The Bushnell Keg Mine


The following was excerpted from the NAVSEA Mine Familiarizer, prepared in 1985 by the Naval Mine Warfare Engineering Activity, Yorktown, VA.

THE NAVAL MINE In 1776, the first known sea mine was invented by an American,
David Bushnell, who is also recognized as the inventor of America's first
submarine. Bushnell's mine was a simple watertight wooden keg, loaded
with gunpowder, which hung from a float and, at that time, was called a
torpedo. In 1777, under orders from General Washington, a number of the
kegs were set adrift by Bushnell in an attempt to destroy a fleet of
British warships anchored in the Delaware River off Philadelphia. The
attempt failed. But the naval mine has since - through the American
Civil War, World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Southeast Asian
Conflicts - gained a reputation as one of the Navy's least costly, yet
most effective, offensive and defensive weapons.