More About Little David

Based upon a design by St. Julien Ravenel, the David was built as a private venture by T. Stoney at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1863, and was put under the control of the Confederate States Navy. It is thought that eventually over twenty torpedo boats of the David type were built for and operated by the CSN, although he exact number is unknown. The cigar-shaped boat carried a 32 by 10 inch (81 × 25 cm) explosive charge of 134 pounds (about 60 kilograms) gunpowder on the end of a spar projecting forward from her bow. CSS David operated as a semi-submersible: it was balasted so that only the length of the open-top conning tower and the stack for the boiler appeared above water. Designed to operate very low in the water, David resembled in general a submersible submarine; she was, however, strictly a surface vessel. Operating on dark nights, and using anthracite coal (which burns without smoke), David was nearly as hard to see as a true submarine.  

On the night of October 5, 1863, David, commanded by Lieutenant William T. Glassell, CSN, left Charleston Harbor to attack the casemated ironclad steamer USS New Ironsides. The torpedo boat approached undetected until she was within 50 yards of the blockader. Hailed by the watch on board New Ironsides, Glassell replied with a blast from a shotgun and David plunged ahead to strike. Her spar torpedo detonated under the starboard quarter of the ironclad, throwing high a column of water which rained back upon the Confederate vessel and put out her boiler fires. Her engine dead, David hung under the quarter of New Ironsides while small arms fire from the Federal ship spattered the water around the torpedo boat.

Believing that their vessel was sinking, Glassell and two others abandoned her; the pilot, Walker Cannon, who could not swim, remained on board. A short time later, Assistant Engineer J. H. Tomb swam back to the craft and climbed on board. Rekindling the fires, Tomb succeeded in getting David's engine working again, and with Cannon at the wheel, the torpedo boat steamed up the channel to safety. Glassell and Seaman James Sullivan, David's fireman, were captured. New Ironsides, though not sunk, was damaged by the explosion. US Navy casualties were Acting Ensign C.W.Howard (died of gunshot wound), Seaman William L. Knox (legs broken) and Master at Arms Thomas Little  Read More

The replica you see at Old Santee Canal Park was built by the students and staff of Trident Technical College in 1970 for the South Carolina Tri-centennial.  It was overhauled in 2004 by the United States Submarine Veterans Incorporated.