Friday, February 17, 2012

Submarine Sinks First Warship

On this day in 1864, the Confederate submersible H. L. Hunley sank the Federal sloop USS Housatonic in Charleston harbor in a night attack.

Housatonic was part of the Union fleet that was blockading the harbor of the Confederate city, and the sinking was part of an unsuccessful attempt to break the blockade. The sinking was also the first ever successful attack on an enemy warship by an armed submersible.

Unfortunately, Hunley herself was lost in the attack, along with her entire crew of eight men. For many years, little was known about this pioneering vessel, except that she never returned from her final, successful, mission. Many attempts were made to find any trace of her, and many people assumed that she had either been completely destroyed or else she had been swept out into the ocean and lost forever.

In 1995, a group backed by successful author Clive Cussler found Hunley, not far from the site of her fateful attack. She was raised from the bottom in 2000 and is being studied and conserved in a specially-built facility in Charleston. An attached museum has exhibits, as well as a number of original artifacts. The exact cause of her loss remains a mystery to this day.

For more information about Hunley, you can visit the museum's website.

Image courtesy of the Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC.


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