Spar torpedo
A spar torpedo is a weapon
A weapon, arm, or armament is a tool or instrument used with the aim of causing damage or harm to living beings or artificial structures or systems...

 consisting of a bomb
A bomb is any of a range of explosive weapons that only rely on the exothermic reaction of an explosive material to provide an extremely sudden and violent release of energy...

 placed at the end of a long pole, or spar, and attached to a boat
A boat is a watercraft of any size designed to float or plane, to provide passage across water. Usually this water will be inland or in protected coastal areas. However, boats such as the whaleboat were designed to be operated from a ship in an offshore environment. In naval terms, a boat is a...

. The weapon is used by running the end of the spar into the enemy ship. Spar torpedoes were often equipped with a barbed spear at the end, so it would stick to wood
Wood is a hard, fibrous tissue found in many trees. It has been used for hundreds of thousands of years for both fuel and as a construction material. It is an organic material, a natural composite of cellulose fibers embedded in a matrix of lignin which resists compression...

en hulls. A fuse
Fuse (explosives)
In an explosive, pyrotechnic device or military munition, a fuse is the part of the device that initiates function. In common usage, the word fuse is used indiscriminately...

 could then be used to detonate it.


The spar torpedo was invented during the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 by E. C. Singer
E. C. Singer
E. C. Singer was an American engineer who worked on secret projects for the benefit of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War and who invented the spar torpedo. Singer's torpedo was a large explosive device mounted on the tip of a long spar...

, a private engineer who worked on secret projects for the benefit of the Confederate States of America
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 (Singer was the nephew of Isaac Singer
Isaac Singer
Isaac Merritt Singer was an inventor, actor, and entrepreneur. He made important improvements in the design of the sewing machine and was the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company...

, inventor of the sewing machine). Singer's torpedo was detonated by means of a trigger mechanism adapted from a rifle lock (see flintlock mechanism
Flintlock mechanism
The flintlock mechanism was a firing mechanism used on muskets and rifles in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. It is commonly referred to as a "flintlock" , though that term is also commonly used for the weapons themselves as a whole, and not just the lock mechanism.The flintlock was developed in...

 for a similar device). The spring-loaded trigger was detonated by means of a long cord attached to the attacking vessel. The attacking vessel rammed its target, embedding the barbed torpedo in its hull, then backed off. When the attacker reached the limit of the trigger cord, the torpedo was detonated.


The most famous use of a spar torpedo was on the Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 submarine H. L. Hunley
H. L. Hunley (submarine)
H. L. Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War, but a large role in the history of naval warfare. The Hunley demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare...

, which managed to sink the Union screw sloop USS Housatonic
USS Housatonic (1861)
The first USS Housatonic was a screw sloop-of-war of the United States Navy, named for the Housatonic River of New England which rises in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and flows southward into Connecticut before emptying into Long Island Sound a little east of Bridgeport, Connecticut...

 on February 17, 1864, although the Hunley was lost. Spar torpedoes were also used on the David
CSS David
CSS David was a Civil War-era torpedo boat built as a private venture by T. Stoney at Charleston, South Carolina in 1863, and put under the control of the Confederate States Navy. The cigar-shaped boat carried a 60- or 70-pound explosive charge on the end of a spar projecting forward from her bow...

-class of semi-submersible attack boats.

At night on October 27/28, 1864, Lieutenant Cushing
William B. Cushing
William Barker Cushing was an officer in the United States Navy, best known for sinking the Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle during a daring nighttime raid on October 27, 1864, a feat for which he received the Thanks of Congress.-Early life and career:Cushing was born in Delafield, Wisconsin,...

 employed a spar torpedo to sink the Confederate ironclad ram CSS Albemarle
CSS Albemarle
CSS Albemarle was an ironclad ram of the Confederate Navy , named for a town and a sound in North Carolina and a county in Virginia...

. Because the Confederate navy was tiny, the sinking of the Albemarle was the Union navy's only successful sinking of a Confederate vessel by torpedo. Lieutenant Cushing employed a spar torpedo designed by John Lay
John Louis Lay
John Louis Lay was an American inventor of the spar torpedo. He was born in Buffalo, N. Y. During the War of the Rebellion he was appointed a second assistant engineer in the navy in July 1862. In 1864 he invented the torpedo with which Lieutenant Cushing sank the Confederate armor-clad ram...


The innovative semi-submersible 1864 Union craft USS Spuyten Duyvil
USS Spuyten Duyvil (1864)
During the American Civil War, the Union Navy suffered heavy losses from the explosion of Confederate torpedoes. This experience prompted the Union Navy to design and build vessels capable of using this new weapon...

 employed a spar torpedo, but not with a barbed attachment to the target. Owing to an innovative directable and extensible spar, this craft could release a slightly buoyant mine underneath the target, which would be exploded by the means described above. (This craft was not employed against Confederate targets, but was used to clear wreckage from rivers.)

Spar torpedoes were also used on small wooden launches in the late 19th century, although they were not very useful weapons. The locomotive torpedo (what we think of today as a torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

) replaced the spar torpedo as a weapon for submarines and small boats in the 1870s.

Spar torpedoes were also massively used by the Russian forces under vice-admiral Stepan Makarov
Stepan Makarov
Stepan Osipovich Makarov was a Ukrainian - born Russian vice-admiral, a highly accomplished and decorated commander of the Imperial Russian Navy, an oceanographer, awarded by the Russian Academy of Sciences, and author of several books. Makarov also designed a small number of ships...

 during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878
Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878
The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878 was a conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Eastern Orthodox coalition led by the Russian Empire and composed of numerous Balkan...

. On May 26, 1877 (May 14 Old Style), the craft Carevitch and Ksenya sunk the monitor
Monitor (warship)
A monitor was a class of relatively small warship which was neither fast nor strongly armoured but carried disproportionately large guns. They were used by some navies from the 1860s until the end of World War II, and saw their final use by the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.The monitors...

 "Seyfi" on the Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

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