Submarine Torpedo Boat "Holland"
New York Yacht Club Basin, Brooklyn. 
November 14, 1898. 


1.  On June 27th last, I had the honor to receive from the
Navy Department the letter dated June 25th, 1898, of which a copy
is appended.

2.  The duty thus assigned to me, I began June 28th by open-
ing communication with the Holland Torpedo Boat Company.

On June 29 that Company placed this vessel and its crew com-
pletely at my disposition, and I made a complete examination of
everything, putting all machinery in motion for the purpose.

I found the vessel complete in all but one detail, to wit, a
defective breech plug to the pneumatic gun, which, I was informed
was being replaced as rapidly as possible.

Pending this, I returned to my regular duty, but in addition I
commenced making frequent visits to the vessel, so as to more fully
prepare myself for the coming trial.

3.  On July 19th, 1898, I witnessed a trial of the vessel in
New York Bay, of which I made due report, under date of July 19,
1898, a copy of which is appended, so as to make part of this re-

4.  After this trial I was present at a number of trials, at
which were also present and participating quite a number of Naval
Officers, and others, more particularly Lieut. Commander W. W.
Kimball, U. S. N., Commanding Torpedo Boat Flotilla, besides other
trials at which there was no other witness then myself. Upon one
of these trials, the vessel went down and was submerged in 28 feet
of water, and I took occasions to notice that her skin and frame
work were abundantly strong, there being not the slightest sign of
distress in any part of her material.

Of these trials I made no report, because being of a prelimin-
ary nature they did not add to the information possessed by the

5.  On November 12th, 1898, I witnessed an official trial of
the vessel, made before a board of Naval officers, composed as

Captain Rodgers, U.S.N.; Captain Robley D Evans, U.S.N.;
Commander W.H.Emory,U.S.N.; Chief Engineer Cipriano Andradi,U.S.N.,
and Lieut. Nathan Sargent,U.S.N.

6.  Of this trial I have the honor to report as follows:

After delay in discharging a Whitehead Torpedo the Holland
Torpedo Boat left her wharf at 12.44 with her crew of five (5)
persons on board, and also Lieut Nathan Sargent, Assistant Engineer
Herman J. Elesen,U.S.N., and myself, Chief Engineer John Lowe,U.S.N


These three observers were three more persons than would be in the
vessel in a fight, and, therefore, the vessel was handicapped to
that extent. Driven by her electrical engine at the rate of 275
revolutions, 5.5 knots at cruising trim, a Whitehead Torpedo was
fired at 1 P. M.

At 1.10, after some difficulty, the electric engine was un-
coupled and the Otto gas engine was substituted, and the vessel
proceeded to Prince's Bay, New York Harbor, at the rate varying be-
tween 280 and 320 revolutions, average about 6 knots, running all
the time at cruising trim, that is to say, above the water. She
was handled be a new operator, Mr. Cable, who had previously taken
charge only in two trips.

The vessel arrived at Prince's Bay at 2.24 P.M., the Otto gas
engine, or cruising engine, was replaced by the electric engine for
submerged operations. At 2.35 P. M. preparations for submergement
commenced. Here it was that the want of experience in the new
operator was made manifest, for it was only after several trail
dives and alterations in trim were made that the vessel was made
ready. Pursuant to orders I was on the Holland at her official
trial, Nov. 12. At 312 P. M. the vessel dove to 12 feet and was
kept submerged at a depth varying between 10 and 11 feet, until
3.23 P. M., when she was brought to the surface. She had made
a run under water, between the times 3.12 and 3.23, of 11 minutes
duration, and made the run without difficulty of any sort. At this
point Lieut. Sargent left the vessel, and Commander Emory took his
place, the other occupants remaining. After a second set of pre-
liminaries, above described, another dive was commenced at 3.38 P.M
and was maintained uniformly at a depth of 12 feet, until 3.49 1/2
P.M., 11 1/2 minutes, excepting under a misapprehension, thinking
that the time was up, at 2.42 the operator brought the vessel to
the surface, but immediately descended.

At 3.50 the first short dive was made, at 3.51 another, at
3.52 a third, at 352 1/2 a fourth, continuing to 3.54, during which
shifted to another air tank, the first one being exhausted, four
tanks yet remaining. The fifth and last dive was made at 3.55 P.M
when the vessel ran awash for one minute, and then in cruising or
above water trim went alongside a tug, the trial was over, and the
Naval officers left the vessel.

All the operations were witnessed by the Board from a tug
boat accompanying; and by a numerous party of spectators in a
second tug.

The Holland carried flag poles and flags, above her surface,
thus making her position visible to the Board and spectators, and
care was taken not to submerge these poles and flags, which could
easily have been done. In presence of the enemy these poles and
flags would not have been attached, and the vessel would have been
completely invisible.


During the entire run the maximum inclination fore and aft was
12 by the head and 3 by the stern.

The consumption of electricity from the storage battery was
evidenced by a fall from 124 volts at the start to 118 volts at the
finish, 104 volts being the limit. Therefore, one-third of the
electricity was consumed, and a run three times the length of
this one could have been made. In emergency 104 volts could be
encroached upon, but is not desirable at ordinary times.

In the living spaces the atmospheric pressure was not exceeded
and the air was quite pure, being refreshed by the discharge of air
from the steering engines, and from discharging the ballast tanks.

On Sunday, November 13th, according to the order of the Navy
Department, I reported before the Board mentioned. After consulta-
tion the Board decided to have another trial of the Holland, and
the Board adjourned.

Availing myself of the latitude allowed me, I beg leave to say
that the United States Navy is in a peculiar predicament regarding
Torpedo Warfare, which I can only make plain by discussing the
present state of Torpedo Warfare as follows:

Approaching the subject, we proceed no further than the thresh
hold before we are struck with the extreme importance attached to
extreme speed as the most indispensible factor in a Torpedo Vessel.
So great is the stress laid upon it, that to obtain the last incre
ment, everything else which might be of value to a vessel is ruth-
lessly sacrificed, until (I think) the "Reduction ad Absurdum" is
reached in plating less than 1-16 inch thick which even a foot step
can indent; and in general fraility which has become a proverb.

Nevertheless, it is persistently claimed, that these frail
craft have in them power to defeat iron clads and to disperse
navies, because (say they), admitting the difficulty of hitting any
moving object with any projectile, it follows that the greater the
speed the greater the difficulty. Consequently, if a vessel be-
comes speedy enough she cannot be hit at all, and, is therefore,

Now, it so happens, that the British Navy, vast as it is, has
had no experience of its own in actual Torpedo Warfare.

Considering then, the importance of the British Navy to the
British people, it is easy to see how a claim like this has worked
naturally so worked upon the British mind that we perceive them
panic stricken, safeguarding their navies by building torpedo ves-
sels, torpedo boat catchers, and torpedo cruisers, each addition
striving and surpassing the previous ones in the extreme speed
theory described. Now then, also, it so happens that in naval mat-
ters the British lead, and perforce, other nations follow; there-
fore,(to my mind), is explained how all the world has (as I assert)
built up upon panic stricken theories, methods and appliances for
torpedo warfare, upon panic stricken and mistaken lines.

Consider now the facts in the history of Torpedo Warfare.

(a) We find that no successful torpedo attack has ever been


made at extreme speed.

(b) In all successful attacks, strategem, concealment, sur-
prises, and similar factors, are the prime elements prevailing.

(c) Extreme high speed has always nullified attempts at strat-
agem, concealment, &c., either by smoke, "Bone in the Mouth" or
"Wave commotion, any one of which easily betrays the attack to the

(d) The attack once discovered is defeated, and if persisted
in is certain death to the assailant, and certain destruction to
the boat.

For the facts enumerated under (a), (b), and (c), we have
familiar proof in ordinary Fleet Exercise.

In this, while in the harbor, with everything except dark
night, in favor of the defense , we frequently see ordinary Navy
Steam Launches successfully evade the searchlight and torpedo the
flagship by hitting her with a Roman candle, all efforts of the
defenses to the contrary notwithstanding.

For the fact enumerated under (d); it is to be remembered
that at the inauguration of Torpedo Warfare (1861 to 1865), Marine
artillery was one thing, but now it is another, quite another
thing, and that, furthermore, it is every day in American hands
receiving rapid improvement.

Therefore, it is safe to say that under present and the future
rapid fire gun practice, our present methods, appliances, and
absurdly frail vessels, for Torpedo Warfare, cannot now live, still
less can they live in the future.

I venture further to say that if Admiral Sampson had dared he
would have sent torpedo vessels into Santiago, and I also assert,
as proven by the fact, that they were not so used, that they were
not fit, and could have accomplished nothing satisfactorily. We are
then face to face with the facts, and are forced to the conclusion
that our present methods and appliances for torpedo warfare are
worse than worthless and ought to be abandoned.

In this dilemma we are forced to look upon other methods and
to consider the possibility of submarine warfare and of submarine
vessels as weapons.

The facts recorded in this report prove, beyond shadow of
doubt, that submarine vessels are a distinct practicability and
that, therefore, submarine warfare is capable and worthy of

Furthermore (in my judgment), development has already proceed-
ed far enough to warrant the conclusions following:

(a) Whatever a common above water torpedo vessel is, a sub-
marine torpedo vessel is that, and much more.

(b) Not forgetting the under water shot received by the Kear- sarge; nevertheless, it is safe to say that a submarine vessel is
safe from above water artillery.

(c) A submarine vessel can at any time, day or night, deliver
a perfectly concealed attack at a respectable speed.


(d) She can mine or countermine, without let or hindrance from

(e) She can at any time, enter any harbor upon reconnaissance

(f) The mere fact of her existence and presence would make
her adversaries very nervous men.

(g) Until a party can be discovered, submarine warfare will
become exceedingly formidable and likely to create as great revolut-
ion in naval methods as that wrought by the Monitor.

It is not to be asserted that the "Holland" is a perfect ves-
sel of her kind, but neither has any vessel yet built approached
anywhere near perfection, but the Holland is so good a vessel as to
deserve consideration from the Navy Department, and to my mind the
policy which drove the Hotchkiss gun, with other inventions, from
native to foreign shores for development should not in the "Hol-
land" be repeated.

Very respectfully,

John Lowe,

Chief Engineer, U.S.N.

Hon. Secretary of the Navy.

John Lowe Manuscript, Library of Congress