Spar torpedo

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A spar torpedo is a weapon consisting of a bomb placed at the end of a long pole, or spar, and attached to a boat. The weapon is used by running the end of the spar into the enemy ship. Spar torpedoes were often equipped with a barbed spear at the end, so it would stick to wooden hull. A fuse could then be used to detonate it.


The spar torpedo was invented during the American Civil War by E. C. Singer, a private engineer who worked on secret projects for the benefit of the Confederate States of America (Singer was the nephew of Isaac Singer, inventor of the sewing machine). Singer's torpedo was detonated by means of a trigger mechanism adapted from a rifle lock (see flintlock mechanism for a similar device). The spring-loaded trigger was detonated by means of a long cord attached to the attacking vessel. The attacking vessel rammed its target, embedding the barbed torpedo in its hull, then backed off. When the attacker reached the limit of the trigger cord, the torpedo was detonated.


The most famous use of a spar torpedo was on the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, which managed to sink the Union screw sloop USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864, although the Hunley was lost. Spar torpedoes were also used on the David-class of semi-submersible attack boats.

At night on October 27/28, 1864, Lieutenant Cushing employed a spar torpedo to sink the Confederate ironclad ram CSS Albemarle. Because the Confederate navy was tiny, the sinking of the Albemarle was...
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