Reconstructing the Design of the American Civil War Semi-submersible CSS David

By John D. Littlefield, published November 2015


The American Civil War saw the need for many quickly conceived experimental projects in naval warfare. CSS David, a semi-submersible torpedo boat, proved to be an important innovation as it spurred development of both the modern torpedo and submarine. Historians superficially mention ‘Little David’ when discussing the historic attack of the Union blockader New Ironsides on 5 October 1863, in which David became the first vessel to explode a torpedo against the hull of an enemy ship, yet details of David, particularly concerning construction features, are rare, unreliable, and often confused with the submarine H. L. Hunley. In this paper construction details of David, largely based on memoirs of the boat’s builder, David C. Ebaugh, have been compiled and scrutinized to create a more accurate understanding of the vessel’s design through lines drawings.

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Filed under: American Civil War | Other (location)
Subjects include: Navies | Shipbuilding & Design | Submarines

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