Confederate States Navy On Board HL Huntley Submarine

21 Dec 1837 1
England 1
13 May 1914 1
Mobile County Alabama, USA 1

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William Anthony Alexander 1
21 Dec 1837 1
England 1
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13 May 1914 1
Mobile County Alabama, USA 1
Burial Place: Magnolia Cemetery Mobile Mobile County Alabama, USA Plot: SQ 29, Lot 87 1
Margaret Spence Alexander 1
Spouse Death Date: 1918 1

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Confederate States Navy On Board HL Huntley Submarine


H. L. Hunley (submarine)

H. L. Hunley (submarine) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search "H. L. Hunley" redirects here. For the Confederate marine engineer, see Horace Lawson Hunley.
Drawing of the H. L. Hunley. Based on a photograph taken in 1863 by George S. Cook Career (C.S.A.) Name: H. L. Hunley Builder: Horace L. Hunley Laid down: early 1863 Launched: July 1863 Acquired: August 1863 In service: February 17, 1864 Out of service: February 17, 1864 Status: examined General characteristics Displacement: 7.5 short tons (6.8 metric tons) Length: 39.5 feet (12.0 meters) Unconfirmed. Beam: 3.83 feet (1.17 meters) Propulsion: Hand-cranked propeller Speed: 4 knots (7.4 kilometers/hour) (surface) Complement: 1 officer, 7 enlisted Armament: 1 spar torpedo   H. L. HUNLEY (submarine) U.S. National Register of Historic Places Nearest city: Charleston, South Carolina Coordinates: 32°44′0″N 79°46′0″W Area: 0 acres (0 ha) Built: 1864 Governing body: Federal NRHP Reference#: 78003412[1] Added to NRHP: December 29, 1978

H. L. Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War, but a large role in the history of naval warfare.[2] The Hunley demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare. It was the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship, although the Hunley was not completely submerged and was lost at some point following her successful attack. The Confederacy lost 21 crewmen in three sinkings of the Hunley during her short career. The submarine was named for her inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley, shortly after it was taken into service under the control of the Confederate Army at Charleston, South Carolina.

The Hunley, nearly 40 feet (12 m) long, was built at Mobile, Alabama, and launched in July 1863. It was then shipped by rail on August 12, 1863 to Charleston, South Carolina. Hunley (then called Fish Boat) sank on August 29, 1863, during a training exercise, killing five members of her crew. It sank again on October 15, 1863, killing all eight of her second crew, including Horace Hunley himself, who was aboard at the time, even though he was not enlisted in the Confederate armed forces. Both times the Hunley was raised and returned to service. On February 17, 1864, Hunley attacked and sank the 1240-short ton (1124 metric tons)[3] screw sloop USS Housatonic on Union blockade duty in Charleston's outer harbor. Soon after, Hunley sank, killing all eight of her third crew. This time, the innovative ship was lost.

Finally located in 1995, the Hunley was recovered in 2000 and is on display in Charleston. Examination in 2012 of recovered Hunley artifacts suggests that the submarine was as close as 20 feet to its target, the Housatonic, when its deployed torpedo exploded, which eventually caused the sub's own demise.[4]

Contents Predecessors This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (February 2011)

Hunley and two earlier submarines were privately developed and paid for by Horace Lawson Hunley, James McClintock, and Baxter Watson.

Hunley, McClintock, and Watson first built a small submarine named Pioneer in New Orleans, Louisiana. Pioneer was tested in February 1862 in the Mississippi River and was later towed to Lake Pontchartrain for additional trials. But the Union advance towards New Orleans caused the men to abandon development and scuttle Pioneer the following month. The poorly documented Bayou St. John Confederate submarine may have been constructed about the same time as Pioneer.

The three inventors moved to Mobile and joined with machinists Thomas Park and Thomas Lyons. They soon began development of a second submarine, American Diver. Their efforts were supported by the Confederate States Army; Lieutenant William Alexander of the 21st Alabama Infantry Regiment was assigned oversight duty for the project. The men experimented with electromagnetic and steam propulsion for the new submarine, before falling back on a simpler hand-cranked propulsion system. American Diver was ready for harbor trials by January 1863, but it proved too slow to be practical. One attempted attack on the Union blockade was made in February 1863 but was unsuccessful. The submarine sank in the mouth of Mobile Bay during a storm later the same month and was not recovered.

Construction and testing

Construction of Hunley began soon after the loss of American Diver. At this stage, Hunley was variously referred to as the "fish boat," the "fish torpedo boat," or the "porpoise." Legend long held Hunley was made from a cast-off steam boiler—perhaps because a cutaway drawing by William Alexander, who had seen the real boat, showed a short and stubby machine. In fact, Hunley was purpose-designed and built for her role, and the sleek, modern-looking craft shown in R.G. Skerrett's 1902 drawing is an accurate representation. Hunley was designed for a crew of eight: seven to turn the hand-cranked propeller and one to steer and direct the boat. Each end was equipped with ballast tanks that could be flooded by valves or pumped dry by hand pumps. Extra ballast was added through the use of iron weights bolted to the underside of the hull. In the event the submarine needed additional buoyancy to rise in an emergency, the iron weight could be removed by unscrewing the heads of the bolts from inside the vessel.

Inboard profile and plan drawings, after sketches by W.A. Alexander (1863)

Hunley was equipped with two watertight hatches, one forward and one aft, atop two short conning towers equipped with small portholes and slender, triangular cutwaters. The hatches were very small, measuring 14 by 15¾ inches (36 by 40 centimeters), making entrance to and egress from the hull very difficult. The height of the ship's hull was 4 feet 3 inches (1.2 m).

Hunley was ready for a demonstration by July 1863. Supervised by Confederate Admiral Franklin Buchanan, Hunley successfully attacked a coal flatboat in Mobile Bay. Following this demonstration, the submarine was shipped to Charleston, South Carolina, by rail, arriving August 12, 1863.

The military seized the vessel from its private builders and owners shortly after its arrival in Charleston, turning it over to the Confederate Army. Hunley would operate as a Confederate Army vessel from this point forward, although Horace Hunley and his partners remained involved in the submarine's further testing and operation. While sometimes referred to as CSS Hunley, the Confederate government never officially commissioned the vessel into service.

Confederate Navy Lieutenant John A. Payne of CSS Chicora volunteered to be Hunley's skipper, and a volunteer crew of seven men from CSS Chicora and CSS Palmetto State was assembled to operate the submarine. On August 29, 1863, Hunley's new crew was preparing to make a test dive to learn the operation of the submarine when Lieutenant Payne accidentally stepped on the lever controlling the sub's diving planes while the boat was running. This caused Hunley to dive with her hatches still open, flooding the submarine. Payne and two others escaped, while the remaining five crewmen drowned.

On October 15, 1863 Hunley failed to surface during a mock attack, killing Hunley and seven other crewmen. In both cases, the Confederate Navy salvaged the vessel and returned her to service.


Hunley was originally intended to attack by means of a floating explosive charge with a contact fuse (a torpedo in Civil War terminology) towed behind it at the end of a long rope. Hunley would approach an enemy vessel, dive under it, and surface beyond. As it continued to move away from the target, the torpedo would be pulled against the side of the target and explode. However, this plan was discarded as impractical due to the danger of the tow line fouling Hunley's screw or drifting into Hunley herself.

The floating explosive charge was replaced with a spar torpedo, a copper cylinder containing 90 pounds (41 kilograms) of black powder[5] attached to a 22-foot (6.7 m)-long wooden spar, as seen in illustrations of the submarine made at this time. The spar was mounted on Hunley's bow and was designed to be used when the submarine was some 6 feet (1.8 m) or more below the surface. The spar torpedo had a barbed point, and would be stuck in the target vessel's side by ramming. The spar torpedo as originally designed used a mechanical trigger attached to the attacking vessel by a cord, so that as the attacker backed away from her victim, the torpedo would explode. However, archaeologists working on Hunley have discovered evidence, including a spool of copper wire and components of a battery, that it may have been electrically detonated. Following Horace Hunley's death, General Beauregard issued an order that the submarine was no longer to attack her target underwater. In response to this order, an iron pipe was attached to the bow of the submarine and angled downwards so the explosive charge would still be delivered under sufficient depth of water to make it effective. This was the same method developed for the earlier "David" type surface craft so successful against the USS New Ironsides. The Confederate Veteran of 1902 printed a reminiscence authored by an engineer stationed at Battery Marshall who, with another engineer, made adjustments to the iron pipe mechanism before Hunley left on her last mission on the night of February 17, 1864. A drawing of the iron pipe spar, confirming its "David" type configuration, was published in several early histories of submarine warfare.

Attack on Housatonic USS Housatonic Main article: Sinking of USS Housatonic

Hunley made her first and only attack against a live target on the night of February 17, 1864. The vessel was the USS Housatonic. Housatonic, a 1240-ton (1.1 million-kilogram)[3] steam-powered sloop-of-war with 12 large cannons, was stationed at the entrance to Charleston, South Carolina harbor, about 5 miles (8 kilometers) out to sea. In an effort to break the naval blockade of the city, Lieutenant George E. Dixon and a crew of seven volunteers attacked Housatonic, successfully embedding the barbed spar torpedo into her hull. The torpedo was detonated as the submarine backed away, sending Housatonic and five of her crew to the bottom in five minutes, although many survived by boarding two lifeboats or by climbing the rigging until rescued.


After the attack, the H.L. Hunley failed to return to her base. There is evidence that the Hunley survived as long as one hour following the attack - at about 8:45 p.m. The commander of "Battery Marshall" reported on the day after the attack that he had received "the signals" from the submarine indicating it was returning to her base.[6] The report did not state what manner of signals were observed. A postwar correspondent stated that "two blue lights" were the prearranged signals,[7] and a lookout on the Housatonic reported that he saw a "blue light" on the water after his ship sank.[8] "Blue light" in 1864 referred to a pyrotechnic signal[9] in long use by the U.S. Navy.[10] It has been falsely represented in published works as a blue lantern, even though the lantern found on the recovered H.L. Hunley had a clear, not a blue, lens.[11] Pyrotechnic "blue light" can be seen easily over the four mile distance[12] between Battery Marshall and the site of the Hunley's attack on the Housatonic.[13]

After signaling, Dixon would have taken his submarine underwater to attempt to return to Sullivan's Island. What happened next is unclear. The finders of the Hunley suggested that she was unintentionally rammed by the USS Canandaigua when that warship was going to the aid of the crew of the Housatonic.

One possibility is that the torpedo was not detonated on command, but rather it malfunctioned because of some damage suffered during the underwater attack. The intention was that the torpedo would be detonated when the Hunley had retreated to about 150 feet (46 meters) away.[14] However, witnesses aboard the Housatonic stated that the submarine was no more than about 100 feet (30 meters) away when her torpedo detonated.

In October 2008, scientists reported that they had found that the crew of the Hunley had not set her pump to remove water from the crew's compartment, and this might indicate that it was not being flooded. "It now really starts to point to a lack of oxygen making [the crew] unconscious," the chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission said. "They may have been cranking and moving and it was a miscalculation as to how much oxygen they had."[15][dead link]

Although there is no conclusive evidence as to the cause of the sinking of the H. L. Hunley, the head archeologist of Clemson University, Maria Jacobsen, and George Wunderlich, the executive director of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, conducted experiments with modern castings of the forward conning tower of the H. L. Hunley. The original one had shown damage at one viewing port. The experiments used replica U.S. Navy firearms, and they showed that a .58 caliber Minie ball, fired from the U.S.S. Housatonic, could have penetrated at the viewing ports, hence producing a breach to let water enter. This result corresponds with the findings of Jaime Downs, an FBI forensic pathologist, which show variations in the preserved brain tissue from the forward crewmen to the aft crewmen of the Hunley. It has been conjectured that a ramming by the U.S.S. Canandaigua could have caused damage to the Hunley, but no such damage was found when the Hunley was raised from the bottom of the harbor.[16]

In January 2013, it was announced that conservator Paul Mardikian had found evidence of a cooper sleeve at the end of the Hunley's spar. This indicated that the torpedo had been attached directly to the spar, meaning the submarine may have been less than 20 feet from the Housatonic when the torpedo exploded. The Hunley crew may therefore have been knocked unconscious by the explosion and died without awakening.[4]

Her crew perished, but the H.L. Hunley had earned a place in the history of undersea warfare by being the first submarine to sink any ship.[17]

Recovery of Wreckage

The Hunley discovery was described by Dr. William Dudley, Director of Naval History at the Naval Historical Center as "probably the most important [American underwater archaeological] find of the [20th] century."[18] The tiny sub and its contents have been valued at more than $40 million, making its discovery and subsequent donation one of the most important and valuable contributions ever to South Carolina.

H. L. Hunley, suspended from a crane during its recovery from Charleston Harbor, August 8, 2000. (Photograph from the U.S. Naval Historical Center.)

The Hunley discovery is claimed by two different individuals. Underwater Archaeologist E. Lee Spence, president, Sea Research Society, reportedly discovered Hunley in 1970.[19][20] and has a collection of evidence[21] claiming to validate this, including a 1980 Civil Admiralty Case.[22]

On September 13, 1976, the National Park Service submitted Sea Research Society's (Spence's) location for H.L. Hunley for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. Spence's location for Hunley became a matter of public record when H.L. Hunley's placement on that list was officially approved on December 29, 1978.[23] Spence's book Treasures of the Confederate Coast, which had a chapter on his discovery of Hunley and included a map complete with an "X" showing the wreck's location, was published in January 1995.[24]

Diver Ralph Wilbanks found the wreck in April 1995 while leading a NUMA dive team led by novelist Clive Cussler,[25] who announced the find as a new discovery[26] and first claimed that it was in about 18 feet (5 m) of water over a mile inshore of the Housatonic, but later admitted to a reporter that that was false.[27] The wreck was actually 100 yards away from the Housatonic in 27 feet (8 m) of water. The submarine was buried under several feet of silt, which had concealed and protected the vessel for more than a hundred years. The divers exposed the forward hatch and the ventilator box (the air box for the attachment of a snorkel) to identify her. The submarine was resting on her starboard side at about a 45-degree angle and was covered in a ¼- to ¾-inch (0.6- to 1.9-centimeter) encrustation of rust bonded with sand and seashell particles. Archaeologists exposed part of the ship's port side and uncovered the bow dive plane. More probing revealed an approximate length of 37 feet (11 m), with all of the vessel preserved under the sediment.[28]

On September 14, 1995, at the official request of Senator Glenn F. McConnell, Chairman, South Carolina Hunley Commission,[29] E. Lee Spence, with South Carolina Attorney General Charles M. Condon signing, donated[30] the Hunley to the State of South Carolina.[31][32] Shortly thereafter NUMA disclosed to government officials Wilbank's location for the wreck, which, when finally made public in October 2000, matched Spence's 1970s plot of the wreck's location well within standard mapping tolerances.[33] Spence avows that he not only discovered the Hunley in 1970 he revisited and mapped the site in 1971 and again in 1979, and that after he published his location in his 1995 book that he expected NUMA (which was actually part of a SCIAA expedition directed by Dr. Mark M. Newell and not Cussler[34][35]) to independently verify the wreck as the Hunley, not to claim that NUMA had discovered it. Interestingly, Dr. Newell has sworn under oath that he used Spence's maps to direct the joint SCIAA/NUMA expedition and credits Spence with the original discovery and credits his expedition only with the official verification.[36]

The in situ underwater archaeological investigation and excavation culminated with the raising of Hunley on August 8, 2000.[37] A large team of professionals from the Naval Historical Center's Underwater Archaeology Branch, National Park Service, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, and various other individuals investigated the vessel, measuring and documenting it prior to removal. Once the on-site investigation was complete, harnesses were slipped underneath the sub and attached to a truss designed by Oceaneering International. After the last harness had been secured, the crane from the recovery barge Karlissa B hoisted the submarine from the sea floor.[38][39] It was raised from the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean, just over 3.5 nautical miles (6.5 km) from Sullivan's Island outside of the entrance to Charleston Harbor. Despite having used a sextant and hand-held compass, thirty years earlier, to plot the wreck's location, Dr. Spence's 52 meters accuracy turned out to be well within the length of the recovery barge, which was 64 meters long.[40][41] On August 8, 2000, at 8:37 a.m., the sub broke the surface for the first time in more than 136 years, greeted by a cheering crowd on shore and in surrounding watercraft, including author Clive Cussler. Once safely on her transporting barge, Hunley was shipped back to Charleston. The removal operation concluded when the submarine was secured inside the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, at the former Charleston Navy Yard in North Charleston, in a specially designed tank of fresh water to await conservation.

The exploits of the Hunley and its final recovery were the subject of an episode of the television series The Sea Hunters, called Hunley: First Kill. This program is based on a chapter in Clive Cussler's novel by the same name.

In June 2011, a conservation lab rotated the sub upright for the first time since it sank.[42]



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