On this day in Alabama history: H.L. Hunley sunk an enemy ship

On this day in Alabama history: H.L. Hunley sunk an enemy ship
A diagram showing a cross-section of the H. L. Hunley illustrating the manual hand-cranking process by which the Confederate submarine was powered. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, Courtesy of U.S. Naval Historical Center)

February 17, 1864

The H.L. Hunley, often simply called the Hunley, was the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship, the USS Housatonic, a Union vessel. The Confederate submarine operated from 1863 to 1864 during the Civil War. The nearly 40 feet long Hunley was built in Mobile and launched in July 1863. It was shipped by rail to Charleston. The Hunley sank during a test run on Aug. 29, 1863, killing five of its crew. It sank again on Oct. 15, 1863, killing all eight members of the second crew, including the submarine’s namesake. Hunley was aboard, although he wasn’t in the Confederate military. Both times the Hunley was raised and returned to service. On Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley attacked and sank the 1,240-ton Housatonic, which was on Union blockade duty in Charleston’s outer harbor. The Hunley did not survive the attack and also sank, killing its eight crew members. Finally located in 1995, the Hunley was raised in 2000. The submarine is displayed in North Charleston, South Carolina, at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center. Artifacts suggest that the submarine was about 20 feet from the Housatonic when a deployed torpedo exploded, which caused the submarine’s loss.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

For more on Alabama’s Bicentennial, visit Alabama 200.

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