Berkeley County Museum & Heritage Center
These two doctors' buggies greet
visitors when they enter the museum.
Berkeley County Museum & Heritage Center
Little David Torpedo
Little David Replica
     Located on the grounds of the Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, the Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center opened in 1992 and is so jam-packed with displays and information that covering everything in it would involve writing a rather long book. Fortunately my travel logs are just a highlight of what I found with the goal of prompting others to visit. If you happen to be in Charleston to the south of here like I was, it’s well worth the fifty minute or so drive to get here.
   The museum is housed in a colonial-style Low County house (whatever that is) of the sort found in this area. As my traveling companions and I approached, we saw setting outside some sort of boat of a type I couldn’t readily identify. At first I thought it was a submarine, perhaps one that was contemporary with the famous CSS Hunley. The vessel in question turned out not to be a true submersible but rather something quite unique. She sailed low the sea, her deck about a foot above the water. And unlike the Hunley, she was steam-powered. Protruding from her bow was a long spar tipped with a torpedo.
   This particular boat was christened the David and built at Moncks Corners. She was constructed to sink ships blockading Charleston Harbor to the south. Her first target was the iron-clad Union vessel New Ironsides. On the evening of October 5, 1863, the David, under the command of Lieutenant W.T. Glassell, steamed towards her goal. The David’s crew consisted of three volunteers: assistant Engineer James H. Toombs, who tended to the machinery and attached the torpedo, Walker Cannon, the pilot, and James Sullivan, the fireman. Around nine that night the David struck, hitting the New Ironsides under her waterline on her starboard quarter near the stern. The explosion caused a fountain of water to erupt from the sea that swamped the David, putting her boiler fire out and incapacitating her engine.
   Unable to navigate, she drifted under New Ironsides’ bow. Taking small arms fire from the New Ironside’s crew and certain the David would sink, all but Cannon abandoned ship. Sullivan and Glassell were ultimately captured. Toombs returned to the vessel and effected repairs, allowing he and Cannon to sail back to Charleston. The David made two more known attacks before she disappeared in the mists of history. The New Ironsides suffered so much damage she retired to a Philadelphia drydock and was ultimately burned. The David one sees outside the museum is a replica that, according to a plaque, “was originally constructed as an historical exhibit in 1970 by students and staff at Trident Technical College in North Charleston in preparation for South Carolina’s tricentennial observance.” (An excellent and more detailed history of the original David can be found here.)