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On This Day… The Confederate Submarine H.l. Hunley

Written by: George Chittenden : 23 May 2019

It was on this day, 8th August back in the year 2000 when a Confederate submarine from the American Civil War was finally raised to the surface after spending more than 136 years underwater. The submarine, H. L. Hunley, was named after her inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley. Technically she was the first combat submarine to sink a warship, USS Housatonic, but it’s worth noting that she wasn’t completely submerged. She was nearly forty feet long and was built at Mobile, Alabama. The Hunley was launched in July 1863.

Surprisingly she sank on three different occasions during her short career. Her first sinking occured during a test run in August 1863, and five members of her crew died. In October that same year she sank again killing a further eight. Following both sinkings she was raised and put back into service. Her final sinking occurred in Charleston's outer harbour, shortly after she had successfully attacked and sunk the USS Housatonic, and this time another eight of her crew drowned. The wreck of the Hunley was finally located by a diver named Ralph Wilbanks in April 1995 while leading a NUMA dive team led by novelist Clive Cussler. She was raised to the surface and is now on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. Interestingly research into her remains suggests that she was only twenty-feet away from the USS Housatonic when she fired her torpedo, which was the reason why she sank.

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