Little Bits of History

H L Hunley

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 17, 2010

H L Hunley

February 17, 1864: The H L Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy ship, fires on and sinks the Union ship, Housatonic, during the US Civil War. It will be about another 50 years before this feat is repeated in World War I. The Union navy had blockaded the port of Charleston, SC. The harbor was a major port for what was at one time the largest city in America. Prior to the Civil War, Charleston, SC was a powerful force in the country.

The Hunley was only 25 feet long sans torpedo by 4 feet wide, displacing 7.5 tons. There were eight crew members and a commander. They rammed the Housatonic, a ship that was 207 feet long by 38 feet wide, weighing in at 1240 tons. After sinking the ship, they raised out of water and fired flares indicating success. They left the scene, only to vanish forever. All hands died at sea. The ship was maneuvered by a hand-cranked propeller and used hand pumps to create ballast.

The submarine was used three times during her short life. In all, 21 Confederate sailors lost their lives in the small ship. The Hunley, along with two other prototypes were privately developed by Horace Lawson Hunley and two partners. The three men built a first submarine in New Orleans and tested it in February 1862. As the Union neared the area, they sank their ship and moved away. They arrived in Mobile, Alabama and built a second sub which eventually sank during a storm. They then arrived in Charleston and tried again.

A search for the Hunley had been going on since it sunk. Early in the 20th century PT Barnum offered a $100,000 reward for the ship. It was found on May 3, 1995 by N.U.M.A. [National Underwater Marine Agency] in thirty feet of water off the coast of Sullivan Island, SC under about three feet of silt. On August 8, 2000 the submarine was brought up from the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and seen again for the first time in 137 years.

“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” – Thomas Coventry

“Tell that to the Marines–the sailors won’t believe it.” – old saying

“There are only two kinds of naval vessels – submarines, and targets.” – unknown

“What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.” – Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife, 1864

Also on this day, in 1933 Newsweek was first published.

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  1. Miles Standish « Little Bits of History said, on February 17, 2011 at 7:17 am

    […] on this day: H L Hunley – In 1864, the first successful sinking of a ship by a submarine. Newsweek – In 1933, Newsweek […]

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