Humpday History Highlight

H.L. Hunley

This is the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which was the first sub to sink an enemy ship in combat. The ship did so in 1864, but failed to return to port. Eggheads are trying to find out why.

Scientists at Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston are set to publish their findings today on why the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship perished along with its target in the waters off South Carolina in 1864.

Speculation around the loss of the revolutionary submarine centers on the very explosives it planted on the Union blockade ship USS Housatonic.

There’s more below the fold . . .

. . .

From a metal spar on its bow, the Hunley planted a 135-pound torpedo in the hull of the ship, which burned and sank.

Before the collision, a lookout on the Housatonic spotted a bizarre vessel approaching just below the surface— with only its coning tower visible—and sounded the alarm. The Housatonic’s cannons couldn’t be lowered enough to fire at the strange craft, so crewmen used rifles and pistols, but these were not effective.

Some historians say that the submarine showed a mission-accomplished lantern signal from its hatch to troops back on shore before it disappeared.

Soon after the signal had been fired, the sub sank about 4 miles off Charleston, where the Hunley remained for 136 years.

Fascinating. You can read the rest at the link.

18 thoughts on “Humpday History Highlight

  1. Mikey

    The story of the Hunley was one of incredible courage. Two crews were lost in testing and outfitting the boat and yet more were found to risk their lives in a desperate attempt to break the Union blockade and save their cause.

    Then out spoke the brave Horatius, Captain of the Gate.
    “To every man upon this earth, death comes soon or late
    and what better way for man to die than facing the fearful odds
    for the ashes of his father and the temple of his gods.”

    Rest in Peace.

  2. Dr. Evil

    It is likely the “torpedo’s” explosion damaged the Hunley, causing it’s eventual sinking.

  3. Wyatt Earp Post author

    JT – POW!

    Mikey – No doubt. True pioneers who probably knew the risk they were taking.

    Dr. Evil – That’s what I was thinking, too.

  4. loaded dice in vegas

    I have nothing but the greatest respect for the “Silent Service”.
    I know I could not get into a submarine.
    Claustrophobia is not fun.

  5. Robert B.

    It does take a special breed of men to join the Silent Service. And think of those men who volunteered to man a vessel that had already killed the previous two crews. R.I.P.

    May we Americans never be driven to fight against each other again.

  6. L Frame S&W

    The original plan was to have the torpedo stick to the Housatonic, held there by the barb on the spar, while the Hunley backed away, and detonated the torpedo remotely. From the descriptions of witnesses, it appears that the torpedo exploded upon impact with the Housatonic, and the shock wave stunned/killed the sailors in the sub. The captains watch was found to have stopped at the exact time of the explosion.

  7. Bob G.

    Wyatt:
    This has been one of those stories that just pulls you in…and keeps you wondering.
    The people commenting here have some good postulations on the Hunley’s demise.
    And these early submariners were all volunteers.
    Amazing courage under such circumstances.

    Good post.

    Stay safe out there.

  8. Gordon

    I’ve followed this story with some interest because of my Confederate ancestry. If you’ve ever seen the ship you would be amazed. It’s much smaller than it looks in the pictures. The crew had to be bent over on metal benches and turn the prop manually. It’s hard for a small child to get into that position let alone adults. Some of their cruises ran eight hours. The intriguing part is the crew were found at their posts. Had they drown, they would have floated to the top of the ship. One more theory as to why the Hunley never returned. If you ever get a chance to visit the sub, please do so. Tours and presentations are made by WWII and Korean vets who have some interesting stories themselves.

  9. Jim

    There was a moive – The Hunley – made in 1999 with Armand Assante, Donald Sutherland (and yours truly as an extra) that is a pretty good dramatization of the history of the sub.

    1. Jon Brooks

      Thanks Jim I remember that movie and was wracking my brain to remember who starred in it. Which scene are you in?

  10. Mike47

    There is a book about this, “Raising the Hunley” by Brian Hicks and Schuyler Kropf, dated 2002. Covers the dsicovery, raising, painstaking forensics and pictures of recovered artifacts. Great historical read.

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