One hundred and fifty three years ago during the US Civil War, on 17 February 1864 off Charleston, South Carolina, CSS (“Confederate States Ship”) HL Hunley changed Naval warfare forever by becoming the first combat submarine in history to sink a warship, the new 1,260 ton (displacement) screw sloop, USS Housatonic.
At the time, Housatonic was a member of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron on station outside the Charleston bar. Commissioned in Boston in 1862, the 205 feet (62 metre) long ship had a complement of 160 offi cers and enlisted men. Two officers and three men were lost when she sank quickly after the Confederate submarine rammed her spar torpedo into Housatonic’s starboard side.
The eight man crew of Hunley were not so fortunate though - the submarine disappeared and was lost for over a century before being located in 1995 and raised in 2000.
Ironically, it was the Submarine’s third sinking. She first sank on 29 August 1863 drowning her five crew, only to sink again on 15 October 1863, drowning all eight of her second crew including her inventor, Horace Hunley.
Hunley is now on display in North Charleston at Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center.