Letters Relating to Alligator’s Construction & Deployment

The following letters come from the National Archives Record Group 71, which were photographed by Jim Christley at the Submarine Force Museum Library and transcribed by Chuck Veit. Additionally, the 14 October 1862 letter from Villeroi to DuPont was discovered at the Hagley Museum in Delaware by historian Paul Schopp and translated by Catherine Marzin (NOAA)
 

2.
Brutus de Villeroi proposals regarding his "sub-marine propeller," 7 July 1861

The owners of the Villeroi Sub-marine Propeller having proposed to dispose of this new arm to the Government of the United States respectfully submit the following proposition:

They will sell the said invention with all the specifications, plans, drawings, and secrets pertaining thereto, and the boat already constructed for salvage purposes, with all the apparatus connected  therewith for a sum of money to be hereafter agreed upon.

Mr Villeroi would offer his services to superintend the construction of the boat, drill the crew, and conduct in person the sub-marine operations.

Should the first proposition made by the owners of the Villeroi sub-marine propeller not meet with approval by the Government of the united States, they respectfully offer to substitute the following.

Proposition No. 3:

They would agree to superintend the construction of an iron sub-marine propeller for hostile operations, not to exceed in cost fourteen thousand dollars, and to be completed in forty days after the contract; (the Government to pay for the work as executed), and to dispose of said invention with all the plans, specifications, secrets, etc. pertaining thereto for a sum of money to be hereafter agreed upon, contingent upon the success of aid vessel, the money to be paid as soon as the boat shall be satisfactorily tested by a commission appointed by the Government.

As it would be necessary to the Government to have the boat already built (the same reported upon by a Commission of Officers at the Philad’a Navy Yard July 7th 1861) as a school of instruction to drill a crew while constructing another upon a larger scale for war purposes, the owners would expect the Government to take the same at cost.

Should the first and second propositions respectfully submitted to the Government of the United States by the owners of the Villeroi sub-marine propeller be rejected, they would agree to contract to perform a specific undertaking.

They will contract to blow up one or more vessels of war at the Norfolk Navy Yard for a sum equivalent to the damage inflicted upon the enemy, to be paid them on the destruction of the property.

3.
From Commander Henry Hoff, et al, evaluating the propeller,  7 July 1861

 

Navy Yard Phila.

July 7th 1861

Sir,

In obedience to your order of May 3oth  1861, the Diving Machine of Mr De Villeroi being reported ready for inspection, we proceeded to Delanco, New jersey to examine it, and have the honor to make the following report:

The submarine propeller submitted to our inspection consists of an iron cylinder, cone shaped at the two extremities, about thirty feet in length, by four feet at its greatest diameter. It is propelled by means of a screw in the stern, with two pinions, one on either side, resembling somewhat a whale in external form and appearance. Light is communicated to the interior by means of glass bulls eyes on the back, thirty six in number. An ellipsoidal section eight inches in height, opening and closing at will, affords entrance and exit to a crew of from six to  twelve men, according to the speed required. A corresponding section at the bottom of the boat admits the egress of the divers, who breathing by means of tubes attached to the boat, are enabled to perform submarine operations, such as raising sunken cargoes and attaching torpedoes to the bottoms of hostile vessels. An artificial atmosphere perfectly respirable by the men is generated by the inventor, by a chemical process, so that the submerged boat executes its maneuvers without any connection to the surface. Its entire apparatus is contained in the interior and invisible from the outside.

In justice to Mr De Villeroi we should state that the boat in question was constructed for salvage purposes and not for war uses (for the latter, he proposes if his services are accepted by the Government, to construct another on a larger scale, whose greater capacity would afford additional facilities for the maneuvers of the men, while it would also be provided with a greatly increased power of propulsion, so that in the experiment we have considered the machine employed simply as a model to demonstrate the principles to be established by the inventor.

From the experiments we have witnessed, corroborated by those made previously, we consider that Mr De Villeroi has demonstrated the following principles:

1st – The ability to remain submerged for a length of time without communication with the surface or external atmosphere, and without the least fatigue or exhaustion to the men.

2nd – That of sinking and raising his boat at pleasure six [?] immersions and emersions.

3rd – Ability of the men to leave and return to the boat while under water.

4th – Ability of a man leaving the boat to live for a length of time under water, breathing by means of a tube connected with the boat.

With regard to locomotion, the commission cannot form any decided opinion, but are under … [missing page]

The examination of the telescope called for in your order has not been made, [it] not having been brought to our notice by the inventor.

 

Very Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant

Signed:

Henry K. Hoff, Commander

Charles Steadman, Commander

Robert Danby, Chief Engineer

 

Capt. S. F. Dupont

Commanding U.S. Naval Station

Philadelphia

5.
Brutus de Villeroi to President Lincoln, 8 March 1861

Philadelphia, March 8, 1861

To the President of the United States Abraham Lincoln

 

Excellency,

I have had the honor to remit a letter to you by Mrs Villeroi, my wife, a letter containing the proposition and description of a new maritime weapon, under the title, Submarine navigation.

After the different experiments required by the commission, named by Commodore Dupont, the reports having been satisfactory, the Navy Department ordered the construction of a propeller, according to my system on a large scale, nominating me chief engineer and superintendent of the construction.

Now the propeller is finished and ready to go on an expedition. The crew consists of 20 select Frenchmen whom I am to command in person.

My nomination as officer, with a salary of 2000 dollars a year, has been announced tome in a letter from the first of November last, signed by Commodore Joseph Smith for the secretary. But as I have not yet received that commission as officer, commander of the propeller, I should be happy to receive it from the hands of Your Excellency as having received the first proposition of my services for the national cause when worthy representatives …

 

… properly equipped, it becomes an easy matter to reconnoiter the enemy’s coast, to land men, ammunition, etc., at any given point, to enter harbors, to keep up intelligences [and] to carry explosive bombs under the very keels of vessels [--all] that without being seen. With a few such boats, manned [each] one by about a dozen men, the most formidable fleet could be annihilated in a short time. The one that [we] have experimented with is thirty-two feet in length, is built of iron, and is furnished with a screw propeller. It can be made to go on the surface of the water [and] at any depth almost—below and without any communication whatever with the external atmosphere. When under water, the men can go out of the boat to perform any work, to remove any object from the bottom, etc., and come in again without the least difficulty (see the relation in the North American and United States Gazette hereinclosed).

After this communication, Sir, should you [find] my services to be profitable to the grand cause of [the] Union, I could place myself at your disposal [also] my boat and a well practiced crew. And [should] several such boats be deemed necessary, I could have them promptly built and [their] respective crews could be made to practice . . .

 

… I have the honor to be with distinguished consideration, Your Excellency’s

Most Obedient Servant,

De Villeroi, civil engineer

1325 Pine Street

6.
Brutus de Villeroi to Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, 26 September 1861

 

Philadelphia, 26th Sept 1861

Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy

Washington

 

Sir,

Some time since two reports were made to the Navy Department relative to a proposition I had made tendering my services to the Government of the united States. They were submitted by a Commission of Officers attached to the Navy Yard at Philadelphia appointed by Capt. Dupont.

One of those reports referred to my plan of submarine navigation and the other to a telescope so constructed as to show the distance from one point to another (whether accessible or not) without the necessity of any calculation or actual measurement whatever.

The experiments having proved satisfactory to the Commission under whose inspection they were made, I am desirous to know the result of their reports, and therefore beg leave to request, Sir, that you will come the favor to cause me to be informed of what conclusion the Government has come to in regard to the offer of my services.

 

I have the honor to be

Sir,

Your obedient servant

De Villeroi, civil engineer

1325 Pine Street, Philadelphia

7.
Commodore Joseph Smith, Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks to Gideon Welles, 16 October 1861

 

Bureau of Yards & Docks

16th Oct. 1861

 

Honorable Gideon Welles

Secretary of the Navy

 

Sir,

I have the honor to acknowledge the reference to this Bureau of the report of a Board of Officers of whom Captain Hoff of the Navy was the senior, on the plan and performance of a submarine apparatus by Mr De Villeroi, and beg to submit the following remarks.

I have given the report a cursory examination and find that some of the features of this invention have been used by Professor Ryerson of New York, but to what extent I am unable to say. Mr De Villeroi supplies an atmosphere by chemical process, but the means are not stated, nor the mode of raising and lowering the vessel in the water at the will of the operator.

The experiment appears to have been quite satisfactory to the Board, but in my opinion the trial was made on too small a scale to test the efficiency of such a vessel for war purposes.

For many years the ingenuity of man has been taxed to invent means of destroying an enemy’s vessels by attaching explosive machines to their bottoms, but such means have not, to my knowledge, ever yet proved successful. There is a difficulty of holding on whilst attaching the instrument of destruction to the vessel, when the operators cannot touch the bottom.

I infer that a vessel could be constructed upon the proposed plan, which would enable those trained to the work to move at pleasure under water at a slow rate of speed, provided the current be not too great, and the compass be properly adjusted to the interior of the iron vessel.

If the boat proposed by the inventor can be propelled at the rate of three miles per hour, and the persons working it can detach themselves from it and operate outside, returning to it in safety, the invention might prove useful against vessels in an enemy’s port or in a roadstead.

To make a more extended and perfect test, a boat should be built under the direction of the inventor, the cost of which I am informed will not exceed $14,000, and men employed who are trained to work it. Such a vessel could be used for war purposes as well as for general submarine explorations.

The inventor and his friends propose to enter into contract with the Government for a given sum, to destroy the vessels in the port of Norfolk, without pay in the event of failure. This would be a safe experiment for the Government and probably the most satisfactory for both parties, provided the price to be paid is limited to the amount of damage inflicted on the enemy.

How far the Department may feel disposed to patronize this invention by a further test of its merits, or by contracting with the owners to perform certain service for a stipulated sum, is for you to decide.

The report of the Board is herewith returned.  

I have the honor to be

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Joseph Smith

8.
Joseph Smith to Brutus de Villeroi, 1 November 1861

 

Bureau of Yards & Docks

1 November 1861

 

DeVilleroi, B.

Engineer

Philadelphia

 

By order of the Secretary of the Navy you are hereby appointed and put in charge of the construction of the iron sub-marine propeller, on your plan, under the contract of this date with Mr Martin Thomas; the vessel to be built at Philadelphia; you to select the crew on terms to be approved by the Department, to work the same when completed.

Your pay will be at the rate of $2000 per annum for the time you shall be employed by the Navy Department, to be paid monthly.

You will employ only such men for the crew of the vessel as may be absolutely necessary for your purposes, and the Navy Department will furnish more men when you require them. You will please be particular in the construction of this propeller that no mistake be made and see that it be well provided, according to contract in all respects, for immediate action in the service intended, of which you have been informed.

 

Respectfully

Your obedient servant

Joseph Smith

17.
Attorney William L. Hirst to Joseph Smith, 20 December 1861

 

Rec’d 21 Dec

Phil’a Dec 20, 1861

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau etc.

 

Dear Sir,

In view of the threatened trouble with England, would it not be well to build four or five more of Villeroi’s submarines? The expense would be a trifle compared with possessing the  means of clearing our rivers and bays of blockaders.

Mr de Villeroi has put his invention in writing, and I have read it and sealed it up, as provided in the contract, and signed the certificate. I have no doubt of its success.  

With great respect

Yours most truly

W. L. Hirst

18.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 21 December 1861

 

Bureau of Yards & Docks

21 December 1861

Hirst, W. L.

Philadelphia, Penn’a

 

I have yours of the 20th inst. The Navy Dept. will not order any more of Mr de Villeroi’s submarine propellers till after the one now contracted for shall have been tried. If it performs all that the inventor sets forth, no doubt more will be required.

I presume you translated the description of Mr de Villeroi’s secrets and certified that it truly describes the invention.  

Yours Respectfully,

Joseph Smith

19.
William Hirst to Joseph Smith, 22 December 1861

 

Phil’a

Dec. 22, 1861

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau of Yards and Docks

 

Your communication of yesterday is rec’d.

The suggestion as to multiplying the propeller was my own. I had not seen the parties. I felt, as a citizen, that such a means of protection to our inland waters would be very effective in the contingency of a war with England.

The statement of M. de Villeroi is simple and complete. I do not recollect whether it is translated. I know that the original is in French, for I went over it carefully and minutely, and was satisfied, but I do not recollect whether a translation accompanied it, and as it is sealed up, I am unable to say.

I rec’d your telegraph this afternoon, and sent for Mr Thomas. He says the propeller is on the point of being finished; it will be done in a day or two; but he is very … on the subject of towing it by sea. He thinks it cannot be done, but that there is no risk in taking it by the way of the canal and Chesapeake Bay. I certainly think it is the most judicious mode of getting it to the point desired, unless it could be taken on board the Brooklyn.

Mr Thomas will call on you on Thursday.

The sealed package, with my certificate, are in my fire proof, ready to be forwarded when requested. They have not been out of my possession.  

Respectfully,

Your most obedient servant

W. L. Hirst

21.
de Villeroi to Joseph Smith, 29 December 1861

 

Philadelphia, December 29th 1861

 

Commodore Joseph Smith

 

Sir,

I have the honor to send you the list of the new men on my equipage.

According to your instructions I have delayed their engagement as long as possible; but I could not leave to the last day to complete their number, as the men I need are scarce and must be taken as soon as they are found. Too many persons of high standing in the present circumstances give the example of treason and insubordination, to be prudent to trust the first comers among sailors. Consequently my crew is entirely composed of French. Not because they are better than others in other respect, but I am sure of their fidelity and obedience. Moreover they learn during the construction to get familiar with the pieces, which they have to manoeuvre afterwards. And soon after the workmen have left and on Sundays they help me to prepare the work for the next day. I only want the divers, but they are difficult to find at this season. I am obliged to go to New York for that, whilst the vessel is being painted inside and outside, after variation.

As to the bounty, if you can not grant anything under that name, it is possible to pass that miserable small sum of ten dollars under the title of recruiting and travelling expenses. Reliable men of good conduct who de[v]ote themselves to an exceptional service for the national cause deserve well some little favor.

If the contractor had been willing to pay more liberally to have the work done on Sundays or in the night as it is done at present in the workshop for other kinds of work, there would have been no delay. As to me I work day and night at the plans and surveying a good execution.

 

I have the honor to be

Respectfully Yours [sic]

Very humble servant

De Villeroi

 

(Crew list from separate page:)

 

1 December

Louis Hennet

 

Louis Royal

 

Jean Panze

10 December

Alfred Delavaux

 

Emile Coblentz

 

Charles De Carpentier

 

Antoine Porte

 

Denis Paulin

20 December

George Germain

 

Francais Sioux

 

G. Baptiste Monier

 

Francais Laurent

 

Pierre Megard

67.
William Hirst to Joseph Smith, 5 May 1861

 

Phil: May 5th 1862

Commodore Jos Smith

 

My dear Sir,

I regret that you have any doubt as to the success of the Propeller. It is a sure thing. I am not sanguine, generally, but in this matter I have not the slightest doubt of success. But we must force M. deV. On, for his own sake, as well as the Government. If he will not act, without delay, do not hesitate to strike the blow. It is a thousand times more sure and safe than the Monitor was. That depended on a fight—this, on no such danger. The young Frenchman … last night is willing to go without DeV., as  is his companion and they say would do better without him, under the orders of an energetic young officer. There is no risk in the experiment, at all—I hope you will not allow an hour to be lost. I can’t understand DeV. He has been chattering with other parties, but they won’t touch him, nor will any honorable man collude with him to supplant the parties now interested, who have advanced so much money, time, and energy to befriend DeV. I would like you to write him the [changed?] kind of orders, even stronger than the last, tho’ that had the real gist in it. The Gov’t must keep this invention. DeV. Is old and if this fails, and he dies, it is gone.

You might safely write DeV. that I have all the power to settle the matter. I shall not abuse your confidence, nor use it in any way except first approved by you. But it will bring him to me and enable me to advise with effect. He always used to trust to my advice, implicitly, and I can easily restore his confidence if there is a chance.  

W. L. Hirst

73.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 7 May 1862

 

Bureau of Yards & Docks

May 7th 1862

Hirst, Wm L.

Attorney at Law

Philadelphia

 

Your letter of the 6th inst. has been received. I have written a letter to Mr De Villeroi, of which the enclosed is a copy.

If you cannot see him and make a satisfactory arrangement with him, the Department authorizes you to use the secret confided to you, and prepare the boat with a crew to go to Fortress Monroe as soon as possible, notifying the Department when the boat is ready to be shipped.

I enclose an order to Comm. Pendergrast to reclaim the apparatus which ahs been paid for and is the property [of the] U. States, now deposited at De Villeroi’s boarding house.

Commo. Pendergrast has been directed to order a Board of competent officers to witness the experimental trial of the boat tomorrow.  

Respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

Jos. Smith

80.
William Hirst to Joseph Smith, 12 May 1862

Rec’d 13 May

Phil’a

12 May 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks

 

Dear Sir,

I wrote yesterday to you, on hearing the glorious Norfolk news, asking whether your instructions are still in force, and desiring a telegram if you had otherwise determined (tho’ I think not) as I proposed to enlist the crew today. I postponed that until tomorrow when I will do so at $40 per month, during your pleasure, every thing included, unless I receive your telegram.  It is necessary to do so or they will scatter. One has already shipped on a boat, a merchantman.

I would recommend the payment of the back wages of the first four who signed the original articles, as they have been constantly faithful to the boat and are indispensable. Their names are Alex Rhode, Henri and Jean Lambert, and Jean Frank.

It is necessary to have a head in place of M. DeVilleroi on the boat. Mr Wickenham, who was on the Expedition to Sebastopol to raise the sunken ships, warmly recommends Mr Samuel Eakins, who was 18 months at that submarine work and … the protect/protest c…, skill of activity there. For his fitness, he would be available right-… if you can rely on the testimony of M Wickenham. Mr Eakins was on board the boat today and expressed the most perfect confidence in its success. Mr E. is a practical electrician and perfectly experienced in submarine explosions. If you approve I will ascertain his terms.

Mr DeVilleroi is not yet heard from, and I consider that he has, for some comprehensible reason, abandoned the matter. I have acted accordingly, pursuant to your instructions.

Mr Thomas is pushing on the boat. It was tried today while Mr Eakins was on board, and propelled, mainly submerged, with 12 fins, faster than was expected of her.

The Commodore has approved the boat and I am daily in expectation of being ready for the test trial.  

Respectfully,

W. L. Hirst

81.
William Hirst to Joseph Smith, 12 May 1862

 Rec’d 13 May

Bureau of Yards & Docks

13th May 1862

Hirst, Wm L

Phil’a

 

Your letter of the 12th inst. has been received.

You will pay the four men who were first engaged and took the oath of allegiance their back wages, as you recommend.

You will engage Mr Eakins, provided De Villeroi still declines to comply with the request of the Department, and such of the crew as you may deem necessary, to be continued during the pleasure of the Government upon their taking the oath of allegiance. The pay of Mr Eakins is to be the same as that allowed to Mr De Villeroi, and the wages of the crew at a rate of $40 per month. The Propeller will remain at the yard for the present, there being nothing now for her to do.

I regret the trouble which arose between De Villeroi and the contractor, and was in hopes that you would effect a reconciliation and secure his services.

He has however only himself to reproach for his contumacy.  

Respectfully,

Jos. Smith

82.
William Hirst to Crewmen, 14 May 1862

 

This agreement in two parts entered into this thirteenth day of May AD 1862 between Alexander Rhodes, John Lambert, Joseph N. Bates, Amos W. Austin, Howard Bates, William Ross, Philip C. McCarran, Benjamin B. Claypool, and Cooper Woodington of the first part and Commodore Joseph Smith, Chief of the Bureau of Yards & Docks acting under the Navy Department of the United States of the other part, witnesseth,

 We parties of the first part agree to serve the United States as operatives in the Submarine Propeller under contract with Martin Thomas for and during the time they shall be employed by the United States at the rate of twenty four dollars per month each for … for [subsistence?] and necessary clothing for the work; and they further agree to sign the oath of allegiance to the United States as prescribed and which to the law of the United States enacted for the government of the Navy of the United States.

And the party of the second part agrees to pay them the said wages monthly, with ten dollars bounty each on signing this agreement as bounty for engaging in the perilous services of this propeller under orders of the Government placed over them.

It is further agreed that the pay of the said parties of the first part shall commence from the 12th day of May instant.

In witness whereof the said parties have hereto set their hands and  seals this day and year aforesaid.

Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of W. L. Hirst as to parties of the first part.

 

(Listing names of crew)

Alexander Rhodes

John Lambert

Joseph N. Bates

Amos W. Austin

Howard Bates

William Ross

Philip C. McCarran

Benjamin B. Claypool

Cooper Woodington

 

(Also:)

Names of the old crew of the Submarine Propeller, with the time each served, etc., as given to me by Alexander Rhodes and Jean Lambert, May 13, 1862.

Alex Rhodes, engaged  Nov. 4, ’61, still in service, has received $15.

John Lambert,                                                                      nothing

….. Lambert,                                left 1 May                           $24

John Frank,                                 left April 20                          $50

Pachan [?]                     Dec 15, “   left April 20

Pullan                                                          

Delron                            Feb 1,              March 25

Carpentier [same as above]

Porte [same]

Poste [same]

Royer [same]

Bartian / Bartrain [same[

2 or 3 others, names not … [same[

Enuette                        Dec 1, “       left May 1

Joseph [same as above]

Emile                           Feb 1, “       left March 25

 

Reported by W. L. Hirst

86.
William Hirst to Samuel Eakins, 14 May 1862

 

Philad’a, May 14, 1862

Sam’l Eakins, Esq.

Philadelphia

 

Sir,

I am authorized by Commodore Joseph Smith, Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks, to engage your services as superintendent of the Submarine Propeller now at the Navy Yard Phil’a, at a salary of $1500 per year payable monthly at during the pleasure of the government, on your taking the oath of allegiance prescribed by law.

You will signify to Commodore Smith your acceptance, and report to him for instructions without delay.  

Respectfully,

W. L. Hirst

88.
Samuel Eakins to Joseph Smith, 14 May 1862

Rec’d 15 May

Philadelphia , May 14th 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks

 

Sir,

I have received a communication from Mr. Hirst to the effect that he is authorized to engage my services as Superintendent of the sub-marine propeller now at the Navy Yard Philadelphia at a salary of $1500 per year payable monthly during the pleasure of the Government, on my taking the oath of allegiance prescribed by law.

I have the pleasure of accepting herewith said appointment, and of enclosing to you the oath of allegiance duly signed and sworn.

Awaiting your instructions,  

I remain

Very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

Samuel Eakins

754 Sth 3rd Street, Philadelphia

93.
Brutus de Villeroi to Gideon Welles, 17 May 1862

Philadelphia

May 17th 1862

Honorable Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy

 

Sir,

I do not wish to make accrimination on the past, nor on the tribulations that I have experienced. I am devoted to the Government as much as ever, but my correspondence with your Department having always been direct, I have given the right to no one to make arrangements for me, not more to Mr Hirst than to any other.

On account of difficulties that arose between the contractor and myself, I have been discharged (for the French character this is a humiliation). The contract was broken as has been announced to me. Accordingly there is no more engineer nor contractor. But the rights of the inventor are still in question, and in respect to that I depend entirely on the equity of the Government. But things must pass direct with me. If you think my services of use for the Government, please make your conditions. I think they will be just enough to be accepted by me. Allow me only to recall to you, that 20 men have been at my expense from January 1st till April 15th, and as I have received only 21 days pay (from Dec. 10th till 31st) fro 17 men, I have spent a great deal of my own money. For this affair I have worked more for the glory than for money. My nature is not that of contractors.  

I have the honor to be

Respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

DeVilleroi

92.
Joseph Smith to Brutus de Villeroi, 19 May 1862

Bureau of Yards and Docks

May 19, 1862

M. DeVilleroi

Phila’d’a

 

I have received your letter of the 17th inst., and in reply would state that all my communications have been addressed to you direct, passing only in one or two instances through the hands of Mr. Hirst.

I called upon you to complete the boat on Government account, agreeing to pay you and your crew from the date of suspension of your pay on the 1st of January last, but you declined to receive or take any notice of the Bureau’s communication.

The Government therefore was compelled to make other arrangements for completing the boat, and to engage a commander to take charge of and operate her.

I had always considered you as a party to the contract, although you did not sign it. Your quarrel with the contractor should not interfere with your duty to the Government.

I can only regret the course you have seen proper to pursue. Some of the men whom you have engaged will be paid by the Government.

The Department has no further propositions to offer.  

Respectfully,

Your ob’d Serv’t

Joseph Smith

107.
Samuel Eakins to Joseph Smith, 31 May 1862

Rec’d 5 June

 

Philadelphia , May 31st 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau of Docks & Yards

Washington D.C.

 

Sir,

By order of yourself communicated to me by Wm. L. Hirst, Esq., I assumed charge of the submarine propeller lying at the Navy Yard Philadelphia and reported to yourself for duty on 14th ult. I have since been diligently engaged in the duty assigned me and I now report to this date May 31st.

 1st The absence of all the air tubes and couplings necessary for connections with the air pumps and air chambers of the boat, as well as pipes and couplings belonging [to] the apparatus for distributing the air through the boat, all of which had evidently at one time been in place but could not now be found. These have all been replaced and the proper examinations made to ascertain the completeness of the other fittings. These experimentations disclosed a number of leaks and an endeavor was made for three days to make the repairs at the Navy Yard. During this time so many leaks were discovered from the air chambers around the flanges, bulkheads, and manholes as to make the return of the boat to the yard of builders (Neafie & Levy) a necessity.

2nd The want of a look out place has been supplied. For this it was [necessary] to take of[f] the upper covering of entrance to the boat and prepare patterns and castings and this the workmen are now putting in place. The covering of the entrance to the diver’s room has been altered and refitted and is now reliable. An alteration has also been made to the door of exit for the diver that will improve it and I hope may be entirely efficient and sure in its closing.

3rd The arrangement for discharge of ballast was very defective. The lever handles being entirely too short as well as being hid away among pipes for filling and discharging the water from the tanks. New levers have been made for these and they are placed in such position as to be immediately available and sure in operation.

A water pressure gauge and level have been placed in position upon the boat, water and vents (cocks) inserted in the tanks, which will insure there [sic] filling. The paddles have been overhauled and made sure of being in good working order. I have also repainted the  outside and a portion of the inside of the boat and some minor alterations have been made of the internal arrangement making the parts easier to access by the crew for working and adding to the efficiency of the boat.  

Very respectfully,

Samuel Eakins

117.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 5 June 1862

Bureau of Yards & Docks

June 5th 1862

Hirst, Wm L.
Philadelphia

 

Your letter of the 4th inst. with enclosures has been received.

You will use your own discretion as to paying the orders of absentees. Having receipted for the amount of their services, it remains for you to settle with the crew of the Propeller. The Bureau always requires the receipt of the party to whom it is indebted, and payment is made to the agent authorized to receive the money when he produces the receipt of the principal.

I enclose bills approved for the amount due for the past month, including the charge for your own services, which is satisfactory, as it embraces any future requirements which may be made on you. I propose to put the crew of the Propeller on the roles of the Paymaster of the Yard, and the men under regulations from the 1st instant.

After you shall have seen M. De Villeroi, you will let me know what he says, and how he seems disposed for service.

I presume from Mr Eakins’ report the vessel is now ready excepting the application of supplying her with air.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

118.
Brutus de Villeroi to Joseph Smith, 7 June 1862

Rec’d 9th June

Philadelphia

June 7th 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

 

In your last letter of May 19th you announce to me that a new commander is to superintend the operations of the propeller and that my men will be paid. For this letter I thank you, but it is necessary that we should understand each other.

In granting 16 dollars a month for the board of my men, namely $3.39 a week, the Department has well understood to make a bargain with me, to avoid the embarrassment of the difference in price, the mean sum of $3.69. Thus the most simple manner to regulate this part of the account, that I have either paid or given security for, is to deposit the whole sum due from January first for board of the 20 men, whose petition I have approved. I will settle the accounts for board due to others as well as to me. The orders will be paid by your agent and the remainder will repay me for what I have advanced. The receipts will prove it.

The payment for the 21 days of December which I received in May only (see my receipt) I have kept to repay myself partly for the money that I have advanced for board and cash during four months, and for some even more. I will have to pay the balance of their accounts of the 21 days. My written orders with the sums that they have received will be equally closed by your agent. Thus all will be settled without misreckoning and confusion. Why complicate such simple things? As to the month of November all has been settled in time with the four men according to their own conditions. They have nothing to claim. I will give this note also to your agent to avoid all false claims created by malevolence.

As the Government does not admit my services, I think there will be no difficulty in returning to me the sealed packet that I have deposited with Mr Hirst, and which was not to be opened but in case of my death in the service of the Government.  

I have the honor to be,

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

De Villeroi

119.
Joseph Smith to Brutus de Villeroi, 9 June 1862

Bureau of Yards & Docks

June 9th 1862

De Villeroi, M.
Philadelphia, Pa.

 

Your letter of the 7th inst. has been received.

When the Department decided to take the boat and pay the builders, it notified you that your services were required and you were directed to go on and complete the boat. You were also informed that your pay as well as that of your crew would be allowed from the date of it suspension. You thought proper not to notice the letters—the crew of the vessel have been paid according to agreement.

As you have become responsible for the board of the crew, you must look to them and to Mr Hirst to be reimbursed. The Department made no engagement to pay for subsistence—the bargain was a stated sum in full for pay and subsistence

In not complying with its requirements the Department considers that you have been derelict to your engagements according to the stipulations of the contract to which you were a party, and feels justified in employing the invention without your aid.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

120.
William Hirst to Joseph Smith, 9 June 1862

 

Philadelphia

June 9th 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau of Docks

 

Your communication [?], with pay bills enclosed was duly rec’d. I enclose the receipts of the [?] crew.

I consider it best that the absentees themselves [? ?] the receipts, as the [?] are given/gain when the [?] was [?]. I enclose the receipt of Chr. Dittman who came from New York and of D. Carpenter of Allegand who is out at Beth___. The two in the army have been written to, at Harpers Ferry, where I learn they are, with a formal receipt for their separation.

The boat was submerged three times on Saturday—the last time for 20 minutes, the others 15 minutes. Mr Eakins was perfectly satisfied she is a success. He detects some small matters to be corrected, which will take 2 or 3 days. He wishes to make to make her perfect. I have great confidence in him.

M. De Villeroi has not made his appearance. His men, I learn, have [prospects?] out for him. I have given up all hopes of seeing him, and have settled nearly all the boat bills on the [?] I could collect.

I am glad you have placed the men on the [?] May Roll. It will improve the discipline of the crew. I think Mr Eakins ought to be authorized to enlist a full crew, as room [?] on the boat is [?]. I have the most …ment confidence in her success and value to the Government.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Wm Hirst

121.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 13 June 1862

Bureau of Docks & Yards

June 13th 1862

Hirst, Wm L.

Philadelphia

 

The submarine propeller being reported ready for service please turn her over to the Commandant of the Navy Yard, to whom I have written directing that she be sent to Fortress Monroe by the first conveyance.

The crew of the vessel will be borne on the rolls of the Paymaster of the Yard, and hereafter be paid by him.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

 

P.S.

The Secretary of the Navy requests that you will make such arrangements with the master of the boat as will enable him to use her as proposed.

122.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst

 

Telegram

Bureau of Yards and Docks
16 June 1862

Hirst, William L.
Philadelphia

 

A vessel was ordered on Saturday to go from Hampton Roads to Philadelphia to tow the Propeller. Let her be dispatched. Com’d Pendergrast has been ordered to send her forward immediately, and to fill the crew at Philadelphia or at Hampton Roads from the vessels.

 

Joseph Smith

123.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 16 June 1862

Bureau of Docks & Yards

June 16th 1862

Hirst, William L.

Philadelphia

 

I telegraphed you today that a steamer had been ordered from Hampton Roads to tow the Sub-marine Propeller from Philadelphia to that place. I did not receive Mr. Thomas’ suggestion to transport her through the canal until after the order had gone.

I directed Comm’d Pendergrast to fill up the crew in Philadelphia or get men from the fleet—the boat is wanted immediately to clear obstructions near Fort Darling , but I fear she will be too late. The whole enterprise has been lagging in time. You will of course put Mr. Eakins under bond and oath in using the invention. The Secretary of the Navy, confiding in your judgment that the inventor has been derelict to duty as provided in the contract, authorizes this to be done.  

Does Mr. Thomas intend to go with the vessel?

Very respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

124.
Martin Thomas to Joseph Smith


United States Military Telegraph
Received June 17, 1862
From Phila
To Commodore Joseph Smith, Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks, US Navy

 

I would urge as the safest plan that you authorize the navy ag[en]t of this city to charter a small tug boat to tow the vessel from this place to her destination via Balto [sic: Baltimore]. It will not do to tow her at sea without preparation. I will join the Expedition. Telegraph me your decision. Please authorize the Navy Agent to pay me before I leave.

 

Martin Thomas

 

65 Collect 195

125.
Joseph Smith to Martin Thomas


Telegram

Bureau of Yards & Docks
17 June 1862

Martin Thomas
Care of Wm L. Hirst, Esq.
Philadelphia

 

I direct Com[man]d[an]t to hire a tug to take Propeller to Fortress Monroe on the best terms he can immediately.

The expense of sending a steamer from Hampton Roads is useless.

Obstacles seem to present at every step. Payment will be considered in due time.

 

Jos Smith

126a.
Martin Thomas to Joseph Smith, 17 June 1862

 

Telegram

 

United States Military Telegraph
Received June 17, 1862
From Phila
To Commodore Joseph Smith, Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks, Washington

 

I have bills to pay on account and the cost for lead[,] alterations[,] battery to about two thousand (2000) dollars before I can leave. Will you authorize Hirst to draw for the amount of on account of contract[?] please answer.

 

Martin Thomas

126b.

 

Telegram

 

United States Military Telegraph
Received June 17, 1862
From Phila
To Commodore Joseph Smith, Navy Dept

 

Shall we go via tug Baltimore. In haste.

 

Martin Thomas

127.
Joseph Smith to Martin Thomas, 17 June 1862

 

Telegram

Bureau of Yards & Docks

June 17th 1862

 

Thomas Martin

Philadelphia

 

I will approve and forward bills by tomorrow’s mail for a payment of two thousand dollars provided the boat is not detained therefore. Office closed for this day.

 

Joseph Smith

128.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 18 June 1862

Bureau of Yards & Docks

18 June 1862

Wm L. Hirst

Philadelphia

 

I enclose herewith a bill in favor of Martin Thomas approved for $2000 on account of his contract for the Submarine Propeller. The first payment of $6000 was made as an advance to Neafie & Levy, the builders, in order to secure the boat and put her in possession of the Government at the instance of the contractor.

I presume the boat has been dispatched to Hampton Roads; if not the whole enterprise might as well be abandoned. The balance of the contract money will be paid after the boat arrives at her place of destination and shall prove satisfactory--Mr Thomas offered to deliver her there. The Commandant of the Navy Yard will direct that she be reported to Flag Officer Goldsborough.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

129.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 18 June 1862

 

Telegram

Bureau of Yards & Docs

18 June 1862

Hirst, Wm L., Esq.

Philadelphia

 

I have approved bills and forwarded by mail to you for two thousand dollars favor of contractor, provided the boat is off. I write by mail.

 

Joseph Smith

130.
William Hirst to Joseph Smith, 18 June 1862

 Rec’d 19 June

Phil’a

18 June 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks

 

Your telegram is duly received.

I send herewith the bond and oath of Mr Eakins [&] [Morris S.] Wickenham, the …, is a gentleman of wealth and standing.

I know you are to send an order for $2000. I should greatly prefer that you should pay the entire balance, in accordance with the letter of the contract. All the advice I have given, and the step I am about taking with Mr Eakin, depend upon the fact that the Government

 

To have the tug sent . . . [garbled, written on back of envelope]

 

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

 

I do solemnly swear to keep secret the mode of using the de Villeroi Submarine-Propeller, the method of supplying the atmosphere for its crew, and every thing appertaining to said invention to be communicated to me under bond and oath; and not to divulge the same or anything relating thereto to any person or persons whatsoever, and not to employ or make use of the same or any application or modifications thereof, except under the express orders of by the consent of the Government of the United States.

 

Sam’l Eakins

 

Sworn and subscribed before me this Eighteenth day of June A.D. 1862

W. W. Dougherty

131.
Martin Thomas to Joseph Smith, 18 June 1862

 

Philad’a June 18, 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

Chief of Bureau of Yards & Docks

 

The submarine boat would have left here early this morning but the  Navy Ag[en]t was unable to procure a tug till to day and then she was not able to start till tomorrow morning. We will leave as early as she can be got off, say between 9 and 11 o’clock.

I requested Mr Hirst to ask you to write me to the care of Capt. Chas M. Thomas, Quarter Master, U.S. Army, Fortress Monroe, giving me transportation for myself and Mr Moore to go with the boat. I think it would be well for us to have the tug to go with us from the Fortress to our place of destination, but … to judge of that.

 

Your very respectful & obedient servant,

Martin Thomas

132.
Joseph Smith to William Hirst, 19 June 1862

Telegram

Bureau of Yards & Docs

19 June 1862

Hirst, Wm L.

Philadelphia

 

Your letter of the 18th inst with its enclosures has been received.

I rejoice to hear that the Propeller will leave for Hampton Roads today. As the Department has been from the first very much governed by your advice and full faith in the success of this enterprise, it will not fail to discharge its obligations in the matter. The final payment on the contract has been withheld till a report on the completeness of the boat shall have been received. I do not presume the contractor doubts the good faith of the Government.

Instructions have been given to Flag Officer Goldsborough to employ the Propeller in such submarine work as the service, in his judgment, shall require.

Assistant Secretary Fox is now [going to] Hampton Roads, and will be there as [soon as ] the Propeller arrives if she leaves in the morning.

[Letter is torn at the lower right corner]

Flag Officer Goldsborough … has discretion to retain the tug … with the propeller, or employ … may already have to attend … I have written to Mr Thomas … your request.

 

Very Respectfully,

Joseph Smith

133.
Joseph Smith to Thomas Martin, 19 June 1862

Bureau of Yards & Docks

June 19th 1862

 

Thomas Martin

Care of Capt. Charles W. Thomas

Quartermaster , USA

Fortress Monroe

 

Your letter of the 18th inst has been received.

You will call on Comm. Goldsborough who will afford you and Mr. Moore a passage in the tug employed with the propeller. He has discretion to hire the tug which is sent with the propeller or employ one he may now have in service.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Jos. Smith

135.
Guy Bryan Schott (probably to Martin Thomas), 20 June 1862

In going to the Navy Yard this morning I ascertained that[:]

 

The order for the tug owned by Mr Nathman having been countermanded at an early hour yesterday [according?] by Com. Pendergrast (on account of the arrival of the Satellite to tow her by the outside passage) on representation by Messrs Eakins and Thomas that it would only be incurring great risk, but that in their judgment it would be positively unsafe to transport her except through the Canal. Com. Pendergrast immediately sent orders to the Navy Agent to re-engage the tug. Mr Thomas also sent Mr Moore for the same purpose. After the loss of some time he succeeded in finding Mr Nathman, who positively declined to tow her down as he had contracted to do, not on account of the countermand, but because he said it would injure his tug. When asked by Mr Moore for the grounds for such opinion, he stated to him that Mr … had told him that “he could not tow that thing down to Fortress Monroe without great risk on injuring his boat”—which is a new little steam yacht just built by Neafie & Levy. I should here state that notwithstanding the competitive price of $600, which it had been agreed to pay him, he had previously refused to take down the crew without the payment of $100 additional, making $700 for the trip. Mr Thomas after a number of unsuccessful efforts (the delay incurred in which was unfortunate) finally succeeded in engaging the “Fred Kopp,” Captain Ma[l]loy [?] for $400 for taking propeller and crew—a saving of $300. Capt. Mal[l]oy also offered his services to act as a tender if required at the very moderate rate of $45 per day. He arrived at the yard before I left to report himself, but had to send his tug to take on provisions, which would take about one hour. I have since been informed that he is off with the propeller and crew all well.

 

Friday morning June 20

Guy Bryan Schott

 

I enclose extract from an … … on “Submarine Navigation” from today’s North American, which is of interest as showing that experiments in sub-marine operations are exciting attention elsewhere.

136.
Martin Thomas to Joseph Smith, 20 June 1862

 Rec’d 21 June

Philad June 20, 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

Of the Navy

 

Dear Sir,

 

You have been apprized of the submarine boat having left this place.

I go tomorrow morning via Bal[t]imore to reach Fortress Monroe in advance, so all arrangements can be made for her proceeding to any point designated, without delay. I have every confidence in her. As I will not probably have much time to write from that point after her arrival I desire to ask you if on her arrival and she is all perfect, you will make the draft for the balance say six thousand dollars to Wm L. Hirst, Atty he will disburse it to the proper parties.

Hoping that next you hear of me will be very satisfactory.

Martin Thomas

134.
Joseph Smith to Samuel Eakins, 21 June 1862

Bureau of Docks & Yards

21 June 1862

Eakin, Samuel

Comd’g Sub-marine Propeller

Care of Flag-Officer Goldsborough

Hampton Roads, Va.

 

You are placed in command of the Sub-marine Propeller. It is a trust of considerable importance, requiring the exercise of prudence, skill and good judgment on your part. So soon as you have fully tested the boat you will report to the Secretary of the Navy her description—the length, breadth, depth, amount of ballast, what apparatus you have on and in her of all kinds—how she moves submerged, and at what speed, how she steers, how long it takes to depress her in [fine both?] and of water, and how long to elevate her—how far and with what distinctness an object can be seen through the glass globe on the top of the boat—how the divers operate outside the boat at a depth of forty feet, and how well they are supplied with air from the boat and generally her completeness for service and the objects for which she was designed.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

 

P.S.

You will of course act under the orders of Flag Officer Goldsborough.

J.S.

137.
Joseph Smith to Thomas Martin

Bureau of Yards & Docks

21 June 1862

Thomas Martin

Care of Flag Officer L. M. Goldsborough

Hampton Roads, Va.

 

I have received your letter of the 20th inst.

Comm. Goldsborough has been directed to allow you to accompany the Propeller. So soon as she has been tried in regard to her movements, the facility with which she may be elevated and depressed, how the divers act and are supplied with air from the boat, as well as upon the other points proposed in the contract, and the Superintendent certifies that they are satisfactory, the balance of the contract money will be paid. I have instructed Mr Eakin to report accordingly.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith

Refer to Official Records for Correspondence of 21 June to 1 July 1862

138.
Brutus de Villeroi to Gideon Welles, 8 August 1862

Philadelphia

August 8, 1862

Honorable Gideon Welles

Secretary of the Navy

 

Sir,

In answer to your letter of July, in which you tell me that I am no longer in the service of the Government since April 19th because on that date I had refused the service, allow me, Sir, to remark that it in all my correspondence I have always conformed strictly to the instructions of the Department, perhaps too much so, as this was the origin of my disgrace. I have always thought to be officer of the Government to direct the submarine boat, and not the man, the  servant of a contractor, that had neither credit nor good will, who from unqualifiable motives has caused the expedition against the Merrimac before and after the disastrous affair at Hampton Roads to be missed.

But as all my recriminations have failed before opposed influence, there is nothing left to me, but to suffer your decision, begging you to send the pay for the four months: January, February, March, and April [… evident gap] has not fulfilled his duty I am obliged to refer to your authority.

How is it that the last of my sailors has been paid and that I have not yet received anything, not only the money I have advanced for my 20 men, but also my personal share from December 31st till May 19th, this being the date when the letter from the Secretary announced me that, not being able to agree with the contractor, the Department thought proper to appoint some one to replace me.

For every country in the world it is customary to pay the person employed, when discharged, and where one takes possession of his work he is indemnified. Does the American Government make an exception to this universal rule? I think not, and for such faults bad agents must be blamed.  

Expecting your answer I am

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

De Villeroi

 

P.S. I have just finished a work of the greatest importance for the Navy, for which so many millions are spent without any positive results

139.
Lieutenant Thomas O. Selfridge to Gideon Welles, 8 August 1862

Washington

August 8th 1862

 

Hon. Gideon Welles

Secretary of the Navy

Washington D.C.

 

In obedience to your orders I have the honor to make the following report upon the submarine boat “Alligator,” of which I am in charge, founded upon personal examination and experiment with her.

This submarine boat, as I understand, was to have possessed the following properties:

 

1st Facilities of immersion and emersion.

2nd Self propulsion above and below water.

3rd Capability of remaining with her crew a long time under water, by purifying the air contained in her, so as to admit of its being inhaled repeatedly so.

4th To be able to operate under water, and to permit a person to pass in and out at pleasure.

 

Most of these properties she does not possess to a practical degree, and in all else is deficient.

 

1st Facilities of immersion and emulsion.

Her apparatus for sinking and rising is good, and efficient for the purpose. She is incapable however of being suspended in the water, but must sink when immersed to the bottom; therefore she could only operate in such depth of water, that a person standing upon her could reach the vessel above him.

 

2nd Self propulsion above and below water.

She is in this particular very defective, being totally incapable of stemming an ordinary tide of the velocity of 1½knots, and she is from her slow rate of speed and length difficult to manage with any exactness with the helm.

Her ventilation is bad, even above water with the man-hole open. On one occasion after her crew had been in her an hour two of them became so exhausted as to be lifted from the inside, and the remaining men all so much prostrated, as to be obliged to leave the inside, and to get in boats that were near. She has never been tried, but in this respect it is hardly probable she could do any better than in this instance.

 

3rd Capability of remaining under water.

She has no means of remaining under water. She has no means known to me of purifying and replenishing the exhaled air other than forcing it through lime water. This, though it would absorb much of the carbonic acid, would be of but partial value with her crew of twenty two persons. It would not be safe to remain more than an hour under the surface.

 

4th To be able to operate under water.

I cannot see that this submarine boat in its present state could be of any use in this particular. The means proposed by the inventor may be very pretty in theory, but in practice, they would not in my opinion be at all applicable.

By means of an air chamber, which is filled with compressed air, a person can get in and out of her. But there are no means of supplying that person with air, other than a common tube connecting with the mouth. It is extremely improbable that any person could be found, who with only this slight means of obtaining air, would remain any time under water. Such a person would be obliged to keep one hand upon his nostrils, and would have to be loaded [?] as to remain below the surface, a position that would admit of little exertion upon his part.

 

To sum up the whole, I consider that this vessel has such inherent defects as to preclude of her use, as her name indicates, for submarine purposes.

If her speed was greatly increased, her steering apparatus improved, and she [was ___?] a much better ventilation, she might be made use of to operate above the surface. The manner in which she could be brought in play in this particular is very limited, confined to approaching an enemy at night, and liable in this respect to be easily frustrated by a boat pulling near the vessel to be attacked.

It seems to me therefore under all the circumstances of doubtful expediency to proceed any further in improvements upon her.  

I have the honor to be

Very Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Thomas Selfridge

Lieut. Comd’g Sub. Boat “Alligator”

 

From these reports I conclude that the submarine boat is a failure.

[signature illegible]

140.
Brutus de Villeroi to Joseph Smith, 9 October 1862

Rec’d Oct 13, 1862

Philadelphia

October 9, 1862

Commodore Joseph Smith

 

Sir,

After what has happened between the Navy Department and myself, I feel you have not been more fortunate in your choice of your agents than in that of your contractor. I have kept silent for a long time, but every thing has an end.

In my demand, which was addressed to the President and the Secretary, my 20 en have received every thing that was due to them, but instead of giving me the charge to regulate their accounts, to receive their money, Mr Hirst as Government agent was charged with it.

Consequently in your letter of June 9th you advise me to address to this agent for the claims that I might have on the payment of the men respecting the money I had advanced and for board charged to me from January till May (four months). I have sent in time my written account to Mr Hirst. He has neither paid me anything nor sent me a positive answer on this subject. As this agent [missing page “B”] …

direct to me.

I say direct because from the money sent for the payment of my 20 men for the five months, I have not yet been able to obtain the sum which I have advanced in cash and for their board during this time, although I have sent my written bills and claims repeatedly to Mr Hirst.  

I have the honor to be

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

De Villeroi

1325 Pine Street

141.
Joseph Smith to Brutus de Villeroi

Bureau of Yards & Docs

13 October 1862

De Villeroi, Brutus

Philadelphia, Pa.

 

Your letter of the 9th instant is received and in reply I have to say that your matter is with the Secretary of the Navy, and it is to your own dereliction of duty or obstinacy in not resuming your duty when called upon to take charge of the submarine boat enterprise and the payment and selection of the crew, that you must attribute all the short comings of which you complain.

I presume the Department holds in abeyance the decision whether or not you are entitled to any further compensation that that you have already received.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Joseph Smith
 

Private Letter
Brutus de Villeroi to Commodore S. DuPont

Philadelphia, October 14, 1862

The benevolence which you have manifested towards me relative to adapting my underwater navigation system makes it my duty to inform you of what happened in this regard.

On the favorable report of your commission, the Department of the Navy has agreed to a sum of $14,000 provided for building an underwater ship made of iron of 50 (?) feet long, 4 ½ feet wide, and 5 ½ in height, nominating me superintendent for the construction and 1st class engineer for building of the said ship.

Unfortunately the contract, as in many other circumstances, was given to a man who has just gone through bankruptcy (Mr. Martin Thomas) and for whom patriotism could have been summarized in dollars. The building was done quite well by Mr. Neafy and Levy; but when it was time to provide the interior supplies, the difficulties escalated between me, as superintendent, and the contractor. I want to point out to the Department the ill will of Mr. Martin Thomas and the ministerial response came as (1 February): “the contractor should furnish you with all you require or give up the enterprise at once.”

In spite of this formal order, Mr. Thomas persisted in not providing the tools necessary for the planned expedition against the Merrimac before the disastrous affaire at Hampton Roads. After all the tardiness, the expedition was missed. I do not know with what influence or in what reason the Ministry did not take steps to solve the issue with the contractor. We have suggested other expeditions and on April 27, I was ordered to be ready with my ship and the crew of 20 men to go in 10 days at Fort Monroe, however the contractor persisted in not providing us the essential equipment and the expedition was again canceled.

Mr. Neafy and Levy offered even, in writing, to provide all that I needed, in lieu of the contractor (the expense amounted to no more than 6,000 dollars); the department refused this offer, and maintained Mr. Thomas despite all my observations.

Finally on May 1st, without my certificate [agreement?], and even without letting me know in advance, my ship was taken from my the yard to be moved to the Navy yard and from there I don’t know where.

On May 19th, I received from the Ministry the notice that for lack of a meeting with the contractor, the government had replaced me with another officer – I, the inventor, a faithful to the cause of the Union.


But that wasn’t all. In case of my death, and not wishing the State to be deprived of the use of my system, I had put into a sealed envelope containing secret maneuvers with the instruction that the envelope should only be opened in case of my death at the service of the State… And well, without further ado, the envelope was taken, and my complaints were answered rudely that the government [would] use it as it wants and they will make the ship work without me if it is possible.

This is not all. I was given the charge of a crew of 20 men for six month without my receiving a penny. When after many complaints the men were paid, I was not reimbursed for all my expenses and I have still not received payment for my salary (?), from January 1 to May 19, date when of my destitution.

What can one believe of a government on which the influence of schemers and imposters manifests itself overtly. Unfortunately, one could quote a lot of other examples where intrigue and corruption are interspersed with administrative affairs, betrayal is not far.

So here is, my dear Commodore, the status of things relative to a work which has cost me a lot of work and expenses. You can understand the extent to which the means by which the story proceeded could seem monstrous to a Frenchman, and if you could provide me with a good advice on the conduct that I should follow in these circumstances, you would oblige, Commodore,

Your devoted servant
De Villeroi
1325 Pine Street

To Commodore Dupont
 

142.
Martin Thomas to Admiral Joseph Smith, 27 February 1863

Philadelphia

February 27th 1863

 

Admiral Joseph Smith

 

Dear Sir,

 

Yours of the 26th came to hand this morning and I was much astonished and grieved at the tone of it. I thought you understood all the conditions and the contract for the boat. It was contrived between Capt. Davis and Mr. Hirst to stand as originally made; six thousand dollars to be paid on account, balance when tested. Since then you have paid $2000 more on account which has all and a great deal more been expended. You will not forget that I was always in doubt as to her speed by the oars and I told you so. However she was sent to James River; I followed as a volunteer at my own expense; Capt. J. Rodgers would not risk our going up to remove the obstructions but ordered her to Fortress Monroe, from whence she was ordered to Washington . Lieut. Selfridge was placed in charge; he objected to her want of speed and requested a survey by an engineer. Mr. Stimers made the examination and reported she could not be made to obtain any considerable speed. I differed with him and after the report, was made to assist Sec’y Fox, he authorized me to go to Philadelphia and get the machinery for a stern screw propeller and that it should be put in at the Navy Yard Washington (I thought you knew all about it). I ordered the machinery, forwarded it by Express, started the workmen at it, when Capt. Wilkes’ [Walke’s?] vessels arrived and the crew were taken off, and so it happened several times, until at last I sent men from Philadelphia (paying their passage) and paid them additional wages. Finally the boat was finished and launched, and tested as to her speed (the only thing not already obtained). He with twelve green crew (instead of a drilled crew of eighteen or twenty) obtained a speed of four [or] five to seven knots an hour nearly double what was required. President Lincoln, Mr. Fox and Gen. Butler and Prof. Horsford witnessed the performance perfectly satisfied I believe. Prof. Horsford descended in her, and remained submerged for one hour and seventeen minutes and was perfectly satisfied as to that part. I thought you knew all this. I think I am not claiming anything but what is fairly and justly due to my account. I have had more work and worriment with this boat than all the other business of my life. I have been sick nearly all the time since we left James River, although I have been frequently in Washington attending to and hurrying the work; and for the last ten weeks I have been ill at home, and cannot leave the house, with disease of the lungs, or I would have seen you in person instead of writing. I am sorry to trouble you with so long a letter, but cannot explain fully in fewer words. I regard the boat now as the greatest success. She can be made to do anything and still remains at the Navy Yard Washington.  

Awaiting your reply I remain,

Very respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Martin Thomas

Per Guy Bryan Schott

 

The above was written at the dictation of Mr. Martin Thomas, himself too ill to write.

Very respectfully,

Guy Bryan Schott

143.
Martin Thomas to Admiral Joseph Smith, 5 March 1863

Rec’d March 7, 1863

 

Philadelphia

March 5th 1863

 

Admiral Joseph Smith

Bureau of Yards & Docks

 

Dear Sir,

 

Permit me on the part of Mr. Thomas to address you a few lines in relation to what we consider a misapprehension as to what Mr. Eakins has stated with regard to Submarine Boat. Mr. Thomas, who has been long seriously ill, his condition aggravated by his physical incapacity to attend to the matter himself, and see you in person, rallied on the flattering representations of Mr. Eakins as to the perfection which he had attained in his arrangements, and the speed of the new propeller, which rendered her all he desired. But on receipt of your recent letter he has declined as rapidly and is unable to write.

Mr. Eakins left yesterday for Washington,  having gone on to explain position of matters there. The writer from two long conversations with him [knows] that a misunderstanding exists, easily explained. Mr. Eakins is a man of action and not of words. He is not a diplomatist, but a cool headed, energetic, brave man yet destitute of rashness, who wishes to do what he understands intelligently and with adequate preparation and foresight, so as to insure success.  He seems to have felt keenly, after the boat was completed to his satisfaction, the want of a crew and several obstacles encountered; and to have been suffered at being expedited to [jump?] in the Boat without adequate notice, with such men as would volunteer from the rough laborers of the yard, with orders to submerge her when the men who were never in her before absolutely refused to be submerged, but to allow him to sink her an inch lower beneath the surface, and were clamorous in demands for extra pay for their service in merely exhibiting her speed; to which he had no authority to accede. He felt naturally irritated when asked, as he surfaced, if he was ready to start off at once on a hazardous enterprise, without men somewhat practiced on whom he could rely, to attempt an operation against Savannah or Charleston , and answered somewhat shortly. I think there must have been some misunderstanding. You, Admiral, I am sure, would not think of expecting a Navy Officer to man a frigate or Iron-Clad with common laborers and landsmen, [and then] start off to capture an enemy's stronghold fortified with all the appliances of military service in modern warfare!

Mr. Eakins informs me that he made the test of the boat's speed under very unfavorable circumstances with just such men; and subsequently, by accident, obtained a crew of six sailors from a boat near (American tars are afraid of nothing in the water) with whom he submerged her and remained under more than an hour to the satisfaction of Prof. Horsford. He promises, even without a crew, if he is permitted to take some of the intelligent mechanics of the yard, who would be willing and anxious to assist in the experiment (especially if allowed to exercise her once or twice first) to give a satisfactory test of the boat in the presence of the Secretary himself, notwithstanding that he regards the arm of the river where she lies very inauspicious with its tortuous channel and mud banks.

In answer to Mr. Fox’s interrogations if he had not smarted under a sense of injustice and had expressed himself more diplomatically, his answer would have been thus: “I believe that Mr. de Villeroi contemplated as one mode of operating, employing divers to go out of the bottom of the boat, in which a compartment is expressly constructed, and had an Italian trained to do so, who did it before the Board of Naval Officers (which diver has since served the Gov’t faithfully in another capacity, having had a leg shot off at the capture of New Orleans). I was not witness to those experiments and have had no means to train divers, being still without even a crew. But this was not proposed as the only means or even the best, but simply one mode of operating. I propose another, by getting under a vessel’s quarter and working through the man-hole above. I not only avoid the risk of accident to the diver, and work with more economy to the Gov’t, dispensing with them and reducing, with my new propeller, the crew from twenty to twelve men, but I propose to work myself, feeling more secure of success. The mode of accomplishing the object can be of no consequence if the result is gained; indeed the whole manner of operating should be left to the Superintendent’s discretion, who knows more about the boat and submarine operations than any not initiated. I am willing to undertake anything which in my judgment I can perform with the boat, but must have reliable men, who require no training to be confident of themselves and the boat, and destitute of fear.”

This as far as I can understand, Admiral, is the gist of Mr. Eakins rea­soning. Do you not think on calm reflection that he is right? And that it would be unjust to condemn the boat as a failure because he proposed a different mode of employing her than one of the modes illustrated by Mr. de Villeroi's experiments? We feel that we can leave the matter to your own sense of justice.

We have supplied the Gov’t in place of Mr. de Villeroi, who was old and decrepit, with an energetic, brave, cool-headed, practical man: we have given you in place of a savant of unquestionable scientific attainment but whose knowledge was partially theoretical, a practical sub-marinist whose experience at Sebastopol is enviable. All we ask is simple justice in the payment of the amount provided by the contract (which was continued in force by Admiral Davis under the authority of the Department) to be paid on completion of the Boat, and that you will give Mr. Eakins a crew and employ him in some suitable service which he is able and willing to perform, if the Gov’t will only provide him adequate means and preparation.  

Very respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Guy Bryan Schott

for Martin Thomas and the other parties with interest

144.
Guy Bryan Schott (for Martin Thomas) to Admiral Joseph Smith, 19 March 1863
 

Rec’d March 20, 1863

 

Philadelphia , March 19, 1863

Admiral Joseph Smith

 

Sir,

I have just had an interview with Mr. Eakins who arrived this morning. A telegraph addressed to him (care of Martin Thomas) remained several days unopened. Finally I suggested that it might relate to [the] Submarine Boat, and as we did not know his present whereabouts, it was rather due to him than objectionable to ascertain its contents. Finding it was from the Department, I enclosed it to his old address “Exchange Hotel, C Street .” He had not received it, but on being informed of its contents decided to return tonight to Washington and will wait upon you to [?].

I find we erred in inferring that (from your letter) he might have stated, the Boat could not be propelled any considerable distance under the water, nor divers employed, etc. He states explicitly that there is not a shadow of doubt of his ability to propel her under the surface almost as rapidly as over it, and that he so informed Mr Fox; also of his ability to come up under a vessel. But that on being asked if he could (himself) come out of [the] man-hole of [the] diver’s compartment and operate, he bluntly answered “no” on which he was abruptly discharged, without explaining one of his proposed modes of operating.

The Department seems to have lost sight of the fact that Mr Eakins took an oath not to divulge anything relating to the Boat. When called upon before to propose a mode, he felt at liberty to suggest that of working through the man-hole above, since it had been suggested by Left. Selfridge. Another which he stated vaguely to Operator of Military Telegraph who said he should inform Mr Fox of it (to which he is probably indebted for your Telegraph) he seems to have wished to keep secret, as it was an idea of his own, and because he thought, as we do, that the manner of operating was of no importance so that he succeeded, and that the whole plan of operating would vary according to circumstances should be left to his discretion.

He will communicate it in person, as far as necessary to prove to you its feasibility. I believe it properly practicable, and as Mr Eakins tells me unhesitatingly that he is willing to go to Savannah or Charleston or wherever ordered to try an operation; and that he can get a crew in a short time from the tars of the Navy Yard, who would require little practice (as the important thing is to submerge them once, when they lose all fear). Allow me to express the hope, Admiral, that you will afford him the opportunity.  

Respectfully,

Your Obedient Servant,

Guy Bryan Schott

1411 No. Penn Square

145.
J. Winchester, Acting mater of the Sumpter,  to Gideon Welles, 9 April 1863

US Str. Sumpter

New York, April 9th 63

 

Sir,

 

I have the honor to report that on the 1st inst in obedience to an order from Act. Rear Admiral S. P. Lee I took the Submarine Battery Alligator in tow and resumed my passage to my port of destination Port Royal, in accordance with your order of Feb 18th 63. On the way down the Bay the engine gave out and we were seven [?] hour and a half repairing it[.] When I rounded Cape Henry the wind was fresh from WNW. Found the water very smooth under the beach and kept in 10 and 12 fathom water. At ½ past 9 p.m. made Cape Hatteras light bearing about SW. At 1.30 a.m. 2nd [April] Cape Hatteras light bore NW by W, distant in my judgement about 15 miles. Kept the ship to S’d [southward] until 3 a.m., finding the temperature of the water had risen to 68. Hauled up to SW by W at 6. The wind increased from WSW and the water still at 68. Steered WSW making but little headway. At 8 a.m. kept away to S’d and set fore and aft sails. At noon got an observation and found lat. 34.43 long. 75.20, water still at 68. The wind by this time had increased to a very heavy gale from S’d and west’d and a very heavy sea running[,] the ship laboring very heavily but the Alligator towing very well astern. From 2 to 4 p.m. the wind rapidly increased in force, the sea running higher causing the ship to plunge heavily and labor hard. At 3.30 the ship was plunging under to the foremast; the weight of water she shipped broke the windlass purchase in fragments from the paul [sic: pawl] bitt. Carried away the galley funnel, washed the battens and tarpaulins from the hatches, and flooded the berth deck and hold with water. At 3.40 p.m. finding it impossible to keep her head to with safety, and the engine giving out partially, I was compelled to bear up and … shortly afterwards passed a propeller Str. painted  lead color, English bult, showing U.S. ensign with men and officers in uniform. Showed our number but received no answer in return. At 5 p.m. the wind still increasing and the Alligator towing hard, parted the port hawser. Hauled it in and payed out full scope of stb’d hawser. At 5.30 the wind had increased to a furious gale from SW, the sea running very high and breaking heavily. Every moment to … the ship the engine was kept running at full speed. All thought a portion of it was out of order, and all the storm canvas she would bear was set to keep her ahead of the sea. The Alligator was steering wildly and threatening to snap the hawser and it being evident we would soon lose her I called a council of all the officers including Act. Master Eagen [sic: Eakins], her Commander. When it was universally concluded that to keep her longer would greatly endanger the ship and as we had all we could do to save the vessel alone I was compelled reluctantly to give the order to cut her adrift. All expressed a desire to save her if possible but the danger to the vessel being so imminent having then over 2 feet of water in the hold and the ship straining badly, I gave the order to cut at 6 p.m. and the ship instantly sprang ahead and cleared a very high and heavy sea that partly broke over her stern. The engine needed some repairing at this critical time but it was impossible to stop. At midnight the weather moderated a little. At 3a.m. 3rd [April] the wind hauled to the west’d and moderated. At 10 a.m. stopped the engine to repair it and to clean the pumps. At 2 the engineer reported he had done all he could to it under the circumstances. Cape Henry being the nearest point and being in my judgment only 50 miles distant, I deemed it prudent to put in there. At 6 o’clock made the land to S’d of Cape Henry, the wind at that time having shifted to N’d and E’d and freshening up I ran in to 10 fathom water and seeing nothing by which I could recognize the land I hauled her off shore until 10, deepening the water to 20 fathoms. I then hauled in shore and shoaled the water to 12 fathoms. At 1 a.m. 4th [April] and then hauled off shore again the wind commenced freshening from N’d and E’d. At 5 a.m. increased to a gale of wind; ship lying under reefed spanker and fore spencer. Laboring heavily and making a great deal of water. At 10 a.m. blowing a tremendous gale. Carried away spanker boom but managed to save the sail. Soon after lost the 2nd cutter. At 2p.m. commenced blowing a perfect tornado. Shipped a very heavy sea, washing the dingey inboard from the davits and landing it on the opposite side of the ship. Broke in the wardroom skylight and washed it off. Carried berth deck skylight overboard and washed the bulwarks off fore and aft. Immediately put the helm up and put the vessel before it. Running the engine at full speed. Soon after shipped another heavy sea, which washed overboard Act. Ensign and Sailing master R. Bentson and Fred’k Hay o.Lea. For some 3 or 4 hours it blew a tremendous tornado with a heavy fall of snow so thick we could not see a ships length. Found the wind had hauled into the NW. At 12m. 5th [April] the wind backed into the west’d and moderated down t a very heavy gale and very heavy sea running steering from ESE to SE, wind baffling at west’d making a course most easy for the vessel. At 7 p.m. Engineer reported the water having gained on him, his pumps not being able to keep her clear, and supposing the outboard delivery of the air pump leaked around the outside it being on the port side at the water line the sea having gone down so I could haul up to the N’d and setting fore and aft canvas it gave her a list to stb’d which brought it out of the water. Soon after the pumps cleared the vessel of water, which led me to believe the principal leak to be about there. Kept the ship on that tack all night. A nasty sea running and the ship straining badly. At 8 a.m. 6th [April] made a sail to S’d and E’d. Spoke her and proved to be Sch[ooner] Manhassett from Port Royal bound for N. York with main boom, boats, and davits gone. Told her the condition I was in and asked her to keep company with me, the sea having one down and the wind canting to the S’w of west. Concluded to run in towards the land and be governed by the wind in regard to my movements. Throughout the day all hands busy cleaning up decks, repairing sails, etc. At 7 all sails set going ahead at full speed but owing to the feed pipe of the boiler being burst and having to feed with cold water, could not keep much strain. At midnight wind hauled to WNW. Ran all night WW until 9 a.m. 7th [April]. At 9.30 water was 69. Seeing tide ripples indicating edge of the Gulf Stream, tried the water and found it 56 and immediately hauled ship to N’d. At noon found my position to be lat. 37.38, log. 71.04. Spoke Brig Abbie Watson from Iaguia le Grande bound to Boston, main boom and gaff gone. During the whole time my aneroid barometer has not been lower than 30.15 or higher than 30.25. From 7th had fine weather. On the afternoon of the 8th took a pilot off Barnegat [New Jersey] and arrived at the anchorage at 2.30 a.m. 9th.

 

Respectfully,

Your obedient servant

J. Winchester

A. Master, Comd’g

 

Hon. Gideon Welles

Secy Navy, Washington D.C.

146.
Acting Master Samuel Eakins to Gideon Welles, 9 April 1863


US Steamer Sumpter
U.S. Navy Yard New York

April 9th 1863

 

Sir,

 

I have the honor to inform the Department that I reported to Act’g Master J. F. Winchester for a passage to Port Royal with the Submarine Steamer Alligator by order of Act’g Rear Admiral S.P. Lee dated M[ar]ch 29th, 1863 off Newport News, Va.

The Sumpter sailed on the morning of the 1st inst and on the 2nd encountered a heavy gale from the S’d and W’d off Hatteras, which obliged her to run off to the northward. About 3.40 p.m. it was reported to me hat the port hawser attached to the Alligator had parted and at 5.30 p.m. I was informed that the ship was laboring heavily and that it would be impossible for the other hawser to hold out much longer—that a council of officers was being held as to the propriety of letting the Alligator go adrift as she was evidently endangering the safety of the vessel. I immediately went on deck and seeing the position of affairs I concurred in the opinion of the other officers of the ship and the order was given to cut the hawser, which was accordingly done.

 

I am Sir

Very Respectfully

Your obedient servant,

Sam’l Eakins

Act’g Master

 

Honorable Gideon Welles

Secretary of the Navy

Washington, D.C.

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