Sunday, May 11, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #158 - 150 Year Old Civil War Artifact, Charleston Museum, Charleston, South Carolina, December 2004

Here is the H.L. Hunley, the first combat submarine used to sink a ship in battle. The Hunley, with a crew of 8, sunk three times losing a total of 21 crewmembers. It had only a single successful mission before sinking the final time with its crew and being lost in 1864 during the Civil War.

The Hunley was part of the Confederate Navy and had a short career as a battle vessel. Reportedly, the Hunley wasn't able to put enough distance between itself and the U.S.S. Housatonic, the U.S. Navy ship it sank. It became a casualty of war from the same explosion that sunk the Union ship.

The Hunley was finally located in 1995, 131 years after it sank. It was recovered in 2000, restored to some degree and preserved. It is now on permanent display outside the entrance of the Charleston Museum.

The H.L. Hunley was built in Alabama and moved by train to Charleston, but the battle that ultimately sunk it for the final time was outside Charleston while sinking one of the Union Navy ships blockading the Charleston Harbor. So, it's only fitting that this artifact from one of the darkest times in U.S. history should be displayed in perpetuity in Charleston.

While I am not particularly a Civil War buff, I continue to learn more and more about this event that, for some reason, either wasn't in the history books I read during high school and college or I overlooked. Frankly, while admitting to being less than a scholarly history student, I'm sure most of what I didn't learn through the required, formal history courses I took during my education did not include the vast amount of information I'm learning as I travel the country.

My knowledge of submarine development, since I am a native of Clifton, New Jersey, was that of John Holland in the 1870's. Much of the development was done in Paterson, New Jersey, the city just north of Clifton, both of which share the Passaic River. After visiting Charleston, I now know the Confederate Navy was a bit ahead of the U.S. Navy in this regard.

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