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A brief sketch of the work of Matthew Fontaine Mau

A Brief Sketch of the Work



During the War 1861-1865










When I took charge of the Georgia Room, in the Confederate Museum, in Richmond, Virginia in 1897, I found among the De Renne collection an engraving of the pleasant, intellectual face of Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury, so I went to his son, Colonel Richard L. Maury, who had been with his father in all his work here, and urged him to write the history of it, while memory, papers and books could be referred to; this carefully written, accurate paper was the result.

At one time, when Commodore Maury was very sick, he asked one of his daughters to get the Bible and read to him. She chose Psalm 8, the eighth verse of which speaks of "whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea," he repeated "the paths of the sea, the paths of the sea, if God says the paths of the sea, they are there, and if I ever get out of this bed I will find them."

He did begin his deep sea soundings as soon as he was strong enough, and found that two ridges extended from the New York coast to England, so he made charts for ships to sail over one path to England and return over the other.

The proceeds from the sale of this little pamphlet will be used as the beginning of a fund for the erection of a monument to Commodore Maury in Richmond.



Torpedoes as effective weapons in actual war were first utilized by the Confederate navy, and Captain Matthew F. Maury introduced them into that service, and continually improved and perfected their use until they had become the mighty engine of modern warfare and revolutionized the art of coast and harbour defense. He, it was, who in 1861 mined James River, who, in person commanded the first attack with torpedoes upon the Federal fleet in Hampton Roads, and it was the development and improvement of this plan of defense which held the enemy's ships throughout the South at bay, and caused the loss of fifty-eight of the ships, and the Secretary of the United States Navy to report to Congress in 1865 that the Confederates had destroyed with their torpedoes more vessels than were lost from all other causes combined. Their use was soon extended from James River to the other Southern waters by eleven young naval officers, active and alert, who planted, directed and exploded torpedoes wherever there occurred favorable opportunity, and with a daring and coolness never surpassed; officers whose ability was abundantly shown by the remarkable inertness of the United States Navy after they had left that service in response to the call of their States to come and help protect their invasion.

Hardly had Captain Maury arrived in Richmond than his active mind was directed to the problem of protecting the Southern coasts. The South had not a single vessel of war, and but scanty means of making, equipping or manning one; the North had all the old navy fully armed and equipped, with unlimited means for making more.

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