February 17th, 1864 – Submarine Attack!

Today-In-History

On February 17th, 1864, The Hunley attacked and sank the 1240-short ton (1124 metric tons) screw sloop USS Housatonic, which had been on Union blockade-duty in Charleston’s outer harbor. This made it the first submarine to engage and sink a warship.

The Hunley

The H. L. Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War. The Hunley demonstrated the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare. She was the first combat submarine to sink a warship, although the Hunley was not completely submerged and, following her successful attack, was lost along with her crew before she could return to base. The Confederacy lost 21 crewmen in three sinkings of the Hunley during her short career. She was named for her inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley, shortly after she was taken into government service under the control of the Confederate Army at Charleston, South Carolina.

CSS_David_drawing

The Hunley, nearly 40 feet (12 m) long, was built at Mobile, Alabama, and launched in July 1863. She was then shipped by rail on August 12th, 1863, to Charleston, South Carolina. The Hunley (then called Fish Boat) sank on August 29th, 1863, during a training exercise, killing five members of her crew. She sank again on October 15th, 1863, killing all eight of her second crew, including Horace Hunley himself, who was aboard at the time, even though he was not a member of the Confederate militia. Both times the Hunley was raised and returned to service.

USSHousatonic

On February 17th, 1864, soon after sinking the USS Housatonic, the Hunley itself sank, killing all eight of her third crew. This time, the innovative ship was lost.

Finally located in 1995, the Hunley was raised in 2000 and is on display in North Charleston, South Carolina, at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center on the Cooper River. Examination, in 2012, of recovered Hunley artifacts suggests that the submarine was as close as 20 feet to her target, the Housatonic, when her deployed torpedo exploded, which eventually caused the sub’s own loss.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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