Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Hargraves to Thomas Jefferson, 4 August 1814

From George Hargraves

Bedford, Augt 4. 1814


The enclosed description and drawing of a Torpedo is an original paper which has lately fallen into my possession. Not being a judge of such matters, I shou’d probably have thrown it by as useless paper had I not known the Inventor to be a man of science, and more capable, in my opinion, of judging correctly of the efficacy of such things than any other person I know of—I am induced to send it to you not only because he mentions your name, but because after examining it, shou’d you think it deserving notice, you will have it in your power to forward it to some man of genius capable of making the experiment. Every exertion I think ought to be made at this time to check the predatory warfare carried on by the Enemy on our Sea board, and cou’d any plan be adopted to prevent maritime warfare altogether it wou’d doubtless be productive of great good to the World—From that part wherein your name is mentioned, you will readily conjecture who the Inventor is—: Doctor Ramsay, in his History of the revolutionary War, mentions him among the ingenious men of that time—I have no objection to your communicating the plan to any one you think proper, but for particular reasons, I beg of you to conceal his name, and to withhold from publick view that part which may lead to a discovery—

Shou’d a trial be made I shou’d be highly gratified to know the result. I am now at the Bedford Springs drinking the Waters for my health—my place of residence is Warrenton, Georgia—

I am Sir, very respectfully, your most humble Servt

Geo: Hargraves

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as a letter received from “Bedford?” on 17 Aug. 1814 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only, with PoC of TJ to Nicolas G. Dufief, 21 Aug. 1814, on verso; addressed: “The Honorable Thomas Jefferson Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Bedford, 5 Aug. Enclosure not found.

George Hargraves (ca. 1772–1849) served as a notary public and justice of the peace for Warren County, Georgia. He formed a business partnership with John Maury Fontaine and became a director of the Bank of the State of Georgia and of the branch Bank of the United States at Augusta (Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Georgia [1799 sess.], 44, 49, [1805 sess.], 45; Acts of the General Assembly of the State of Georgia [1815 sess.], 27; Niles’ Weekly Register, 18 May 1816; The Planters’ and Merchants’ Almanac For The Year Of Our Lord 1817 … Calculated for the States of Carolina & Georgia [Charleston, 1817]; Winston Francis Fontaine, From Riches To Rags To Respectability: The History of a Fontaine Family and Kinfolks [1987], 99; DNA: RG 29, CS, Ga., Warren Co., 1830, Muscogee Co., 1840; Greenville, S.C., Mountaineer, 5 Oct. 1849).

The inventor mentioned by doctor ramsay was David Bushnell, whose pioneering submarine, the Turtle, unsuccessfully attacked British warships in 1776. He also developed naval mines. Bushnell relocated to Georgia after the American Revolution and lived under the pseudonym “David Bush.” Hargraves served as an executor of his estate in 1826 (David Ramsay, The History of the American Revolution [Trenton, 1811; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 490], 2:404; ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; Frederick Wagner, Submarine Fighter of the American Revolution: The Story of David Bushnell [1963], 120; Alex Roland, Underwater Warfare in the Age of Sail [1978], 62–88, 193–8; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 12:303–5; Augusta Chronicle and Georgia Advertiser, 25 Mar. 1826).

Index Entries

  • Bushnell, David; submarine inventor search
  • Bushnell, David; torpedoes of search
  • Hargraves, George; forwards D. Bushnell’s torpedo drawings search
  • Hargraves, George; identified search
  • Hargraves, George; letters from search
  • health; and warm springs search
  • History of the American Revolution (D. Ramsay) search
  • Ramsay, David; History of the American Revolution search
  • submarines; invented by D. Bushnell search
  • torpedo (mine) search