Tag Archives: USS Spuyten Duyvil

Warship Wednesday, March 20

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.

– Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday,  March 20


Here we see a depiction of the USS Spuyten Duyvil, one of the first torpedo boats (minelayers?) in the US Navy. Designed by Samuel M. Pook a Boston-based American naval architect who had earlier designed the City-class ironclads (  USS Cairo, Carondelet, Cincinnati, Louisville, Mound City, Pittsburg, etc) for the Union Navy, the boat was originally called the Stromboli (yes, like the delicious stuffed macaroni product). You have to admit, it kind of looks like one.

Mmmmm, philly steak stromboli

Mmmmm, philly steak stromboli

The 84-foot long Duyvil was powered by a simple steam engine turning a single screw that propelled the ship to a stunning 5-knots (not a misprint, that’s a five). Since the craft was so slow, it was given an impressive armor plate that ran as thick as 12-inches of railroad iron plates. As such, it was an ironclad torpedo boat– of sorts. The ship was equipped with ballast tanks like a modern-day submarine that could be filled with water to drop already low-freeboard vessel two feet lower in the water to where her decks were almost awash. The armament of the ship consisted of two submerged ‘torpedo tubes’ which released semi-buoyant obstruction shells that were filled with anywhere from 70-400 pounds of  blackpowder. To deploy these unpowered torpedoes, actually more correctly known today as naval mines, they were pushed through the hawsepipe tubes under the target, would rise to the hull of the intended victim while trailing a short length of cord. This cord was back on the Duyvil and an enterprising volunteer (the navy’s first Torpedomen!) would engage it, triggering a percussion cap inside the mine.

The Duyvil at high draft. She could be filled with water to ride much lower in the water. As such she was one of the first semi-submersible warships

The Duyvil at high draft. She could be filled with water to ride much lower in the water. As such she was one of the first semi-submersible warships

The Duyvil didn’t make it to the fleet until the end of 1864 and only served for about nine months. During this time and directly after the war she was used on the  James River to blow up Rebel obstructions. She never did manage to engage a Confederate naval vessel. As a curious twist of fate, her designer’s earlier effort, the USS Cairo, was the first ship in history to be sunk by a modern naval mine– at the hands of Confederates.

Out of service by 1866 the Yankees held on to her until 1880 when she was sold. As such she outlived her inventor by two years.  Still, she was one of the first US navy torpedo boats, a class which led to development of what we call destroyers today.

Displacement:     207 long tons (210 t)
Length:     84 ft 2 in (25.65 m)
Beam:     20 ft 8 in (6.30 m)
Draft:     7 ft 6 in (2.29 m)
Propulsion:     Screw steamer
Speed:     5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph)
Complement:     23 officers and enlisted
Armament:    remotely exploded naval mines (primitive)
Armor:     Pilothouse: 12 in (300 mm)
Hull: 5 in (130 mm)
Deck: 3 in (76 mm)

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