AMUSING AUTOGRAPH LETTER FROM "WILL," ABOARD THE UNITED STATES STEAMER DESPATCH, SEPTEMBER 5, 1875, TO "KITTY", DESCRIBING THE TORPEDO EXPERIMENTS IN NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND. "WE FOUND OUT AFTER WE HAD STARTED THAT THE HON. SECTY. DIDN'T LIKE THE IDEA OF OUR WORKING OR EXPLODING THOSE INFERNAL MACHINES FROM THE SHIP THAT HE WAS ON SO TO MY INTENSE SATISFACTION THAT PART OF THE PERFORMANCE WAS OMITTED. YOU WILL SEE BY THE STRIP THAT I SEND ENCLOSED THAT WE WERE DECIDEDLY HIGH TONED ON THE OCCASION. WHEN WE WERE DOWN IN THE GULF THE N.Y. HERALD WAS DOWN ON US FOR NOT OFFERING A PASSAGE TO THEIR REPORTER WHEN WE WENT OVER TO TAKE POSSESSION OF THE VIRGINIUS, SO I THOUGHT THAT I WOULD TRY AND SOAP THE REPRESENTATIVE OF THAT PAPER THIS TIME AND GET A FAVORABLE NOTICE. I EXPENDED 22 BOTTLES OF BASS ALE ON A DUFFER AND HIS SATTALITES WITH THE ENCLOSED RESULT. I THINK THAT HE MUST HAVE TAKEN TOO MUCH BEER, FOR HE HAS TURNED THE SHIP COMPLETELY AROUND IN HIS ACCOUNT. THE RACE ACCOUNT IS CORRECT, AND WE DID BEAT HER IDEAL BADLY, HER OWNER WAS ON BOARD OF OUR SHIP, AND WAS NOT A LITTLE ASTONISHED TO SEE US WALK AWAY FROM HIS YACHT. ON THE WHOLE WE HAD A VERY PLEASANT TIME. I WENT OUT YESTERDAY, TO THE RACES ABOUT THREE MILES FROM TOWN, SAW TWO HURDLE RACES, AND LIKEWISE SAW A JOCKEY PITCHED OFF & NEARLY KILLED TO ALL APPEARANCES. WENT UP LAST NIGHT TO THE OCEAN HOUSE TO THE HOP AND SAW THE STYLES. NOT MUCH DANCING OR MUCH DRESSING EITHER, AS TO QUANTITY, BUT HEAPS OF FLIRTING... I HAVE TWO PET SPIDERS IN MY ROOM BUT THEY STICK TO THEIR WEB AND LET ME ALONE...
[Newport, R.I.]: 1875. 5.25" x 12", folded to 6" x 5.25". Unlined paper, gilt and purple embossed insignia of the "United States Steamer Despatch" at head. Neat ink manuscript. Old folds, Near Fine.
The U.S.S. Despatch was commissioned in November, 1873 and condemned in February, 1891. She took part in the Virginius Affair of 1873, when Spain seized the American ship Virginius, with 53 passengers and crew executed. After negotiations, the Virginius was turned over to Capt. W.D. Whiting of the United States' North Altantic Fleet. The Despatch delivered Whiting to the Virginius and towed the steamer to Key West.
The torpedo experiments referred to in this letter took place during the summer of 1875 by the United States Torpedo Station in Newport, Rhode Island. The Steamer Despatch was chosen to participate. Experiments were performed with the Harvey torpedo, which required high rates of speed to create sufficient momentum for the torpedo to dive and then rise toward the surface and its target. ["Despatch," accessed at the Navy History page of the History Central web site; "United States Torpedo-Station, Newport, R.I., December 1, 1876," CONGRESSIONAL SERIES OF UNITED STATES PUBLIC DOCUMENTS, VOLUME 1748. Washington: 1877. Pages 145-51.]. Item #32115