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At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 65,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

West, Lewis H. (b. 1829) to R. West

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03836.59 Author/Creator: West, Lewis H. (b. 1829) Place Written: Aboard USS "New Ironsides" off Morris Island, South Carolina Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 8 October 1863 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Says he sailed on the USS "Paul Jones" and arrived in Charleston 4 days later. Was then sent to the USS "New Ironsides" for duty. Was about to be reassigned to a monitor when an unexpected torpedo attack from the torpedo boat CSS "David" wounded an officer on the ship. He describes the attack in detail. West spoke to a captured seamen, probably James Sullivan, from the "David" who said "she was a small steamer on the same principle as Winan's cigar ship, with an outrigger to her bows carrying the torpedo. She was so constructed as to be almost entirely under water, excepting a very low smokestack." The torpedo's explosion shot water up into the "David" and put out the engine's fire. Several members of the crew swam away from the stalled ship as it was raked with small arms fire. Says he will be kept on the "New Ironsides" to replace the injured officer.


Historical Era: Civil War and Reconstruction, 1861-1877

Keywords/Subjects: Civil War, Military History, Navy, Union Forces, Union Soldier's Letter, Soldier's Letter, Ironclad, Confederate States of America, Injury or Wound, Weaponry, Prisoner of War

Sub Era: The American Civil War