| Posted: Sat Aug 23rd, 2014 10:26 pm
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Still say maybe I'm being obsessive. The following is from Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. ; Series I - Volume 26: Naval Forces on Western Waters (March 1, 1864 - December 31, 1864), pages 313-314. It's a General Order from Rear Admiral David D. Porter:
General order of Rear-Admiral Porter, U.S. Navy, for the arrest of certain Confederate sympathizers who furnish active aid.
U. S. MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON, FLAGSHIP BLACK HAWK,
Off Mouth Red River, May 20, 1864.
The attention of all officers in the squadron is called to the facts mentioned below, and they will use every effort to have the persons names arrested and frustrate their designs:
Corbit, alias "Hickory Dick" resides at Mrs. Stewart's, upon Mrs. Lobdell's plantation, at or near Indian Point, about 5 miles below Prentiss, on Old River Lake, as it is sometimes called. Indian Point is where rebel dispatches to and from Richmond to the Trans-Mississippi Department cross the Mississippi River, and said Corbit, alias "Hickory Dick," is the bearer of said dispatches across the river, or is ferryman.
Ingram resides on the Davis or old Ross plantation, 2 miles east of Mrs. Lobdell's. Said Ingram is chief of couriers. Courier stations (going east) are at the following places: First, at Ingram's or Davis's plantation; second, at Strong's Ferry on the Sunflower; third, at Boyd's Ferry on the Tallahatchie; fourth, at Thompson's, 22 miles west of Grenada. Ingram's node of secreting dispatches while awaiting couriers is to bury them--sometimes at the corner of the house.
Mrs. Walker and Michael Bryan reside one-fourth of a mile back of Prentiss; profess to be loyal, but are spies for the rebels; go to Memphis occasionally; get all items they can and communicate with Mason and Nevil, rebel scouts.
Captain William Resin resides near Friar's Point; is a very bad man; carries news and is doing much harm.
Casteel resides above the mouth of White River (in Arkansas); is in the woods part of the time near Johnson's, and is occasionally at Johnson's house. He is chief of a gang who practice a system for putting torpedoes into wood, and it is likely to be done on islands [No.] 63 and [No.] 76 than at any other points. The plan is to use gas pipe or shotgun and musket barrels cut into pieces from 10 to 15 inches long, inserting a screw plug into the ends, fill the tube with powder, and then employ negroes to bore into the ends of the wood and insert the tubes, plug the auger hole and obliterate the surface appearance on the ends with dirt or otherwise.
General Dobbin is preparing to use Greek fire, and proposes to use it against steamboats. His present point of attack is between Helena and Memphis; he has some 1,200 men under his command and is provided with what he terms " rocket battery," with "hail shot." His battery was crossed from the east to the west side of the river above Helena not long since.
Howard is preparing to fell trees upon steamers in Yazoo River. The plan is to select places where the river is crooked and difficult to navigate; select such trees that lean over the water (of which there are many), saw into them on the side next to the water, then upon the opposite side some two or three feet above the first cut, making the two cuts very nearly sever the tree, then bore into the tree at right angles with and halfway between the cuts, put in a sufficient quantity of powder and attach a slow match, or put in a torpedo such as is proposed to use in wood and explode it with percussion at the time boats are passing.
DAVID D. PORTER
Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.
Ok, this dispatch is for the arrest of active Southern sympathizers, which makes me question who General Dobbin was. I can find a "General" Archibald S. Dobbins, a Confederate cavalry commander who was operating in the Helena area and was in northern Arkansas in 1864. Though he received a field promotion to general, he was officially still on the records only as a colonel. Also this promotion was supposed to come near the end of the war, May 1864 doesn't seem near enough to the end for him to have received that promotion. Could Porter have made a spelling mistake, or the transcriber have done so when it went into the volume, and General Dobbin is actually Colonel Dobbins? If so, this is interesting as Dobbins was court-martialed in November 1863 as he refused to serve under General John S. Marmaduke who had killed General Lucius M. Walker, Dobbin's former division commander (he took command of the division following Walker's death). Dobbin's may or may not have continued to unofficially commanded elements of his unit after the court-martial, but officially he lost his command and the unit, Dobbin's 1st Arkansas Cavalry Regiment, was broken up in January 1864 with elements attached to Colonel Thomas J. Morgan's regiment, the 5th Arkansas Calvary Regiment.
If it is Archibald Dobbins, this means that it wasn't just Confederate secret service agents engaged in using Greek fire. But could this General Dobbin been a Federal general ordered to use Greek fire against steamboats whose captains were sympathetic to the Confederacy? The nature of the order seems to be meant to list only Confederate sympathizers as a kind of wanted poster, if you will.
Also, what was this Greek fire. Porter only mentions it was to be used against steamships. Was it the same stuff used in the NYC plot? Or was it similar to Levi Short's solidified Greek fire. go back to the 7th post and you'll see that Admiral Porter was well acquainted with Short's Greek fire.
Edit: Found Dobbins's Find-A-Grave page. Discusses a little about the court-martial and how Dobbin's was "no longer an officer in the C. S. Army.". It does as trying to organize partisans during the spring of 1864, which would make him a "sympathizer" during that period, depending on how you view partisan groups. It also says that his being discharged following his court-martial may never have become official and that he may never have actually become a general.
Last edited on Sat Aug 23rd, 2014 11:03 pm by Hellcat
| Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2014 03:27 am
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Ok, we already know Greek fire was used during the siege of Charleston so this post isn't really needed. I had at first believed this showed that the blockading fleet off Charleston was still carrying Greek fire in 1865 as A) it comes from Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. ; Series I - Volume 27: Naval Forces on Western Waters (January 1, 1865 - September 6, 1865); Supply Vessels (January 1, 1865 - September 6, 1865) , and B) the line of abstract log has an illegible year. You can read 186, but then the actual year is not clear. But the date started me questioning this, it's August 11th, which was well after the war ended. So why would there still be a blockading fleet off Charleston August 11th, 1865? I went back through the log entries, that illegible year is 1863, not 1865. So this puts the date in the middle of the siege.
This is from the abstract log of the USS Arkansas, Acting Volunteer Lt. William H. West commanding the ship during this period. The entries are from June 28th to August 29th. From page 672:
August 11.--At 3:30 p. m. sighted fleet off Charleston, S. C. From 6 to 8 p. m. supplied fleet inside with fresh provisions. Sent a quantity of Greek fire to the flagship, and transferred a draft of 60 landsmen to tug Daffodil. At 9:20 stopped supplying.
Ok, so going back over the thread it seems so far it was the army that was firing Greek fire on Charleston. Here we have the USS Arkansas supplying Greek fire to the flagship of Charleston. Doing some research I think this was the USS Augusta Dinsmore. I tried looking up flagships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron before getting tired of that and trying a different tactic, looking for the flagship during the siege of Charleston. I got this hit. That line about the flagship Augusta Dinsmore being off Morris Island on August 3rd caught my eye so I hit DANFS. And according to the DANFS page on the ship she was Dahlgren's flagship until the USS Philadelphia arrived in late August. So it seems likely she was the flagship Lt. West was referring to in the Arkansas's log. So was the Augusta Dinsmore equipped to fire Greek fire? This would seem to suggest so. So far it doesn't seem a special cannon was needed to fire Short's solidified Greek fire, only the shells were special.
Another option is that Dahlgren may have transferred the Greek fire to the army. The Wikipedia page on the Augusta Dinsmore says that she was sometimes used as a cargo ship due to her size. So it could be that Dahlgren delivered the Greek fire to Gilmore. But that theory raises the question of why use the flagship to deliver the stuff rather than the Arkansas.
| Posted: Sun Aug 24th, 2014 06:19 am
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Ok, I'm back again. My last post gave me a thought for the subject, do a search for Greek fire during the siege of Charleston. It gave me a great hit. What makes the hit so great? Patent Application #38424.
I take forty pounds of saltpeter, seven pounds of charcoal, six pounds of asphaltum, two pounds of antimony, seven pounds of sulphur, and two gallons of naphtha. These ingredients, substantially in the proportions described, I thoroughly mix in a large wooden tank lined with copper, and when thoroughly mixed I allow the compound to stand for two or three days to settle. A large amount of sediment collects at the bottom of the tank, and the liquid rises above. The liquid is then drawn off and combined with any vegetable fibrous substance, the said fibrous material to be fully saturated with the liquid. This is then packed in explosive shells or projectiles and used as a destructive war-missile to burn an enemy’s ships, forts, &c. The sediment which collects at the bottom of the tank is taken in its plastic state and pressed into metallic cases of any convenient size-say three inches in length and five-eighths of an inch in diameter, more or less. This makes a combustible missile which, when ignited by the explosion of the projectile will burn with great intensity. As many of these as maybe required are then put into and combined with an explosive shell or any form of explosive projectile for use. When the projectile explodes these missiles will take fire, collodium being sprinkled over their open ends for this purpose, and will dart out in every direction with ten thousand fiery tongues, hissing and burning wherever they go. The fire is unquenchable, Water will not extinguish it. It consumes and burns wherever it strikes. When thrown into an enemy’s fortifications, forts, ships, or camps these missiles will consume everything in their fiery course, sending death and desolation into the enemy’s ranks.
That is Levi Short, the inventor of solidified Greek fire. It's his description of his Greek fire.
For me this is one of the purposes of this thread, figuring out just what Greek fire was during the war. We already know from looking over this thread that there were at least two different types of Greek fire. The liquid type used in the NYC plot and the solidified type used against Charleston and Vicksburg. Of the stuff used in the NYC plot:
- Headley described it as having a water like appearance. He also describes it as combusting when in contact with air. (Post 1)
- Captain Kennedy claimed after his capture to have emptied a bottle of phosphorus in P.T. Barnum's museum. (Post 1)
- Webb Garrison in his Civil War Schemes and Plots says that two of the active ingredients were phosphorus and hydrogen sulfide. According to Garrison it needed a flame to ignite it.(Post 1)
- Clint Johnson's Civil War Blunders claims reason the NYC plot was not successful was that that the agents kept the windows closed indicating the need for oxygen (Post 14). But as a fire typically needs oxygen in general this doesn't seem a unique quality to this liquid Greek fire.
- A December 10, 1864 Harper's Weekly article states "The fires were kindled by leaving quantities of phosphorus where it would become exposed to the air in the rooms..." (Post 15)
- Headley states that the Greek fire smelled like rotten eggs, a smell that could be detected through the valise in which he carried it. (Post 16)
So that gives us some idea of what a liquid form of Greek fire might have been.
Here we have Shorts description of his own formula. His ingredients saltpeter, charcoal, asphaltum, antimony, sulphur, naphtha which are used to make a liquid. In
Patent Application #38424 Short does say his Greek fire can be used as a liquid or a solid. And he tells us how he makes it solidified. This would also explain Porter's description of large flakes of fire (Post 7).
Last edited on Wed Jul 1st, 2015 05:45 am by Hellcat
| Posted: Sat Sep 13th, 2014 12:55 am
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Continuing my look at the use of Greek fire in the war. Up until now that look has had reports that confined the knowledge of the use of this particular weapon to the North American continent. With this next quote we travel all the way to Italy. The Lateran Treaty is still over 65 years away so it's to Rome and a little place there that comes from the Latin phrase Mons Vaticanus.
The following is from Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. ; Series II - Volume 3: Proclamations, Appointments, etc. of President Davis; State Department Correspondence with Diplomatic Agents,etc. on page 954 a report to the Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin from an Ambrose Dudley Mann of his meeting with Pope Pius IX. The letter is dated November 15th 1863. For those interested in reading it all, it begins on page 952 and goes to 955.
His Holiness received this statement with evident satisfaction, and then said: "I would like to do anything that can be effectively done, or that even promises good results, to aid in putting an end to this most terrible war, which is harming the good of all the earth, if I knew how to proceed."
I availed myself of this declaration to inform his Holiness that it was not the armies of Northern birth which the South was encountering in hostile array, but that it was the armies of European creation, occasioned by the Irish and Germans, chiefly by the former, who were influenced to emigrate (by circulars from "Lincoln & Co." to their numerous agents abroad) ostensibly for the purpose of securing high wages but in reality to fill up the constantly depleted ranks of our enemy; that those poor unfortunates were tempted by high bounties (amounting to $500, $600, and $700) to enlist and take up arms against us; that once in the service they were invariably placed in the most exposed points of danger in the battle field; that in consequence thereof an instance had occurred in which an almost entire brigade had been left dead or wounded upon the ground; that but for foreign recruits the North would most likely have broken down months ago in the absurd attempt to overpower the South.
His Holiness expressed his utter astonishment, repeatedly throwing up his hands, at the employment of such means against us, and the cruelty attendant upon such unscrupulous operations.
"But, your Holiness," said I, "Lincoln & Co. are even more wicked, if possible, in their ways than in decoying innocent Irishmen from their homes to be murdered in cold blood. Their champions, and would your Holiness believe it unless it were authoritatively communicated to you, their pulpit champions have boldly asserted as a sentiment: Greek fire for the families and cities of the rebels and hell fire for their chiefs."
His Holiness was startled at this information, and immediately observed: "Certainly no Catholic could reiterate so monstrous a sentiment." I replied: "Assuredly not. It finds a place exclusively in the hearts of the fiendish, vagrant, pulpit buffoons whose number is legion and who impiously undertake to teach the doctrines of Christ for ulterior sinister purposes."
His Holiness now observed: "I will write a letter to President Davis, and of such a character that it may be published for general perusal." I expressed my heartfelt gratification for the assertion of this purpose. He then remarked, half inquiringly: "You will remain here for several months?" I, of course, could not do otherwise than answer in the affirmative. Turning to my secretary, he asked several kind questions personal to himself and bestowed upon him a handsome compliment. He then extended his hand as a signal for the end of the audience and I retired.
Ok, not much there about Greek fire, only that line of it for the families and cities of the rebels. This more reads like propaganda being used to sway the mind of a foreign power and the mention of Greek fire was a minor one but one thrown in to help sway that power. We know that the population in the North was considerably larger than that off the South. We also know that there was indeed quite a number of immigrants who fought in the Northern armies over the course of the war. Probably quite a few who immigrated during the course of the war found themselves ending up on the front lines, especially after the draft started. And we know bounties were issued to entice folks to enlist. So there certainly is truth in what is said. But at that time when you were trying to sway a foreign power to your side would you want to tell the whole truth or just what could help your side?
But at the same time this is a report by the Commissioner of the CSA for Belgium and the Vatican to the Secretary of State of the CSA. So could Mann have been making a different kind of propaganda. Various kinds of propaganda, could this have been the kind told to one's one people to make them think everything is going better than it really is? Or could it also be that Mann felt he had been more succesful than he had been and this report reflects those feelings?
In either case, we can clearly see that the use of Greek fire by Federal forces is known about in Europe by the end of 1863. How widely know we can't say from the above text.
The possible mention of Greek fire abroad wasn't limited to Mann's meeting with the pope. On Janurary 8, 1864 Benjamin sent a letter to John Slidell, better known for his role in the Trent Affair (by his role I mean the removal of him and James Mason from the RMS Trent by orders of the USS San Jacinto's commander Captain Charles Wilkes). At the time Slidell was in Paris. The following comes from the same source as the above, this time page 991 (the full letter is pages 990 to 992)
I am not at all surprised at the account you give of the action of the Northern emissaries in suborning perjury, committing thefts, and forging documents for the furtherance of their objects. No crime is too revolting for this vile race, which disgraces civilization and causes one to blush for our common humanity. You have been removed from the scenes of their outrages, and are evidently startled at conduct on their part, which we look for as quite naturally to be expected. A people who have been engaged for the last three years in forging our Treasury notes, cheating in the exchange of prisoners of war, exciting slaves to the murder of their masters, plundering private property without a semblance of scruple, burning dwellings, breaking up and destroying agricultural implements, violating female honor, and murdering prisoners in cold blood, not to speak of Greek fire, stone fleets, and other similar expedients of warfare, would scarcely refrain from such trifles as those which excite your indignation. I entertain no doubt whatever that hundreds of thousands of people at the North would be frantic with fiendish delight if informed of the universal massacre of the Southern people, including women and children, in one night. They would then only have to exterminate the blacks (which they are fast doing now), and they would become owners of the property which they covet, and for which they are fighting.
So what we see here seems to be more Benjamin responding to a report from Slidell concerning the efforts of federl Comissioners in Paris. This one feels much less like it could be propaganda to me as it is between the Secretary of State of the CSA and the Commissioner of the CSA to France. Again Greek fire is only a minor mention. It does beg the question of if Slidell had mentioned the use of Greek fire to those in power in France prior to this or if he would do so after recieving Benjamin's letter. If so mentioned then Slidell's opposite sounds as if they had already convinced the French authorities not to take such comments so seriously.
| Posted: Wed Sep 17th, 2014 05:35 am
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Ok, this one also has a brief mention of Greek fire in it. And for this one I'm going to do something I don't often do in this thread, go over more than three pages in the quoting. This is coming from The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 50 (Part II), pages 721 to 723.
RICHMOND, January 11, 1864.
SIR: The Secretary of War informs me that the Government cannot for want of funds enter upon the enterprise which I had the honor to submit to Your Excellency. This I very much regret, as I did desire above all things to inaugurate and consummate the enterprise upon a large scale. But as an amount of specie funds would be necessary for that purpose, which it seems the Government cannot command, the enterprise on that basis must be abandoned. Yet feeling a determination if permitted to aid the Confederacy in her present struggle for independence and to secure a home under the Confederate flag for her numerous friends and admirers on the Pacific Coast, I have deemed proper to present the matter to Your Excellency upon a scale conforming to the present ability of the Government, to wit: I propose to immediately return by way of Mexico to California and there perfect the secret organizations throughout that State, and to raise from 1,000 to 1,500 volunteers, who will furnish their own arms, transportation, &c., and with whom I will capture Fort Buchanan and the town of Tucson, the present Federal capital of the Territory, with all the troops, Government property, and Federal civil officers in Western Arizona, and hold permanent possession of the Territory in the name of the Confederacy. In order to enable me to accomplish which I shall merely require that the Government reimburse my present expenses and defray my further expenses, invest me with the necessary authority, with a guarantee that the amount expended by each volunteer in furnishing his own arms, outfit, and transportation will be reimbursed by the Government, in addition to his regular pay. Most sincerely hoping that this proposition will meet the approbation of Your Excellency and that I shall soon be in a position to render efficient aid to the Confederacy and to strike some heavy blows which will do much toward bringing this unholy war to a speedy close,
I have the honor to remain, your most obedient servant,
L. W. HASTINGS.
P. S.---The paper herewith submitted marked A is the programme of the expedition under the former proposition and will be carried out under the present proposition so soon as the forces are sufficient.
L. W. H.
I will immediately return by the way of Mexico to California, where I will perfect the secret organizations throughout that State, charter vessels, employ miners in the name of various mining companies, furnish transportation to emigrants in the name of the Mexican Immigrant Aid Society, and at a proper time forward the troops as miners and emigrants to Guaymas in Mexico and to the Colorado mines in the vicinity of Fort Yuma in California. A competent agent of the Government, not known to the people of the Pacific as ever having had any connection with the Confederacy, will either accompany me or leave the Confederacy for Guaymas with the necessary funds, within two months after my departure for California, who, having arrived at his destination, will ostensibly act as agent of various mining companies and of said Immigrant Aid Society, settle freight and transportation accounts, furnish, when necessary, subsistence, arms, &c. He will also regularly furnish the troops as they arrive with proper passports duly obtained from the proper Mexican authorities with the usual permit to carry arms. The troops will leave Guaymas in small squads moving by different routes into the interior, assuming to be miners and immigrants, some inquiring for lands, which they desire to buy or rent, others inquiring for and making their way directly to the rich mineral region on the borders of Arizona. The troops destined for the Colorado mines and going from the coast counties will go by sailing vessels, steamers, and stages to Los Angeles, thence in small squads by land to the Colorado mines, and others for the same destination from the interior counties will go in small squads by the various interior routes. I will designate a competent officer who will accompany the first par- ties going by the way of Mexico, muster them into the service, and organize them into companies as they arrive on Confederate soil in Arizona. I will also designate a competent officer with like powers, who will accompany the troops going by the way of the Colorado, and who, in a quiet way, will muster them into service and organize them into companies. When a sufficient number of troops shall have arrived, both in the interior of Arizona and upon the Colorado, I will also find my way to that Territory via the Colorado mines, having previously arranged with said societies to continue sending miners and emigrants as before, until the news shall have reached California that the Con federate flag floats in Arizona, after which time they will continue to send them as before, but by interior and unused routes. Immediately upon my arrival at the Colorado mines I will perfect the organization of that portion of the expedition, and then, without delay, capture Fort Yuma, with all the troops and Government property connected therewith. I will then cause all the arms, munitions, stores, wagons, horses, mules, and all other property captured therewith, to be removed to the Arizona side of the Colorado River. I will then, with the aid of Greek fire, destroy the fort and the three steamers now on that river, thus completely demolishing at one blow the Federals’ key and only means of transportation to that Territory. I will then enlist and muster into the service such of the prisoners as may desire to unite with us parole the balance and send them across the Great Desert, and then by means of the trains already captured I will remove everything valuable to the interior of the Territory. The officer in command of the forces arriving by the way of Mexico will be instructed to remain with his men in the character of miners and immigrants within the Mexican territory, if his safety shall require it, until I shall have arrived with the forces from the Colorado, to send out scouts and spies as miners to Fort Buchanan, Tucson, and elsewhere, so as to have the exact state of things throughout the surrounding country. But if he ascertain that his forces are ample for that purpose he will be directed to surprise and capture Fort Buchanan at once, with everything appertaining thereto, being careful to allow none of the Federal civil officers to escape. Whether Fort Buchanan shall have been captured by the forces from Mexico or by the combined forces the prisoners will be disposed of as before, a garrison established at or near Tucson, and the wheels of the new government put into motion. Leaving a sufficient force at the new garrison for the protection of that portion of the Territory, I will then, with the remaining forces, move eastward to the Mesilla Valley, where I will also establish a garrison at or near the town of Mesilla for the protection of that portion of the Territory, put the new government into operation, and then with a sufficient force again move eastward and reduce Forts Fillmore and Bliss, capture the troops and Government property connected therewith, dispose of the prisoners as before, and then return to the new garrison near Mesilla, where I will establish the headquarters of the army, and report to the Secretary of War the results of the expedition. By the aid of favorable circumstances and accumulating forces from the adjacent States and Territories, I hope to be able soon after accomplishing the foregoing purposes to dis- pose of New Mexico in a similar manner.
I know, I know, with this and the last post I'm more looking at saying Greek fire was used or was intended to be used. In the last post it's Confederate agents in the employ of the state department discussing the use of Greek fire by Federal forces either amongst themselves or with foreign dignitaries. This one is more intriguing to me. It's Lansford Warren writing to Jeff Davis of a plan he had shared with James Seddon. Or at least a plan Seddon knew existed as Hastings says the Secretary of War told him that the government in the enterprise he had presented. And it sounds like Davis already knew of this enterprise as well as Hastings does say he had the honor to submit it to him. It does sound like Hastings is trying to convince Davis to back his plans and is resubmitting them in case the details have been fogotten and the original submission lost.
We see the date is early in January, 1864. So by the end of January it's clear someone has already discussed with Davis the idea of using Greek fire in the conduct of the war. Unlike the NYC plot, Hastings looks to be submitting an idea for a more military use of the substance, if I'm reading this correctly. The NYC plot fits in more with how Federal forces had used Greek fire against Southern cities, which is to say to target more the civilian population rather than just using it against purely military targets. But Hastings is purposing here to use it to destroy military assets, ie. Fort Yuma and a trio of steamers used as a principal means of transportation by the Federal forces in the territory.
By the war Hastings is already garnered some minor fame as trying to get folks to move to California prior to it's becoming a part of the nation following the Mexican-American War. Supposedly he wanted to establish the Republic of California as an independent nation. His The Emigrants' Guide to Oregon and California was meant to convince folks to settle in California so as to cause a bloodless revolution. Of course he'd become notorious for the Hastings Cutoff thanks to the Donner Party's use of the route. Following the Mexican-American War and the U.S.’s gaining control of California Hastings took part in the 1849 California Constitutional Convention. During the Civil War he sided with the South, becoming a Major in the Confederate Army. Following the war he wrote another book, The Emigrant's Guide to Brazil, which was meant to lure colonist to Brazil. Given the number of former Confederates who went to Brazil following the war, perhaps we can assume the wrote this book for his fellow Confederates.
Given that Hastings wanted to establish the Republic of California with himself as the head honcho, is it possible this plan was meant as a new start towards that happening again? Only this time wresting California away from the North to become a Confederate state with him either in position as governor or as some senior official in the state government. Then at some point perhaps taking control of the state from the Confederacy, this time with himself as ruler.
But that is unimportant, merely guessing what may have been the ultimate intentions of a man long since dead. For this thread the importance of this quoting is the intended use of Greek fire in this plot. And as already discussed, that intended use appears to have been directed at military targets only rather than at civilians. It’s just one minor mention that seems to speak far more than a description of the version of Greek fire to be used.
There’s another possible importance here. This is January 1864 and the NYC plot went down in November of that year. Could those agents at some point have been given a suggestion of possibly using Greek fire by anyone who knew of Hastings’ plot?
Last edited on Sun Sep 28th, 2014 01:49 am by Hellcat
| Posted: Sun Sep 28th, 2014 01:46 am
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Have some more official reports that have mention of Greek fire in them. This first set comes from The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 45 (Part II), pages 82 and 83.
HEADQUARTERS NORTHERN DEPARTMENT,
Cincinnati, Ohio, December 6, 1864.
Brig. Gen. E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant-General U. S. Army:
GENERAL: I have the honor to forward herewith a copy of a letter dated 3d instant, just received from Lieut. Col. B. H. Hill, commanding the District of Michigan, as it contains information of importance to all of our frontier bordering upon Canada. The information has been furnished by one of our most reliable detectives, and unusual confidence may be placed in it. A few days since advices of similar import were received by me. From the letter it will be seen that refugees and deserters from the rebel Confederacy are engaged in the manufacture of Greek fire at Windsor, in Canada, to facilitate their incendiary purposes. With regard to attacks from armed bodies of rebels, I feel much less apprehensive than from individual efforts to burn and plunder our cities, as my means of information are such that I hope to be able to anticipate the former. It is almost unnecessary for me to add that I have enjoined unceasing vigilance and activity on the part of the military and civil authorities throughout my command.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HEADQUATERS DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN,
Detroit, Mich., December 3, 1864.
Capt. C. H. POTTER,
Asst. Adjt. Gen., Hdqrs. Northern Dept., Cincinnati, Ohio:
SIR: I have the honor to report that from information I have received I am satisfied that very extensive preparations are being made in Canada for burning not only cities on the lakes, but others; and it is very necessary that great precaution and vigilance should be observed everywhere. I have the assurance that Greek fire is being prepared in Windsor. Buffalo, Cleveland, and this city will be the principal cities to be burned, and there will be armed attempts to rob and plunder; Cincinnati and Louisville are also mentioned. I am also informed that by some means a large number of rebel soldiers have been introduced into Canada; some, it is said, have been furloughed, and have made their way through the lines. I have at this time very excellent means of obtaining information, and the only apprehension I have is that the persons in my employ may fail me at the last moment. In this city I have called the attention of the hotel keepers to the necessity of observing great vigilance in regard to their guests, and the hotels are daily visited by a secret agent in my employ.
I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
B. H. HILL,
Lieut. Col. Fifth U. S Artillery, Comdg. District of Michigan.
Ok, so the dates here are intriguing as their in early December 1864. We know that the NYC plot took place just over a week before the enclosure letter is dated. If you go back to post 15 and click on the Harper's Weekly link you'll see the Harper's article was posted in the December 10, 1864 issue. Obviously Harper's wasn't the only means of getting your news during the war so it's unlikely the populace at large hadn't already heard of the plot by December 10th.
But what we have here is not just the populace at large. This is "Fighting" Joe Hooker. Since the beginning of October 1864 Hooker has been in command of the Northern Department. And he's talking to Brevet Brigadier General Edward Davis Townsend, who is obviously the Assistant Adjutant General of the U.S. Army as is clear in the December 6th letter. In 1869 Townsend would become a regular Brigadier General and the Adjutant General. Though that's in the future. Here though it looks like Hooker is keeping the Adjutant General's office informed of reports of more NYC style fire plots
Were these reports more a reaction to what just happened? That's something that's running through my head. Both Hooker and the Lt. Col. B. H. Hill believe their information is reliable. Hooker even tells Townsend the information comes from their most reliable detectives. But this is so soon after the NYC plot that I have to look at it and ask just how reliable it really was. I'm not saying the detectives were feeding misinformation, more what I'm thinking is that maybe the was a little too much faith placed on the idea that Greek fire was going to be used on Detroit, Cleveland, Buffalo, and possibly Cincinnati and Louisville. Post 1 it's mentioned that Donald E. Markle's book does discuss an attempt to use Greek fire in St. Louis with minor success. Nothing there about these Northern cities listed in the enclosure of Hooker's letter.
The second set comes from [url= http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar&cc=moawar&idno=waro0096&q1=Greek+fire&view=image&seq=590&size=100]The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 46 (Part II)[/url], page 588:
CITY POINT, VA., February 18, 1865--6 p. m.
Commanding Army of the James:
If you have any shells filled with Greek fire I wish you would experiment with a few of them on the abatis of the enemy and see if it can be set on fire.
U. S. GRANT,
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE JAMES,
February 18, 1865--7 p. m.
Have only a few shells, 100-pounders, and no guns of that caliber facing the enemy’s abatis near enough.
E. O. C. ORD,
Ok so now we're into the Siege of Petersburg and Grant is asking Ord if he's got any Greek fire he can use on the enemy abatis. By the date we're after the Battle of Hatcher's Run. This doesn't seem to be like the use of Greek fire in Charleston back in 1863. This strikes me almost as if it was another plan by Grant to try and break the siege. And if not break the siege then maybe a plan to try and gain some ground.
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Well, once again I'm looking at this subject. I found another article which deals with the subject on HistoryNet, American History: 1864 Attack on New York. For this thread this seems an important part of the article:
Nevertheless, the eight Confederates assigned to torch the city remained determined to complete their task. One by one, they made their way into New York City and registered under assumed names at various hotels, all of them along Broadway. John W. Headley, Martin’s second in command, contacted a local chemist from whom the Confederates had arranged to obtain 12 dozen bottles of a mixture that contemporary reports said was phosphorus. Other reports called it ‘Greek Fire,’ an incendiary mixture of sulfur, naphtha, and quicklime that bursts into flame when exposed to air. The mixture had a long history. The Ancient Greeks had invented it, and the Byzantines used it to destroy a Saracen fleet in the seventh century. For setting things ablaze, this was clearly the right stuff to use.
Ok, so this claims the Greek fire used in the NYC plot was a mixture of sulfur, naphtha, and quicklime. Sulfur I questioned in the 16th post as a possible ingredient. Headley describes smelling a rotten egg smell emanating from the satchel containing the vials of Greek fire after picking it up. I also questioned if it could have been hydrogen sulfide. This article supports the sulfur assumption.
Naphtha is a question mark as to what it was. Now I say question mark because naphtha has been used to label mixtures containing such things as distilled coal tar, peat, natural gas condensates (, and various distilled petroleum products. A now obsolete usage for naphtha simply meant crude oil. Kerosene might be called naphtha, historically the Persian scholar Razi referred to kerosene as naft abyad meaning white gold. The Polish term for kerosene is nafta. However, naphtha may also be a kerosene additive. It should be noted that naphtha is derived from the Arabic word naft which means petroleum (though in Persian naft meant crude oil). So naphtha could be any one of a dozen or more petroleum products just from the name. More interesting is Razi's description of kerosene as white gold, could this have been what caused what Headley described as a water like substance? This would be yet another possible explanation for the watery appearance, in post 14 I theorized maybe carbon disulfide (that is if bisulfide of carbon is another name for carbon disulfide) and in post 16 I questioned if sulfur or hydrogen sulfide could have either been the liquid. Sulfur does have a melting point at which it becomes a liquid but would it remain in a liquid state?
Quicklime is another term for calcium oxide. Calcium oxide has a history as a weapon going back at least to the 13th century. It's use in Greek Fire is believed to be more mater based, that is once it came into contact with water it would increase the temperature of the mixture to over 150C at which point it would ignite.
But the thing that get's me is what caused this version of Greek fire to ignite when in contact with air? If this is correct and quicklime was an ingredient, then it should have been when in contact with water if just these ingredients. Levi Short's formula (see the 23rd post) included both sulfur and naphtha, though no mention of quicklime. However, Short's Greek fire was not, apparently, supposed to ignite in contact with the air. It was to be loaded into shells and when those shells exploded it would rain down with a fire that could not be extinguished with water. At least according to Short. From that, and what is known of sulfur and naphtha, we can assume that they certainly weren't the ingredients meant to ignite the Greek fire.
Root Beer Lover
back to top
|Ok, here is another interesting article, actually it's supposed to be an editorial. As with the last post this one pertains to the NYC plot. The Newspaper Editorial that COULD
Have Won the Civil War For the Confederates . This may be the same link I posted in post 16 (see my comments there concerning Kennedy picking up the Greek fire), the address appears to be the same but when I try clicking the link I get a 404 error message. Now the part that pertains to this thread is this:
Arrangements had been previously made with a chemist residing in New York, but a Southern Sympathizer, to pick up a load of "Greek fire." This was a special chemical combination that looked like water but, when exposed to air, after a delay, would ignite in flames. When Kennedy picked up the valise, he found it contained dozens of small bottles of the liquid and each bottle was sealed with plaster of Paris. Instructions were to use the bed in each room, pile it with clothing, rugs, drapes, newspapers, and anything else that would burn, Next, they were to empty two bottles of the "Greek fire" on top of the pile. In about five minutes, flames would ignite the pile. This delay gave them plenty of time to escape unnoticed before the fire started. After starting one fire, the man would then proceed to the next location and do the same. Each man would thus be capable of setting off several fires blocks from each other
Ok, so what is so interesting about this? Until this point much of what I've seen concerning the Greek Fire in the NYC plot has it igniting on contact with air. Fine. But this alters that somewhat to reveal that it's not something that happens immediately but it takes five minutes to ignite. So this would mean that the chemical reaction begins when exposed to the air but it takes time to reach flash point. If we assume that the Greek fire included all the ingredients lists in post 27, then could this mean that you needed a humid day for this to work unless poured directly into water? While quicklime and water have a vigorous reaction when introduced to each other, this does seem possible at first The reason for this comes from Chemical and Biological Warfare: A Comprehensive Survey for the Concerned Citizen by Eric Croddy. According to page 128:
Fire and smoke have a long history as a tool of warfare. Petroleum is perhaps the oldest known incendiary used in large-scale combat. Assyrian bas-reliefs dating to the ninth century B.C. show what is believed to be liquid petroleum being used as a fire-assault weapon. Aeneias Tacticus refined the combination of tar, sulfur, and pine resin for use as an incendiary against warships in 360 B.C.
Naphtha, a mixture of hydrocarbons that bears some resemblance to gasoline, was distilled from crude oil by the Arabs as early as the sixth century. The combustible properties of naphtha and it utility as a weapon was probably first brought to Byzantine Rome's attention by the inventor and architect Callinicus in about A.D. 668, when he traveled to Constantinople and taught the Romans the secret technology of Greek Fire. Because they are liquid and volatile mixtures of hydrocarbons, naphtha and other petroleum distillates are inefficient as weapons, since it is very difficult to control exactly when and where in relation to a target they will combust. To compensate for these shortcomings, Greek Fire made use of wax and oil of balm, which were mixed in with the fuel to add thickness and sticking ability. In a later technical improvement on Greek Fire, quicklime (calcium oxide) was added to create a delayed incendiary. When moistened, the subsequent mixture of fuel and quicklime could reach a temperature of over 150 degrees Celsius, spontaneously igniting the composition after it had adhered to the target (say, a naval vessel.)
This gives us a look at what ancient Greek Fire may have been made of and does suggest that when quicklime is introduced to the mixture there is a delay until the temperature reaches over 150C. At which point there is instant ignition. But as I said, this is an at first glance type of thing. The reason for that is again the description of a watery substance. You wouldn't have to moisten such a substance, but you may have to add water to trigger the chemical reaction. Thus the question becomes would moisture in the air be enough to trigger such a reaction in five minutes?
The next question is did it take five minutes to trigger as the first quote indicates? As I've been working on this post something bothered me, causing me to look back over the thread. Unfortunately I did not post how soon it took, according to Headley, for the Greek fire to combust. This forced me to go back to Philip Van Doren Stern's book and look. From page 260 of Secret Missions of the Civil War, again Headley speaking:
I had rooms at the Astor House, City Hotel, Everett House, and the United States Hotel. Colonel [Robet M. Martin occupied rooms at the Hoffman, Fifth Avenue, St. Denis, and two others. Lieutenant Ashbrook was at the St. Nicholas, La Farge, and several others. Altogether nineteen hotels were fired....
I reached the Astor House at 7:20 o'clock, got my key, and went to my room in the top story. It was the lower corner front room on Broadway. After lighting the gas jet I hung the bed clothes loosely on the headboard and piled the chairs, drawers of the bureau, and washstand on the bed. Then stuffed some newspapers about among the mass and poured a bottle of turpentine over it all. I concluded to unlock my door and fix the key on the outside, as I might have to get out in a hurry, for I did not know whether the Greek Fire would make a noise or not. I opened a bottle carefully and quickly, and spilled it on the pile of rubbish. It blazed up instantly and the whole bed seemed to be in flames before I could get out. I locked the door and walked down the hall and stairway to the office, which was fairly crowded with people. I left the key at the office as usual....
Ok, so according to Headley flash point was instantaneous, no need to wait for things to climb to over a certain temp. But two things to keep in mind. First, Headley's account was published in 1906, that's about forty-five years (depending on when in 1906 it was published it could have been forty-six) years after the event. Plenty of time for the mind to play tricks on him. Second, Headley didn't know what to expect and seems to have wanted to see the results before leaving his room, so if it did take five minutes or more to ignite it seems unlikely he would have left the room after pouring the Greek Fire and hope it ignited. Also, Headley could have deliberately changed things to make the mission more dramatic in terms of the danger to himself. However, if Headley's memory hadn't changed or he had not altered things, then we have no delay rather than a five minute delay.
| Current time is 05:04 pm||Page: 1 2 |