The H. L. Hunley
The Confederate Submarine that Sank the First Warship

The American Civil War is considered the "First Modern War".  It was a time when inventors and engineers came forth with new innovations to improve machinery to make war.  People in the medical field came forth with improved methods and procedures to care for the wounded.  Deadly improvements in firearms, cannon and naval ships were introduced and used for the first time.  We saw the first battle between steam powered ironclads which immediately sounded the demise of the wooden warship.  It was the first war where the significant use of the air ship (the balloon) carrying a human was used.  The telegraph (a digital device) gave near immediate cross communication between distant locales on the status of a battle.  The locomotive train carried troops and supplies in a very rapid manner.

One of the new inventions was the submarine boat or "submarine" which became practical for the first time.  The Confederate, H. L. Hunley was the first submarine to purposefully sink an enemy warship during war.  This occurred February 17th, 1864 when the torpedo from the Hunley struck the starboard aft of the U.S.S. Housatonic and exploded sinking the warship in about 5 minutes.  The location of this event was just outside of Charleston Harbor, South Carolina.  The crew from the Hunley, however were never seen again until the submarine was found, pulled from its resting place and an excavation of the interior was performed.  The story of the Hunley is a story of failures, success and death which became an infamous legend. 

There were attempts by others to build a successful submarine including the Union's "Alligator", which actually preceded the Hunley.  There were even submarine boats dating back to the Revolutionary War and before, of which was the "Turtle" that made an attack on a warship on September 7th, 1776, but it did not sink the ship.

As with the U.S.S Monitor, my interest in the Hunley is from an engineering perspective such that I designed a model using a CAD program that could be made of card stock.  I researched it the best that I could and also put together a presentation about the H. L. Hunley that I presented in 2016 and 2020.  I have been to Charleston, South Carolina to see the Hunley twice, the first time was in 2004 while attending the funeral of the last crew of the Hunley and again another visit in 2016. 

Below are photos of the model that I built in 2016.  It is fairly accurate based on the information at that time, but I have found a few errors since then in the location of the seams between a couple of plates and some other minor items.  It is significantly more accurate than any commercially made model of the Hunley that I've seen.

The model is around 26 inches from the bow's nose to the end of the rudder and around 37 inches overall including the spar and torpedo.  The men in the picture are in scale with the boat and represent a person 5'-7" tall.  The actual sub probably was painted black. 

There was a great amount of controversy, mystery and mis-information about the Hunley during its era and in the years since, even to present day.  The location of the sub was discovered May 3rd, 1995 by diver Ralph Wilbanks and a crew supported by bestselling Author, Clive Cussler (NUMA).  A great amount of preparation and work was done prior to recovering  the sub from its resting place on August 8, 2000.  The sub was taken to a prepared facility named the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in the old Charleston Navy Yard.  There it began years of conservation, desalination, excavation and removal of concretion.

The crew of 8 were buried in a large ceremony, which I attended, on April 17, 2004, 140 years and 2 months after that fateful night.  They were buried in the Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South Carolina.

For more information about the H. L. Hunley and other early subs follow the below links.

Other Links:
Friends of the Hunley
USS Alligator - Civil War
Turtle - Revolutionary War

This site was written by:
Dennis Hutchinson

Copyright 1998 - 2023 by Dennis Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved. This site may be freely linked to, but not duplicated in any fashion except by the author's consent. When permission is given, this copyright statement must remain with the document,

Updated June 2, 2023

I am interested in anything connected with the 31st Indiana Vol. Infantry, or if you have any questions please feel free to contact me by E-Mail.

I am especially interested in photos of soldiers from the 31st Indiana in their wartime clothing.  I am also interested in any letters, diaries, or biographical information on 31st Indiana soldiers

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