William B. Cushing
The Confederate ironclad Albemarle was 122-feet long, built of solid ten-inch thick Southern pine encased in railroad-track armor four inches thick, and was armed with two 100-pound rifled guns mounted on swivels that gave them a clear shot in almost any direction. The presence of this behemoth in the Roanoke River posed a serious danger to Union forces, threatening the blockading forces in the area and preventing any Union advances down the Carolina coast.
Ignoring the obvious danger of such a reckless mission, Lieutenant William B. Cushing and 13 other sailors crammed into a small launch armed with a single spar torpedo and headed upriver on a dark, drizzling night to take on the iron monster in her lair. For eight miles, the little launch made its way past enemy guard posts on shore and picket boats in the river.