William Congreve Reflects on Achievements
January 19, 1826 A.D.
Author: William Congreve, English Rocket Developer
The lifesaving rocket tests of John Dennet went very well yesterday. He has succeeded where I failed. I was not feeling very well when designing my own lifesaving rocket, which was probably why I failed. I guess at the age of fifty-four, I am at the twilight of my career.
Oh how I yearn for those young days where anything was possible. I remember when I first decided to investigate rockets back in 1802 after the British were routed in Seringapatam by those Indian rocket troops. I analyzed the rockets the Indians used and made my own improvements. I experimented for three years and emerged with a publication describing rocket principles and soon thereafter designed better and better rockets. Some of my early improvements were using metal casing instead of paperboard, granulating the powder to improve the smoothness of the exhaust discharge, and compressing the powder with a pile driver so there would be more burning power.
The navy soon manufactured around thirteen thousand of my thirty-two pound rockets which could travel twice as far as the Indian ones. Then they attacked the French at Boulogne in 1806, oh what a memory. They discharged two thousand rockets on the port city and so complete was the shock of the enemy that not a shot was returned. Those were such fine days.
Because of my new rocket designs, renewed interest in rocketry spread to Austria, France, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. My rockets have annoyed many people including Napoleon at places like Boulogne, Copenhagen, Cadiz, Lepzig, Danzig, and Baltimore. My rockets may have also prevented a second era of Napoleon for they were successfully employed by the Austrians against him at the Battle of Waterloo where Napoleon was defeated for the last time.
I also amusingly recall that my rockets played a role in inspiring that American Francis Scott Key. The lines "the rocket's red glare" in the American national anthem were inserted by my rockets. I also invented a highly effective whaling rocket, although some would disapprove. Yes my achievements were numerous and important. Let my past contributions make up for my present lack of them. I am tired, farewell.