Torpedoes, in early times (as in around the U.S. Civil War), referred to what are today called mines; stationary floating or sunken ordnance designed to destroy shipping. The famous phrase "Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!" actually is this usage of the term; it was uttered aboard a Civil War vessel making a hazardous run up a mined river.

Spuunbenda reminds me helpfully that the speaker was Vice Admiral David Glasgow Farragut.

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