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 Posted: Sun Feb 2nd, 2014 05:09 am
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Hellcat
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Yup, still interested in this subject. I found the following just tonight:

Greek Fire was an effective and very threatening method of attack that can demolish entire towns in a very short amount of time. Levi Short created these rockets out of a special fluid, and some powder. Upon firing, the rocket would explode and the liquid would spread over anything in its path and flames would envelop any objects around it. The fluid that ignited burned for approximately seven minutes if water had not been applied. After a patent was drawn for the Greek Fire, Levi Short was able to use some connections that he had to arrange a meeting with President Lincoln. People such as General P.G.T. Beauregard were disgusted at the fact that the Union was willing to use such a catastrophic weapon on cities "filled with sleeping women and children".


http://www.collegetermpapers.com/TermPapers/American_History/weapons_of_the_civil_war.html

If it's a college term paper, doesn't seem long enough to be seven pages to me. But it's really the paragraph on Greek Fire that I am most interested in in this case, obviously because that's the subject of this thread. Rally not much new here. Posts 5 and 7 discuss Levi Short's Greek Fire. This does bring up Short's visiting Lincoln, probably to get his particular Greek Fire into use. Not a big surprise there given how Lincoln met with some folks who thought they had something that could help win the war. In fact go back to the first post and it does state hat Lincoln did observe a demonstration of Greek fire, so that might have been Short's meeting with him. The Beauregard quote is nice to see as it is a view of how Confederates understandably viewed Federal use of Greek fire.

Another find is this on the NYC plot; http://civilwartalk.com/threads/use-of-greek-fire-in-the-civil-war.84611/, which appears may have originated here: http://www.historybuff.com/library/refburnny.html. The thing that gets me though is the claim that the Confederacy was looking to capture and take control of NYC. I'm not sure in my research I've seen anything to say such. I believe post 3 did touch on the possible plan to free Confederate POWs, but no mention of Fort Lafayette is there in the post. It is, of course, possible Fort Lafayette was one of the paces considered and abandoned for the reasons discussed in post three. But overall I'm not sure how I feel about this one in relation to the plot to burn NYC because of that claim. If that claim is true then I suppose I'd be more accepting of this source. It's not that I don't believe it a possibility that at least some Confederates considered the idea, merely that at this moment I don't know if there was ever such a plan. But even if that's not true that's not to say other element may not be true, such as the meeting at the St. Dennis Hotel.

However, as stated in post 1 Headley states that HE was the one who picked up the valise carrying Greek fire rather than Robert Kennedy as this article says. Now Van Doren Stern is reposting from what Headley wrote in his 1906 book, Kennedy dies in 1865 so he obviously can't counter Headley's claim. But if we take Headley as a reliable source, then why would Kennedy have been the one picking up the valise when Headley had brought it back to where the agents were operating?

Speaking of Van Doren Stern's book there is an interesting element Headley mentions on page 259. After picking up the valise he returned to City Hall Square and boarded a street car bound for Central Park via the Bowery. Headley states of the trip:

The car was crowded and I had to put the valise in front of me on the floor in the passway, as seats ran full length of each side of the car. I soon began to smell a peculiar odor--a little like rotten eggs--and I noticed the passengers were conscious of the same presence. But I sat unconcerned until my getting-off place was reached, when I took up the valise and went on. I heard a passenger say as I alighted, "There must be something dead in that valise."

A smell like rotten eggs. Does this mean that an ingredient in the Greek fire used in the NYC plot was sulfur? Maybe hydrogen sulfide? Would that look like a liquid resembling water? Water then wasn't always as clean as we think today so a yellowish liquid might resemble water. Though I did earlier say that carbon disulfide, a colorless liquid, might be mistaken for water.

Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War gives the following definition for Greek fire:

Greek Fire - An incendiary substance used to charge shells, Greek fire saw little service during the Civil War because of its tendency to explode in a loaded bun before it was fired. In the 7th century the general of Constantine IV's fleet used it to destroy the Saracens' ships; 19th-century military encyclopedias speculated that the combustible was principally naphtha. Inventor Levi Short of Philadelphia developed the Greek fire of Civil war vintage, probably a combustible achieved by making a solution of phosphorus in bisulfide of carbon.

Nothing really new in this definition, already discussed phosphorus and bisulfide of carbon. All this really does is link Short with the phosphorus and bisulfide of carbon mixture.

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