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 Posted: Fri Jul 26th, 2013 04:38 am
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Hellcat
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Ok, anyone who saw the Copper TV thread will have seen that I posted a little on the use of Greek fire during the war. I've been thinking for a little bit now that it would be more fitting to discuss it here in the Weapons category and am going to repost my last response from the Copper TV thread. As a heads up, the "aforementioned book" mention in the first sentence is Secret Mission of the Civil War by Philip Van Doren Stern.

Hellcat wrote:
Ok, grabbed my copy of the aforementioned book. Van Doren Stern republished some elements from John W. Headley's book Confederate Operations in Canda and New York which came out in 1906. Headley was rather familiar with some of these operations as he was one of the Confederate agents carrying them out. In fact he was one of the agents in NYC who attempted to burn the city. In the book (on pages 259-260 of Van Doren Stern's book) Headley wrote:

When I lugged it into our cottage the boys were waiting and glad of my safe return. I was given the key with the valise and opened it at once with some curiosity to investigate the contents. None of the party knew anything about Greek Fire, except that the moment it was exposed to the air it would blaze and burn everything it touched. We found it to be a liquid resembling water. It was put up in four-ounce bottles securely sealed. There were twelve dozen bottles in the valise. We were now ready to create a sensation in New York. It had been agreed that our fires would be started in hotels, so as to do the greatest damage in the business district on Broadway. The eight members of our party had each taken a room at three or four hotels. In doing this we would buy a black glazed satchel for $1.00 and put an overcoat in it for baggage. The room at each hotel was used enough to show that it was being occupied. In leaving, of course, the overcoat would be worn and the satchel left behind empty.

It was agreed that our operations should begin promptly at 8 o'clock P.M., so that the guests of the hotels might all escape as we did not want to destroy any lives.

We separated to meet at the same place the next evening at 6 o'clock, and then, as Captain [Robert Cobb] Kennedy remarked to me, "We'll make a spoon or spoil a horn."

... At 6 o'clock promptly on the evening of November 25, 1864, our party met in our cottage headquarters, two failing to report.

The bottle of Greek Fire having been wrapped in paper were put in our coat pockets. Each man took ten bottles. It was agreed that after our operations were over we should secrete ourselves and meet here the next night at 6 o'clock to compare notes and agree on further plans.


Headley does, on page 258 of Van Doren Stern's book, tell us he picked up the valise from an old man with a long beard. All he had to do was tell him a Captain Longmire (Captain E. Longuemare) had sent him.

So according to one of the Confederate agents they were indeed going to use what they called Greek fire. Captain Kennedy was arrested in Michigan trying to go from Canada to Richmond and sentenced to hang March 25, 1865. The morning of his execution he gave a confession that may explain a little as to what Greek Fire was. Van Doren Stern records this confession on page 267 of his book:

"I know that I am to be hung for setting fire to Barnum's Museum, but that was only a joke. I had no idea of doing it. I had been drinking ... and just to scare people, I emptied a bottle of phosphorus on the floor."

Headley does mention Kennedy was at Barnum's Museum on November 25, 1864 and that he had used Greek Fire there as he thought it would be fun to start a scare (page 261 and 262 of Van Doren Stern's book):

The was still a crowd around the Astor House and everywhere, but I edged through and crossed over to City Hall, where I caught a car just starting up town. I got off ... opposite the Metropolitian Hotel to go across and see how Ashbrook and Harrington had succeeded. After walking half a square I observed a man walking ahead of me and recognized him. It was Captain Kennedy. I closed up behind him an slapped him on the shoulder. He squatted and began to draw his pistol, but I laughed and he knew me. He laughed and said he ought to shoot me for giving him such a scare.

We soon related to each other our experience. Kennedy said that after he touched off his hotels he concluded to go down to Barnum's Museum and stay until something turned up, but had only been there a few minutes when alarms began to ring all over the city. He decided to go out, and coming down the stairway, it happened to be clear at a turn and the idea occurred to him that there would be fun to start a scare. He broke a bottle of Greek Fire, he said, on the edge of a step like he would crack an egg. It blazed up an he got out to witness the result. He had been down there in the crowd ever since, and the fires at the Astor House and the City Hotel had both been put out. But he had listened to the talk of the people and heard the opinion expressed generally that Rebels were in the city to destroy it. He thought our presence must be known. Harrington had broken a bottle in the Metropolitan Theater at 8 o'clock just after he fired the Metropolitan Hotel adjoining; and Ashbrook had done likewise in Niblo's Garden Theater adjoining the La Farge Hotel.


So we've got Headley saying Greek fire was a water like liquid that would self combust when it came into contact with the air. And Kennedy saying he poured phosphorus on the floor at PT Barnum's American Museum in NYC Perhaps phosphorus was an ingredient in what was known as Greek Fire during the 19th century.

Greek fire is mentioned again in Donald E. Markle's Spies & Spymasters of the Civil War, this time as being used against both NYC and St Louis. On page 53 concerning the use of Greek Fire by Confederate agents Markle writes:

In the fall of 1864, operatives from Toronto did go to St. Louis, Missouri, to destroy the Union transports used to ferry Union troops and supplies on the Mississippi. They intended to use an inflammatory known as "Greek fire" (a Molotov cocktail), which was only successful about 50 percent of the time. The group did in fact manage to destroy or damage 5 to 10 of the 75 Union transports in port.

Then on page 54 he writes:

On November 25, 1864, Confederate operatives from Toronto came to New York City with the intention of "flaming" the city. They selected 19 hotels as targets and hoped to create a riot similar to the New York City draft riots. While some hotels did in fact sustain fires, in several cases the Greek fire did not ignite and the total effect was not what was desired. All o the operatives did manage to escape from the city which was a neat trick since a double agent, Godfrey Hyams, had informed the Union of the threat to New York.

Ok so we have two important elements to consider on this one. The first is that Markle claims Greek fire was basically a Molotov cocktail. Now a Molotov cocktail is usually some sort of flammable liquid such as gas with a cloth wick that has been dipped in something like kerosene or alcohol. This pretty much doesn't seem to match up with what Headley said about it combusting when coming into contact with air as why would you need a wick when all you could do was just throw it. OR just smash it against something as Kennedy did.

The second is more important is that Greek fire was not dependable more than half the time it was used. So every time it was used you had a 50-50 chance it would work as it was supposed to and damage or destroy the target. Which would certainly explain why NYC didn't burn down as planned.

We then turn to Webb Garrison's Civil War Schemes and Plots. On page 176:

Kennedt or Longuemare or both had earlier made contact with a Confederate chemist who had fled to New York. The paid him an undisclosed sum to generate 144 four ounce bottles of a substance popularly known as Greek fire. Two of its active ingredients, phosphorus and hydrogen sulfide, caused it to flare at the touch of a lighted candle and burn with intense heat.

During the evening of November 24 and the morning of November 25, his handiwork was parceled out among the conspirators. Most of them received eighteen bottles, but since Kennedy's assignments also included the museum, he may have taken some that Ashbrook and Martin expected to receive.

Each participant then returned to the room he ha booked in each hotel, splashed Greek fire on the bed and furniture, and when the flames began to dart upward, dashed out locking the door behind him. Although Greek fire was known to be unreliable, 144 bottles of the compound could have turned the heart of the city into a raging inferno. As it was, the only hotel destroyed was the Saint Nicholas. At the Astor, the Metropolitan, and the Belmont, damage was confined to a few rooms or a single floor. Flames did not level the crowded Barnum's Museum, but they created pandemonium when the elephants, lions, and tigers took fright upon smelling the smoke.


Ok, so we have more of an ingredients list here. But we also have a bit of confussion in that Garrison says that it required the touch of a lighted candle to set it off. Does this mean a wick as Markle's Molotov Cocktail comment would suggest or does it merely mean the heat from a candle flame was enough to do it? It may be more the latter as he goes on to say that the agents splashed Greek fire on furniture and then left the rooms as soon as the flames began to rise up. This would seem to suggest no need for a wick and would fit with Headley's description of contact with the air. BUT he never says they didn't throw a lit candle into the middle of the Greek fire to set it off.

Whatever the case in how the Greek fire ignited, Copper's use of Greek Fire is not weird.


Now by and large I was more hitting on the use of Greek fire in the NYC plot that appearently appears in Copper (never seen it myself but looking things up online I can see it is set in NYC at least in part during the war) which the original poster called "unforgiveable" and a weird idea. But of course all my quotes make it look like it was strictly a Confederate weapon and one not really considered by Federals at any level. However Webb Garrison's Civil War Stories reveals that this wasn't the case. On page 146:

Lincoln, who frequently prodded his commanders to try innovations, was intrigued by an incendiary chemical called "Greek Fire." He put his life at risk by watching two 13-inch shells that were charged with it spew fire over a circular area about fifty feet in diameter. At his insistence, a few of these shells wre used experimentally by Federal forces.

Confederates denounced this early form of chemical warfare as "inhuman." Yet when they sent teams of arsonists into New York City in a plot to burn it's major buildings, Greek Fire was used to start the blazes. The expedition ended in failure because the chemicals didn't ignite properly.


It's interesting to see that the Federal army was using Greek Fire, most likely to shell Confederate cities. I'm going to look at other sources for more in this subject. Already know I can get a little out of the Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion that I want to bring up later (for one example of the hit's on the subject read this page from Series I Volume 3 http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=Greek%20Fire;rgn=full%20text;idno=ofre0003;didno=ofre0003;view=image;seq=0524)



 Posted: Fri Jul 26th, 2013 04:57 pm
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Hellcat
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Ok, the full letter of the link I posted last night reads (as it appears on pages 495 to 496:

Letter from the Acting Secretary of State to the Secretary of the Navy. transmitting extract regarding mock sale of the steamer Georgian.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, April 17, 1865.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit herewith for your information an extract from consular dispatch No. 21, from the U.S. consul at Toronto, relative to movements and designs of rebel desperadoes and pirates temporarily residing in Canada, and beg respectfully to invite your careful attention to the consideration of the information therein communicated.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

W. Hunter,
Acting Secretary.

Hon. Gideon Welles
Secretary of the Navy.

[Enclosure.--Extract.]

U.S. CONSULATE
Toronto April 7, 1865.

SIR: * * * The sale of the steamer Georgian,which was transferred to G. T. Denison, the account of which I communicated to the Department in dispatch No. 5, was a mock sale; that the money for the purpose was furnished, in the first place, by Colonel Thompson, but that some difficulty occurring between Dr. Bates (the purchaser) and Thompson, the boat was taken out of Bates's hands and transferred to this G. T. Denison. The boat was now lying at Collingwood [Ontario], and being altered for the purpose, as it was said, of carrying more freight, and that a new mast was being put in her. She was intended to sail among the fishing vessels of the United States to attack and destroy them. Many parties had left Toronto and gone up to Collingwood and its vicinity who designed to ship as a crew; that the ostensible owner (Denison) was to go in the boat at the time she was to leave for the fishing banks, and was to be set ashore by the crew, so that in the event the boat should be taken by the United States he might claim her back as having been forcibly taken out of his possession. Larry McDonald was to sail in her, but whether to command he or not he could not say.

The boat was to sail within ten or fifteen days, but her first trip would be to Owen Sound [Ontario] and other places, for freight.

* * * * * *

Enclosed I transmit a copy of a letter from Mr. Bennett Burley to Dr. Bates, the purchaser of the steamer Georgian, referring in distinct terms to the manufacture of torpedoes and Greek fie. A copy of this letter I have sent to Mr. Russell, U. S. district attorney, Detroit. The original is in possession of Mr. Harrison. It was given to Mr. Harrison by Hyarns. I have just seen Mr. Spence, and he informs me that he seized the steamer Georgian yesterday. Copy of letter enclosed from on steamer Georgian.

With great respect, I am, your obedient servant,

D. THURSTON
U. S. Consul.

Hon. WM. H. Seward
Secretary of State, Washington

[Subenclosure]

GUELPH [ONTARIO, CANADA],
October 17, 1864.

MY DEAR SIR: Everything is going ahead finely, and I anticipate having the things finished early, perhaps this week; anyhow I the fore part of next. Probably I will be in Toronto on Wednesday. Be about, so that I can run you off down here; and I presume you will like this place. Has Colonel T. [Thompson] been able to procure the article? What about the G. F. [Greek fire]? I forgot to ask you if the composition does not require some time to saturate before it can be used. Inform. Please also send me a dozen of the finest waterproof caps along of Mr. McDonald's parcel. They are for the troops. Mr. M will likely acquaint you that an alteration has been made in the Gren [sic] form. I will show you a pattern when we meet.

Sincerely yours,

BENNETT BURLEY

DR. S. B. [JAMES T.] BATES,
Toronto.
Address just Adam Robertson, founder, Guelph.


The sub-enclosure I find interesting in relation to the NYC plot. Of course there is nothing to say the Greek fire was in anyway intended for the Confederate agents in NYC, it could have easily been intended for use elsewhere, perhaps the supposed intended attack of the Georgian against the fishing fleet. But the date does give time to suggest it might have had something to do with the agents in NYC.



 Posted: Fri Jul 26th, 2013 08:33 pm
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Ok, looking further in Series I Volume 3 of Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion I found a report from a Jacob Thompson to Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin that mentions both the Greek fire used in the NYC plot and the steamer Georgian. This time the report in question is a bit long (it runs from page 714 to 719) so I'm not going to repost the full thing. Here, however, from pages 717 and 718, is the paragraph discussing the two:

Previous to the arrival of Lieutenant-Colonel Martin and Lieutenant Headly, bringing an unsigned note from you, all the different places where our prisoners are confined---Camp Douglas, Rock Island, Camp Morton, Camp Chase, Elmira---had been thoroughly examined, and the conclusion was forced upon us that all efforts to release them without an outside cooperation would bring disaster upon the prisoners and result in no good. All projects of that sort were abandoned, except at Camp Douglas, where Captain Hines still believed he could effect their release. We yielded to his firmness, zeal, and persistence, and his plans were plausible, but treachery defeated him before his well-laid schemes were developed. Having nothing else on hand, Colonel Martin expressed a wish to organize a corps to burn New York City. He was allowed to do so, and a most daring attempt has been made to fire that city; but their reliance on the Greek fire has proved a misfortune; it can not be depended on as an agent in such work. I have no faith whatever in it, and no attempt shall hereafter be made under my general directions with any such materials. I knew nothing whatever of the raid on St. Albans [Vt.] until after it transpired. Desiring to have a boat on whose captain and crew reliance could be placed, and on board which arms could be sent to convenient points for arming such vessels as could b seized for operations on the Lakes, I aided Dr. James T. Bates, of Kentucky, an old steamboat captain, in the purchase of the steamer Georgian. She had scarcely been purchased whe the story went abroad that she had been purchased and armed for the purpose of sinking the Michigan, releasing the prisoners on Johnson's Islnd, and destroying the shipping on the Lakes and the cities on their margin. The wildest consternation prevailed in all the border cities. At Buffalo two tugs had cannon placed on board; four regiments of soldiers were sent there---two of them represented to have been drawn from the Army of Virginia; bells were rung at Detroit, and churches broken up on Sunday. The whole lake shore was a scene of wild excitement. Boats were sent out, which boarded the Georgian and found nothing contraband on board; but still the people were incredulous

Ok so I'm going to have to check Van Doren Stern's book and see if I misspelled the name, but I believe Headly and Headley are the same person. Reading this it sounds to me like the burning of NYC wasn't a backup plan but rather it was developed after it was determined the initial plan of breaking the POWs out of the prison camps was deemed unattainable (to my way of thinking a backup plan is developed before you try carrying out the main plan so that if the main plan has to be abandoned you have something to fall back on). It is interesting that Thompson says Greek fire is unreliable and would not be used in any future operations under his directions. This does jive with some of the sources I posted earlier on how dependable the substance was. Which brings up two things. First it shows how desperate things were if folks were willing to rely on something that wasn't that reliable. Second it begs the question of if it was known to be unreliable then why was anyone willing to ok it's use despite the desperate situations without trying to make it more reliable first?

The other thing about this report is that it seems to answer the sub-enclosure of the previous letter concerning Greek fire and the Georgian. From the sounds of this in connection with that, it sounds like the Greek fire was never meant for use with the Georgian but was meant for the NYC plot.



 Posted: Sat Jul 27th, 2013 01:00 am
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Continuing with the use of Greek fire. From Series I - Volume 11 of Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, pages 9 and 10 (http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=Greek%20Fire;rgn=full%20text;idno=ofre0011;didno=ofre0011;view=image;seq=0033):

Letter from A. Berney, to Rear-Admiral Porter, U. S. Navy, requesting his presence in James River to witness experiments with Greek fire.

Jersey City, N. J., October 29, 1864.

DEAR SIR: The last of next week I shall fire some 100-pound Greek fire shells, and also throw a stream of fire up at the Army of the James, per orders of General Butler, as there are many strong ironclads at Richmond, Wilmington, [N.C.], Charleston, Savannah, [Ga.], and other places yet, and I believe with the fire they could soon be destroyed. Can you go up to the army and see the fire thrown? I am satisfied that you will adopt it at once. The machine that will be used can be put on board of any monitor. An early reply will oblige.

Your obedient servant,

A. BERNEY.

Admiral Porter.


I can't find if Porter responded and observed this or not. I do wonder what the fie throw device was, possibly a flame thrower?

Looking that this it almost feels as if this is talking of the use that Garrison reported in his book as being called inhuman by the Confederates. ALMOST, as you'll see further down this post. The thing that gets me is Lincoln was supposed to two 13" shells, is that a reference to the diameter of the shell/bore of the gun firing it or the length of the shell? Because I got to questioning this I decided to look things up on Civil War Artillery to get an idea of the type of shell this might have been, which is what brought up the question of what type of reference. According to the site, specifically the heavy projectiles, a smoothbore 13" mortar shell would have been 12.8 inches in diameter while to bore on the gun firing it is 13". That makes sense to me, a shell isn't going to be exactly the same size as the bore of the gun firing it. It needs to be slightly smaller so it can fit into the barrel. At the same time the shell might have actually weighed around 208lbs, 108lbs more than the shells more than the shells Admiral Porter was being invited to observe. A bit heavy, though there may have been lighter shells for the 13" mortar. Looking at the 10" shell, 10" Columbiad, and 10" mortar I find weights of 103lbs, about 100lbs (though the description says 88lbs), and 88lbs respectively. So I could see a couple of these being the 100lbs shells Admiral Porter was invited to observe, but they don't fit the 13" shells Lincoln observed. Checking the rifled projectiles I can find some of the Parrott projectiles listed as 100 pound shells that measure around 13", hence the reason for my question of shell diameter/bore size vs. length in relation to a 13" shell. My general school of thought would be the shell diameter/bore size.

The Civil War Artillery website does offer something else on the subject of Greek fire, a glossary entry.

GREEK FIRE: Incendiary material used against fortified towns and cities. The composition was contained in tin tubes, 3-inches long, closed at one end and primed with powder and coal tar. These were placed inside a shell and fired at the target. When the shell exploded, the tin tubes were ignited and the flaming composition spilled out, setting fires. Although Greek Fire was very seldom used, reports record its use during the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, among others.

Interesting information, but it forces the question of why Mr. Berney wanted Admiral Porter to observe these experiments in November 1864 when the siege of Charleston took place in 1863. It does, however, say that Lincoln obviously observed the testing of the two 13" shells before the experiments Berney wrote of and it put's the Confederates denouncing the use of Greek fire as inhumane at least as early as 1863. But that denouncing could be even earlier than that. In a report from a Commander Lee, commander of the USS Oneida from April 26, 1862 (Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion, Series I - Volume 18, page 207 it is stated concerning the surrender of Fort St. Philip:

(It was, perhaps, the burning of the sulphur in our XI-inch shrapnel which occasioned the officers in Fort St. Philip to enquire, after the surrender, if our shells were not filled with Greek fire.)

Ok, so what does this mean concerning Greek fire as a weapon in the war? That's the real question. At first reading I was fairly certain this meant that the Federal forces must already have been using it in 1862. But as I got to thinking about it I realized there was a second possibility. That being that this could have unwittingly planted the idea in someone's head of actually using Greek fire in artillery shells. This would mean that both sides knew of Greek fire but neither had yet experimented with it. I have to lean more towards the former but until I see more I can't yet rule out the latter.



 Posted: Sat Jul 27th, 2013 06:43 pm
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The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Series 1 - Volume 28 (Part I), pages 33 - (http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=Greek%20fire;rgn=full%20text;idno=waro0046;didno=waro0046;view=image;seq=0051):

Greek fire.

160. Th composition of Short's solidified Greek fire, the only incendiary material called Greek fire which we attempted to use, I am unable to give.

Captain Mordecai reports as follows upon it :

It was furnished in tin tubes, closed at one end, about 3 inches long and 3 1/4 inches in diameter. These tubes were covered with one layer of paper, such as is commonly used for cartridges. The paper was folded down over the ends of the tube, that part covering the open end having upon it a priming powder of coal-tar.

The directions for using this fie were furnished from the manufactory, and were as follows: "As many of the cases containing the composition must be dropped into the shell, with as much powder as can possibly be shaken among them." After the failure of shell filled in this manner to give satisfactory results, Mr. Short visited Morris Island. He altered the manner of filling the shell, putting several inches of powder in before inserting the cases. He also covered some cases with several thicknesses of thick cartridge paper, and others with several layers of muslin.

Into all the shell filled by him, powder was first placed.

To the best of my knowledge, the only cases in which shell were fired containing the solidified Greek, fire are enumerated below:

(see table on page 34)

The solidified Greek fire in intensity of heat is surpassed by common port fire used in artillery.


I'm not certain as I'm having to go way back to page 3 to find a name, but I believe this is a part of General Gilmore's General Report of operations in the Charleston area. It's interesting to see a description of one way in which Geek fire was used. As well as to see that there was actually more than one compound known as Greek fire. In my first Greek fire appears to be a liquid of some kind and the book quotations show some possible ways to use it, which lead to my speculations on how it was used. But here it is specified that the only substance called Greek fire that was used in and around Charleston was a solidified substance. Makes some sense, I suppose, less fear of the substance being poured out.

Was it a solid solid or more a gelatinous solid? That is would it have been more of a chemical slurry that hardened inside the tube so if it were somehow removed from the tube it would look like a core sample of dirt, or ice, or tree ring, or something like that. Or was it more a gelatinous substance a bit like jello, something far more solid than water but still fluid enough to show a bit of jiggle to it when shaken. I'd kinda lean towards a gelatinous solid. There were other kinds of incendiary shells, what would make Greek fire shells so special if the Greek fire was a solid solid? A gelatinous solid would seem a bit more like napalm, have the shell burst and spray this burning "liquid" all over a large area. However....:

At 10.40 p. m. on of the batteries upon Cumming's Point opened with three guns upon the city, and after firing 10 shells, ceased at 11 p. m. Only two of the shells failed to explode. One, which struck in Broad street, in front of Mansion House, exploded, and a roll of combustible matter about 3 inches in length and 1 inch in diameter burned on the pavement for about two minutes with a steady white flame. This was doubtless a specimen of the much talked of Greek fire.

This is a Confederate report, from who I can't say as I wasn't too ambitious to find the name of the individual filing the report, and appears on page 178 (http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=Greek%20fire;rgn=full%20text;idno=waro0046;didno=waro0046;view=image;seq=0196)



 Posted: Sat Jul 27th, 2013 08:56 pm
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Ok, continuing from the same volume, this time page 219. This is a part the reports of the Federal artillery chief Brigadier General John Turner concerning the actions around Charleston dated September 8, 1863. At the time Turner was still a Colonel.:



This battery opened on the night of the 22d of August on Charleston, and fired some 15 rounds. Unfortunately, on the second occasion of firing the gun burst, the breach breaking just in rear of the vent, and was blown clear of the re-enforce. Some 35 shells were fired in all from it. Both incendiary shells and shells filled with Greek fire were used. he latter worked very poorly, nearly every one prematurely exploding, and it is not determined whether ay shells containing Greek fire ever reached Charleston.

Now if I'm reading the preceeding paragraphs correctly, this batter was a battery for an 8" Parrott operated by a detachment of the 11th Maine Volunteer Infantry amd located 7,900 yards from Saint Michael's Church. Two paragraphs before this one they discuss the difficulty of establishing a battery in a swamp making me wonder if this wasn't the infamous Swamp Angel. The date, size of the Parrott gun, and the unit fit for the Swamp Angel.



 Posted: Sun Jul 28th, 2013 01:30 am
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Ok, I have found the Mr. Short mentioned in the 5th post. It's a Levi Short. In Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. ; Series I - Volume 25: Naval Forces on Western Waters (May 18, 1863 - February 29, 1864) Short writes to David Dixon Porter concerning the use of solidified Greek fire. Included in his letter a enclosure from Porter to Henry Augustus Wise, then Acting Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance (his full title at this time was Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, http://books.google.com/books?id=ExYaAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA142&dq=henry+augustus+wise#v=onepage&q=henry%20augustus%20wise&f=false, he became the chief of the bureau in 1864).From pages 517 and 518:

Letter from Levi E. Short to Rear-Admiral Porter, U. S. Navy, regarding Greek fire.

PHILADELPHIA, October 26, 1863

DEAR SIR: Allow me to return you my thank for your report upon the small quantity of Greek fire which the Ordnance Bureau directed me to ship you a larger amount, but Commander H. A. Wise said to me a few days since they would have any order filled that you might send your requisition for.

I should be pleased to send you any amount you may think you will require, with promptness. Since your trial of Greek fire on Vicksburg it has gained considerable notoriety at Charleston and I have received an order [for[ 400 gross for the Department of the South, and it is being put on board o gunboats that are now leaving the navy yards, so I think [the] Government is fully satisfied of its utility.

I am, your obedient servant,

LEVI E. SHORT

Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter.

[Enclosure---Circular.]

Solidified Greek fire.---Rear-Admiral D. D. Porter's official report.

U. S. MISSISSIPPI SQUADRON,
Flagship Black Hawk, off Vicksburg, July 13, 1863.

SIR: I have had but little opportunity to try Mr. Short's Greek fire, but what I have seem of it proves its excellence. I only had a small quantity, and used it against Vicksburg, setting the town on fire in three places in one night, burning up a considerable quantity of stores, and the houses burned to the ground. I see no reason why it should not burn up a ship instantly; the fire I very intense. It is perfectly safe, put up in shell or tin cases, and I recommend it to be sent on shipboard in shells filled with it and powder together. When the shells burst in the air, large flakes of fire descend, and, falling on the houses, must set them on fire. I set fire to some pieces of the composition and then covered it up with wet sand, but it burned to the end without being injured.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

DAVID D. PORTER,
Acting Rear-Admiral, Commanding Mississippi Squadron.

Commander Henry A. Wise,
Acting Chief of Bureau of Ordnance.

Directions for using Greek fire in shells of any size.


First put into the shell about the quarter of the bursting charge, then drop on top of the powder as many of the Greek-fire cases as will easily slide down the inside of the shell; when full, fill up with powder as long as you can jar it down with a mallet, then screw in the fuze, plug with white lead, and oil and fix the fuze firmly to it's place, and your shell will be sure to fill its mission.

LEVI E. SHORT,
Patentee and Proprietor.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.


Ok so in the 5th post we have what I said I believe to be a part of the General Reports of General Gilmore which discusses how solidified Greek fire was supposed to be used. I did question what solidified Greek fire was and stated I though it would probably be more useful as a gelatinous solid rather than as a solid solid. But I also posted a Confederate report that confirmed a solid solid as the person reporting on the Greek fire states it's a roll of combustible material 3" long by 1" in diameter. Porter's report here further seems to emphasize the solid solid nature of solidified Greek fire and gives a description of how it worked in shells not seen in the 5th post. That of an air burst which released "large flakes of fire." We also have two Confederate cities where Greek fire was used as a part of the Federal war effort, Charleston and Vicksburg.

Porter gives us something that seems to fit description I've read that claim the Greek fire of antiquity could burn on the water and nothing could put it out. Porter says he tested this solidified Greek fire by setting fire to some of it then covering it with wet sand. But it appears as if it continued to burn despite being covered in wet sand.



 Posted: Mon Jul 29th, 2013 05:50 am
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Yup, it's me again. Had been hoping when I started this that I wouldn't be the only one posting in it. At lest now I can hope folks are finding some of what I have posted interesting. Not my theories, that is, but the quotes, particularly those from the official records. I don't know, I mean right now this is kinda fascinating me, as is probably clear from my being the one to keep posting. I mean typically what kinds of weapons do most people think about when they think about the war? Greek fire seems to be a more unusual weapon, something that many may not even put much thought towards. And so far my posts have largely been to confirm it's use as I'm still looking through trying to find more of what exactly it was. And so far I've posted some material that seems to suggest there were at least two types of Greek fire used, a liquid type as Headley described it in my first post and a solid type that Federal forces were placing in artillery shells. Garrison's Schemes and Plots does give us two of the active ingredients in what was used in the NYC plot, as was posted in the first post, which jives with what Kennedy said about emptying a bottle of phosphorus on the floor at Barnum's museum. But it's still not entirely what was Greek fire. I'm not expecting a huge list of ingredients, but wouldn't phosphorus be a solid and hydrogen sulfide a gas. I mean why did Headley describe the mixture as looking like water, what else was there to it? And what was solidified Greek fire, was it a horse of a different color altogether from what was used in the NYC plot or was it also dependent on phosphorus and hydrogen sulfide while having other ingredients that leaned more towards a solid than a liquid? Also were these the only types of Greek fire used in the war or were there other types?

Anyway, on to my next post. Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. ; Series II - Volume 1: Statistical Data of Union and Confederate Ships; Muster Roles of Confederate Government Vessels; Letters of Marque and Reprisals; Confederate Department Investigations, pages 521and 522. This appears to be notes of a Confederate investigation of the Navy Department. I'm not exactly sure who the committee members were, I'll get to that after the quotation. This is from September 19, 1862 questioning a Lt. Beverly Kennon:

FRIDAY, September 19, 1862

The committee met at half past 9 o'clock.

Present: Messrs. Clay (chairman), Lyons, Maxwell, Foote, Boyce, Semmes, Peyton, and Barksdale.

Lieutenant BEVERLEY KENNON was called and sworn.

Mr. SEMMES. You were a lieutenant in the Navy?

Lieutenant KENNON. Yes, sir.

Mr. SEMMES. When were you assigned to New Orleans

Lieutenant KENNON. On the 25th of July, 1861.

Mr. SEMMES. What was the duty to which you were assigned?

Lieutenant KENNON. A week after I arrived there, I was assigned to the ordnance department; that was about the 1st of August.

Mr. SEMMES. What was the condition of things with regard to the ordnance at the time you arrived there, and what did you undertake to do?

Lieutenant KENNON. There was nothing there in the way of ordnance. There was no preparation made for the making or manufacturing of anything to my knowledge.

Mr. SEMMES. What did you undertake to do?

Lieutenant KENNON. I undertook to fit out the ordnance, and I did it. There was note a cartridge bag furnished to the McRae. I commenced by making cartridge bags for her, and from that time I found I had everything to do. I commenced with light ordnance. I had to make the models for all the sabots, shell and shell shot, and, in fact, everything that is used in a navy ordnance. I also had shells made for muskets and Mississippi rifles, as well as hand grenades, filled with guncotton and Greek fire. I had also made what are termed liquid shells for rifles and other guns. These I invented myself, together with the rockets. These things they stopped me from making on account of the expense of getting them up. I don't know that any of the muskets shells were made after I left New Orleans. I know that some of the hand grenades, some of the liquid shells, and the primers which I made there were furnished to the Army. I furnished thousands of munitions of different kinds to the Arm. Different kinds of shells which I ordered to be made were also furnished them. These were shells that I was subsequently prevented from making. I found when I afterwards returned to New Orleans that only the 13-inch shells they had were those made by me in August and used at Fort Jackson. I had no assistance at that time and, of course, that made the duty doubly onerous upon me. Everything being scattered throughout the city, I was compelled to move constantly about to different points to see that all was going on well. Sometimes officers would come from the lake for supplies and sometimes from the river, and I had to attend to all. The Government, however, ordered me away, because of the heavy expenditures I had incurred. I was ordered to a subordinate capacity---that of second lieutenant---when my juniors were left in command of other ships---men who were not even lieutenants, and that because I had taken on my own shoulders the responsibility to spend all this money in New Orleans. I knew if I allowed myself to be tied down by the rules of the office, I never would have done anything. I told the commodore, if he authorized me, I would take the responsibility of doing what I thought was necessary; and I did it. For this the Secretary condemned me. When I returned to New Orleans some four months after I left they cast just one gun of the number that I had ordered some six months previous. One was cast there, and then all stopped. The Government became displeased because I purchased block tin at 25 cents that was afterwards sold at about $5. I also bought flannel at from 30 to 40 cents a yard that was afterwards at from $2 to $2.50. I got zinc at about 20 cents for making powder tanks. This zinc went up afterwards to 68 and 87 cents. I mentioned these things to let you see my reason for purchasing so many articles at that time. At first, when I made the contract for guns the hire of laborers was very much less than it was afterwards. I had guns made then for 11 cents a pound. The Government had subsequently to pay 13 cents. he first contract was made in August, soon after I went to New Orleans.


Ok, first on the committee. Mr. Semmes had interested me when I first saw the name. My first thought was possibly Ralph Semmes, but the dates don't fit. CSS Alabama was somewhere near the Azores September 19, 1862. He's probably Thomas Jenkins Semmes, Louisiana Senator in Confederate Congress. In fact this reads like a Congressional committee hearing so that probably means Lyons is Virginia Representative James Lyons, Clay is Alabama Senator Clement Claiborne Clay, Maxwell is Florida Senator Augustus Emmet Maxwell, Foote is Tennessee Representative Henry Stuart Foote, Boyce is South Carolina Representative William Waters Boyce, Barksdale is Mississippi Representative Ethelbert Barksdale, and Peyton is Missouri Senator Robert Ludwell Yates Peyton. Lt. Kennon is the Lt. Beverly Kennon who served as the commander of the CSS Governor Moore. If you continue reading the investigation he admits to being placed in command of the Governor Moore on page 524

Of interest here concerning the Greek fire is that Kennon discusses making grenades filled with guncotton and Greek Fire. In 1861. So far we've seen Confederate agents using bottles of it in the NYC plot and Federal forces using shells filled with it at Vicksburg and Charleston. We don't know what the Confederate agents used in St Louis, likely also bottles of the substance. But this is the first mention of it being used in hand grenades. And it shows that someone was attending on producing it for the Confederate military. Though based on the testimony it would seem to suggest these hand grenades might never have been produced. What we don't see is the type of Greek fire. Even so, it is interesting that as early as 1861 at least one side had someone who was already attending it to be used in fighting the war effort even if it maybe never made it to the field in this form.



 Posted: Mon Jul 29th, 2013 02:46 pm
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  Thomas Jenkins Semmes was a prominent lawyer. He was a member of the Lousiana Legislature before the war. He was also the state Attorney General before and during the war. (1860-1864). He was a delegate to the Secession Convention and later a member of the CSA Senate. (1862-1865). When federal troops under General Benjamin Butler arrived to occupy New Orleans in 1862, they commandeered his home there.

Thomas Jenkins Semmes (1824 - 1899) - Find A Grave Memorial

 

DEATH LIST OF A DAY. - View Article - NYTimes.com    His obit can be found 3/4 of the way down the page on the left side.

  Thomas Jenkins Semmes was also a cousin of Admiral Raphael Semmes.


  The future Admiral Semmes was orphaned at the age of ten and taken in by his uncle, also named Raphael Semmes (1786-1846), who was the father of Thomas Jenkins Semmes.

1862raphaelsemmes   This narrative contains some inaccuracies. For example, Admiral Semmes was promoted to Rear Admiral in the CSN, but not Vice Admiral.
 

 


Last edited on Mon Jul 29th, 2013 04:12 pm by Texas Defender



 Posted: Mon Jul 29th, 2013 07:09 pm
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Interesting. Before I found Senator Semmes I was thinking the other possibility to Semmes was his cousin General Paul Jones Semmes. Turns out I went with a cousin anyway.



 Posted: Mon Jul 29th, 2013 08:53 pm
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Hellcat-

  Admiral Semmes had a number of interesting cousins, but not all served the CSA. One prominent naval officer served ably on the Union side during the war, and had a long and distinguished career in the U.S. Navy before dying while on active duty in 1885.

Alexander Alderman Semmes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia



 Posted: Tue Jul 30th, 2013 10:19 pm
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But there was a reason I didn't consider him. The report appears to be a part of a Confederate investigation into the Confederate Navy Department. Why would the Confederates bring a Federal naval officer into an investigation as a part of the committee conducting said investigation?



 Posted: Tue Jul 30th, 2013 10:46 pm
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Hellcat-

  I wasn't trying to link Alexander A. Semmes to the previous information on the thread. I was simply illustrating that the Semmes family, like so many other families, had prominent participants on both sides in the war.



 Posted: Mon Aug 5th, 2013 06:03 am
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Ok, ended up finding Greek Fire in a source I wasn't considering before. Pulled out Clint Johnson's Civil War Blunders last night because I wanted to look up what he said about General Stone and Colonel Baker at Ball's Bluff and as I was flipping through the book like an idiot (I didn't bother going to the table of contents to get the right page so I was flipping backwards) I came across a chapter titled Double-Barreled Cannons and Greek Fire: The Bad-Weapons Follies. Obviously with my recent predilection to the use of Greek fire during the war this chapter caught my eye. Pages 52 and 53, here is what Johnson has to say on the subject

All good ideas do not work as expected. Take "Greek fire," an incendiary substance made by mixing phosphorous with bisulfide of carbon, an extremely unstable combination. During the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1863, the Federals tried filling artillery shells containing Greek fire. They hoped the shells would explode once they struck a house, church, or store. The cannon they first experimented with was "the Swamp Angel," a giant Parrott rifle with an eight-inch bore that fired two-hundred-pound shells.

The Federals set up the cannon in a swamp on James Island several mils from downtown Charleston, an engineering feat in itself considering the swamp's mud. The Swamp Angel blew upon the thirty-sixth round when Greek fire inside the shell exploded as the powder charge for the shell ignited. Avery expensive cannon that had taken weeks to place was ruined thanks to experimentation with an unstable substance.

The Confederates did not have much better luck with Greek fire. On November 24, 1864, eight Confederate spies journeyed to New York City with a supply of the stuff. Their plan was to set fire to the entire city by igniting the Greek fire at their hotels and selected other sites such as P. T. Barnum's museum.

The Greek fire ignited just fine, but the eight men had apparently never taken a chemistry course. They did not know that fires need oxygen to burn and spread. Concerned with the chilly temperatures in New York that November, they did not open their hotel-room windows on the night of the plot. Their fires burned so slowly that other guests were able to put them out before the hotels caught. Only the Barnum museum burned, and no one was harmed in the fire.

Had the Confederates studied how to use their weapon, they might have create the worst fire in American history.


Ok, so in the sixth post I questioned if the cannon was the Swamp Angel, this seems to confirm that. Johnson also adds a third element to the list of the Greek fire cocktail. Bisulfide of carbon. Could this be another name for carbon disulfide? If so, then this would explain why Headley's description said the Greek fire looked like water as carbon disulfide is a colorless liquid.

However, there are some contradictions with other sources. Namely Garrison's Civil War Schemes and Plots. According to that source the Saint Nicholas hotel was destroyed by fire and the fires in the Astor, the Metropolitan, and the Belmont were either contained to a single room or to a floor. Of course on these last three their not an entire hotel catching fire and Johnson probably meant the entire hotel catching fire. But the one source claims it was destroyed by fire on the night of the plot and the other says no hotel caught.



 Posted: Mon Aug 5th, 2013 04:27 pm
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Ok, here's a website supporting what Johnson said about hotels catching. But it states that Tammany Hall and some lumber yards were torched.

But then there's the Harper's Weekly article on the plot:

THE PLOT TO BURN NEW YORK.

On the night of November 25 a band of conspirators, under rebel auspices, attempted to execute their long cherished plot to lay New York City in ashes. It was the intention of the conspirators to set fire to all the principal hotels, and to kindle a long line of fires that should insure the utter destruction of Broadway, while at the same time portions of the city remote from each other should each become a centre of distracting alarms. If the plot had succeeded nothing could have saved the city from utter destruction. The fires were kindled by leaving quantities of phosphorus where it would become exposed to the air in the rooms of the hotels, and the furniture of the rooms was so arranged as to help on the incipient conflagration. More than a dozen hotels were fired in this manner, and an attempt was also made to ignite Barnum's Museum. Among the hotels were the Astor, St. Nicholas, Fifth Avenue, Lafarge, St. James, Metropolitan, Howard, United States, Lovejoy's, Tammany, Belmont, Hanford, and others. Only a temporary and trifling injury was accomplished, owing to the well ordered action of the police. General Dix, on the 26th, issued orders to the effect that the culprits, upon their conviction, should be executed without a day's delay, and that all persons from insurgent States not registering their names at the Provost Marshal's office should be regarded and treated as spies.


What I find interesting here is that it lists a Tammany hotel. I'm not sure Tammany Hall, the building and not the organization housed in it, was ever a hotel. According to the Wikipedia article:

Tammany Hall merged politics and entertainment, already stylistically similar, in its new headquarters ... The Tammany Society kept only one room for itself, renting the rest to entertainment impresarios: Don Bryant's Minstrels,a German theater company, classical concerts and opera. The basement – in the French mode – offered the Café Ausant, where one could see tableux vivant, gymnastic exhibitions, pantomimes, and Punch and Judy shows. There was also a bar, a bazaar, a Ladies' Cafe, and an oyster saloon. All this – with the exception of Bryant's – was open from seven till midnight for a combination price of fifty cents.[

Given as this appears to be a direct quote from the Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace book Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 there might be more on what Tammany Hall, again the building and not the organization, was. But from this it looks like the building served as an entertainment center and social gathering spot without a hotel being a part of it. But if Tammany Hall did not include a hotel and was what was set fire to then why did the Harper's Weekly say Tammany in a list of hotels?



 Posted: Sun Feb 2nd, 2014 05:09 am
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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.



 Posted: Wed Feb 5th, 2014 05:13 am
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Ok, I had to do a lot of backtracking on this one to learn the who and when. So this is from a War Department, Bureau of Military Justice report dated October 8, 1864 from Judge Advocate General Brigadier General Joseph Holt to Secretary Stanton. It's from The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 2 - Volume 7. You can read the full report if you want, it runs from page 930 to 953, though the following is from pages 948-949 (http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=moawar;cc=moawar;q1=greek%20fire;rgn=full%20text;idno=waro0120;didno=waro0120;view=image;seq=0960). What I've seen of the report seems to be concerned with the activities of groups like the Knights of the Golden Circle and the Order of American Knights (were these one and the same?).

Eight. Destruction of Government property. There is no doubt that large quantities of Government property have been burned or otherwise destroyed by the agency of the order in different localities. At Louisville, in the case of the steamer Taylor, and on the Mississippi River steamers belonging to the United States have been burned at the wharves, and generally when loaded with Government stores. Shortly before the arrest of Bowles, the senior of the major-generals of the order in Indiana, he had been engaged in the preparation of "Greek fire," which it was supposed would be found serviceable in the destruction of public property. It was generally understood that the councils of the order in the State of Kentucky that they were to be compensated for such destruction by the rebel Government, by receiving a commission of 10 per cent. of the value of the property so destroyed, and that the value was to be derived from the estimates of the loss made in each case by Northern newspapers.

Greek fire as a terror weapon during the war, big shocker. And yes that was suppose to be sarcasm. This ties a man named Bowles to an organization that sympathized with the Southern cause and to the creation of Greek fire. But does it tie Greek fire to the destruction of steamers on the Mississippi? This only says that federal property was burned or otherwise destroyed, it doesn't say for certain that was through Greek fire.

It does raise a question. If the Confederate government were to compensate for property destruction in Kentucky, did anyone within the government have any kind of foreknowledge as to how that destruction was going to be carried out? The claim says that they were to base the compensation on newspaper reports, which would say that they would have had after knowledge of the destruction, though maybe not of the means through which the destruction was carried out. But if someone within the government had foreknowledge of how the destruction was going to be carried out that could have a number of potential meanings that I can see. First they knew but didn't not necessarily agree with the means of the destruction but weren't going to stop it. Second, they knew and may have approved of the actions of such sympathizers. Third, although the report appears to be pointing to Southern sympathizers, those actually carrying out such acts of destruction were Southern agents acting in Northern controlled territories and were either working in conjunction with such groups or were using them as a cover to perhaps keep thinks from being directly linked back to the Confederate government. My personal belief is that none of these were true and that either the Confederacy merely offered compensation but had no knowledge of how the destruction was going to be carried out or the "councils of the order" were operating on a false belief that the Confederate government was going to compensate for any destruction their organization caused. A false belief not caused by the Confederate government itself but by speculation within the organization itself.



 Posted: Sat May 31st, 2014 03:08 am
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Ok, last night I discovered I'd saved an article that appeared online in 2012 from America's Civil War magazine entitled A vast rebel conspiracy on the Great Lakes by Andrew Hind. The article is bout the steamer Georgian. I got to thinking about it today saying that the name sounded familiar to me and wondering why I was associating it with Greek Fire. Mind you I only skimmed the articles first few paragraphs to see what I'd saved so I didn't get why it was familiar or my associating the name with Greek fire until I checked this thread. If we go back to the 2nd and 3rd posts we can find why those two happened. Realizing I'd come across the name and connection in Series I Volume 3 of Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion I had to search the article for any mention of Greek Fire. A what I found was:

Bates wasn't the only one busying himself. William Lawrence McDonald, a notorious Rebel agent who had been involved in an attempt to burn New York City to the ground in November 1864, arrived in Toronto to assist in the machinations. Here, in a makeshift arms factory in the basement of his Agnes Street home, he manufactured "torpedoes [as mines were known at the time], hand-shells [hand grenades], Greek Fire, and other explosive missiles." He also had molds for casing bullets. McDonald told compatriots that he envisioned raids upon Great Lakes shipping and even Detroit. He also was heard to say that he believed the Georgian would be "a mighty fine thing for a blockade runner," perhaps anticipating taking the fight beyond the Great Lakes and into the Atlantic.

Ok, so we have the name of another agent involved in the NYC plot according to Mr. Hind. William Lawrence McDonald. Now is Mr. McDonald the same as the Larry McDonald who was to have sailed aboard the Georgian according to the second post? Possible. Larry is a shortened form of Lawrence. In the next paragraph Mr. Hind does place Godfrey J. Hyams as being a confidant of a Lawrence McDonald. Hyams is listed in the 1st post as a double agent. So could Larry McDonald have been Lawrence McDonald instead of William L. McDonald? Plausible that there were two men with very similar names operating in Canada for the Confederacy, but I'm thinking they were the same guy. So this links him directly to the NYC plot rather than leaving open the possibility that all McDonald did was to just supply waterproof caps without knowing how they were to be used.

More interesting is that McDonald had a makeshift arms plant in Toronto where he manufactured, among other things, Greek Fire. But was this where the Greek fire used in the NYC plot came from? Headley discusses picking it up the night before in NYC. So was it smuggled in by another agent?

Edit: Ok, I had to get out Van Doren Stern's book to see what Hedley said about picking up the Greek Fire. But it's not from Headley that I find anything on the origin of the Greek Fire used the plot. Headley sates he picked up the leather valise carrying he Greek Fire from an old man with a long beard in a basement on the west side of Washington Place. Nothing on if the old man was just another agent who smuggled it into the country from Canada or the maker, or what he was. Looking back over the first post I said pretty much this already.

But Van Doren Stern, in his intro to the story/chapter, does state that Headley was sent by Captain Longmire (Longuemare) to a local chemist to get the Greek Fire. So it looks like McDonald may not have manufactured the Greek Fire used in the plot. HOWEVER, this also does not mean that he didn't as it is possible that it was shipped to the chemist from Canada to give to the agents. Van Doren Stern only states Headley was supposed to pick up the Greek Fire from this unnamed chemist, not that he was the one who made it. But most likely he was.

Last edited on Sat May 31st, 2014 06:32 am by Hellcat



 Posted: Sun Aug 3rd, 2014 10:57 am
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A GREAT job, Hellcat.  Very interesting!

While working with making asbestos safe and confined, during the study's of this rock fiber,
was the discussion of how it was woven into cloth, and used as fireballs by the Greeks
against enemy war ships like a sling shot.
I would say that was where the name come from. 
Keep up the good work.  A Fantastic thread and and very educational!!   



 Posted: Tue Aug 19th, 2014 07:51 pm
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Great job or obsessive? Think I'm a little obsessive on the subject. If I did an article I don't think this would be obsessive but most of my posts are quoting uses of Greek Fire from The War of the Rebellion and The Offical Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion.



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