Little David Special Event Station – call sign W4D
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 (contusions).
The next four months of David’s existence are obscure. She or other torpedo boats tried more attacks on Union blockaders; reports from
different ships claim three such attempts, all unsuccessful, during the remainder of October 1863. On March 6, 1864, David attacked USS
Memphis in the North Edisto River. The torpedo boat struck the blockader first on the port quarter, but the torpedo did not explode.
Memphis slipped her chain, at the same time firing ineffectively at David with small arms. Putting about, the torpedo boat struck Memphis again, this time a glancing blow on the starboard quarter; once more the torpedo misfired. Since Memphis had now opened up with her heavy guns, David, having lost part of her stack when rammed, retreated up the river out of range. Memphis, uninjured, resumed her blockading station.
David’s last confirmed action came on April 18, 1864 when she tried to sink the screw frigate USS Wabash. Alert lookouts on board the
blockader sighted David in time to permit the frigate to slip her chain, avoid the attack, and open fire on the torpedo boat. Neither
side suffered any damage.
The ultimate fate of David is uncertain. Several torpedo boats of this type fell into Union hands when Charleston was captured in
February 1865. David may well have been among them.
The “Little David was designed and built along with others of her class in secret at the Old Santee State Park and was instrumental in the rescue of CSS Hunley in her earlier sea trials prior to Hunley’s historic attack on the “Housatonic”
The name given to her, as one story goes, refers to the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
Further information can be found at the “OLD SANTEE CANAL STATE PARK” Web page.
The Trident Amateur Radio Club will be operating a special event station,
W4D, on or about October 3rd, every year from1300Z-2000Z (9am-4pm EDT)
from the Old Santee Canal State Park, in Moncks Corner, SC
900 Stony Landing Drive
Moncks Corner, SC 29461
Proposed frequencies 14.320 14.262 7.262
QSL. Trident Amateur Radio Club, Attn: QSL Manager, PO Box 60732, North Charleston, SC 29419.
QSL’S send SASE More info can be found at QRZ.com