the result of a lengthened conference was, that my partner advanced the eight hundred pounds.

"The young lady," said Pryse, his handsome phiz glowing with pleasurable emotion — "the young lady, a most beauteous, fascinating person, urged compliance with the major's request as a favor to herself, regretting that the rigorous conditions of her father's will compelling the trustees not to overstep by one shilling the annual sum paid to her, precluded her from presenting him with the money herself. Favor, indeed!" continued Pryse; "Miss Vandeleur conferred an obligation by enabling me to oblige her by the advance of such a trifling sum. The major," added Pryse, stroking his curly whiskers, and glancing with evident satisfaction at an opposite mirror—"the major has invited me to dine with him and Miss Vandeleur to-morrow at Claridge's."

"Whew! The deuce! No wonder you are so cock-a-hoop. Youth, beauty, fifty thousand pounds, eh? Such a change of partners would be something like a hit."

"Nonsense! Miss Vandeleur is a match for a lord."

"True enough; but girlhood is capricious, willful; and, seriously, if I were such a handsome young fellow as Francis Pryse—you can make up or down to forty and twenty—I should try it on, if I could but have a chance."

Pryse was not the man to neglect such a chance. There might have been something in the young lady's manner which inspired hope in an excessively vain heart. At all events, for the remainder of that day, and the whole of the next, Pryse was in a state of nervous fidget, and committed such extraordinary blunders that it was quite a relief when he left, swelling like a turkey-cock, to array himself for the important occasion.

Instead of subsiding during the next week into his ordinary common-sense self, Pryse soared, expanded into such a state of sublimation and importance that I was obliged to request that, for the reputation of the office as a place of sober business, he should keep away till he could descend from the regions of fancy to those of fact. He said it might be as well to do so as he really felt unfit for business. He added, with some confusion of manner:

"I shall be glad if you will dine with us to-morrow evening."

"With us! Who's us?"

"Major Burroughs, Julia, and myself."

"Julia ! Upon my word, you must have gone the pace to have arrived at that point already. Of course, Julia stands for Miss Vandeleur?"

"Who else could I mean? You will dine with us?"

"I have no objection. Is the thing settled?"

"No, oh no! in fact," he continued, with a sort of embarrassment—"in fact, spite of the whisperings of vanity—of which it would be folly to deny I have a full share—the prize, so suddenly, strangely tendered for my acceptance—it really comes to that, or appears to do so—is so brilliant a one, so immeasurably beyond what I have a right to expect, that I should like a cooler head than mine to survey the situation, so that I do not make a fool of myself, or—or be made one by others."

"I will make good use of eyes and ears. You are sure about the fifty thousand pounds?"

"Positive. I have myself read the will at Doctors' Commons. At present quotations, the money

in the funds would realize considerably more than fifty thousand pounds. Miss Vandeleur comes into absolute possession on the 8th of November next, upon which day she will attain her majority. Till then she can not marry without the consent in writing of her uncle, Major Burroughs; should she do so, the moiety of her fortune goes to a female cousin."

" If he should interpose adversely, it is not so long till November."

"Far too long! A slip 'twixt cup and lip must not be hazarded. I have even a suspicion that Sir Kenneth Temple himself may enter the lists upon his return from Paris. Major Burroughs must be conciliated."

"It is generally easy enough to win over a needy man."

"Just so. Fifty thousand pounds will allow of offering a handsome douceur. But it is folly to count chickens in the egg. Do not fail to-morrow evening. Dinner will be served at six precisely."

I dined with the major, his niece, and enraptured partner, and afterward accompanied them to the play. Miss Vandeleur was really a charming, positively beautiful young lady, and Pryse was as earnestly, deeply in love as so personally vain a man could be. The fascinating Julia, too, was evidently pleased with her conquest. There would, I was sure, be no difficulty in that quarter. Such a lucky dog was Francis Pryse!

Emboldened by my opinion, Pryse waited the next day upon Major Burroughs, and proposed for the hand of Miss Vandeleur in form. He was kindly received, and his interview with the uncle-guardian was not more interesting than decisive.

The major having listened with benignant sympathy to the lover's protestations of admiration, affection, disinterestedness, replied that, for himself, he held a city capitalist, already rich, and in the way to realize a colossal fortune, as a far more eligible match for his niece than any of the aristocratic foplings by whom she was literally besieged. "But," continued Major Burroughs, "another consideration presents itself at the outset. I, as you, Mr. Pryse, well know, am beset, nearly overwhelmed with pecuniary difficulties; and, not to beat about the bush when talking to a man of the world, I must be handsomely paid for giving my written consent to your union with my niece. If you demur to a proposition so reasonable, wait till Julia shall be of age, which is to say, make up your mind to lose her; for though I care little for birth myself, did the Vandeleur family once suspect that such a marriage was on the tapis, they would move heaven and earth to avert such a calamitous disgrace, as they would feel it to be, from their ancient house; and they would succeed. You have personally found favor with Julia, but you see how impressionably flexile she is. She would yield to the importunities of her relatives, and in all probability be persuaded to give her hand to Sir Kenneth Temple. The baronet, if you marry my niece, will be in an awful rage with me," added the major; "but for that I do not care one pinch of snuff. He is a mean skin-flint, to whom I am under no obligation."

Mr. Pryse admitted that to be true, and gingerly inquired at what figure Major Burroughs would rate his written consent to the marriage, supposing that of Miss Vandeleur was obtained.

"I have sounded Julia," said the major, "and am confident she will be implicitly guided by me. Now to business: you know that I have invested my all in Serk Silver Mine shares. I propose that you relieve me of them at the price I paid!"

"Your Serk Silver Mine shares!" exclaimed Pryse. "Give fifteen thousand seven hundred pounds in exchange for shares in the Serk Mining Company!"

"Pardon me. For the Serk Mining shares, Julia Vandeleur, and fifty thousand pounds. I don't think my niece would feel herself much flattered if she witnessed her admirer's hesitation to close with such a bargain."

The major having evidently said his last word, Pryse necessarily acquiesced, and that important preliminary settled, the lover was conducted to the lady, by whom his suit was granted with blushing tenderness. At his urgent request she graciously fixed upon the following Thursday week as the "happy day."

Miss Vandeleur had a perfect mania for jewels and other expensive finery. Daily—hourly—frightful bills were sent to the office from jewelers, goldsmiths, drapers, milliners, dress-makers, and other trades-people who contribute to bridal outfits. I remember that Pryse on one day signed fourteen heavy checks, twisting and groaning, poor fellow, under each infliction, as if his jaw teeth were being wrenched away, and muttering savagely the while, "Good Heavens! dreadful! but it can't last. It's impossible! Another bill! She'll empty all the shops in London! What a dreadful propensity!" and the like.

There was, however, no drawing back, and Pryse was fain to seek consolation by reflecting that even at the awful rate of expenditure actually going on, supposing it to last till the bridal eve, the dowry of his wife would still amount to twenty-five thousand pounds at least. Her jewels were property, if those devilish shares were not. Still fears and doubtings shook him; and though I had steadily refused to advise him either for or against the marriage, I could not refrain, upon seeing such a torrent of extravagant demands pour in, to ask if he were really sure about the will—was the bequest absolute? was there no contingency—no chance of its being upset in a court of law by enraged relatives? His face changed to the hue of stone at the shocking suggestion, and before the words were well out of my mouth he had seized his hat and sped off like a shot to Doctors' Commons. He was gone some time, and returned in a much less perturbed state of mind, bringing a copy of the will with him. It was very short, expressed with clearness, and I agreed that there could be no dispute about the validity of the bequest to Miss Vandeleur. My

Rebel Torpedo




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