Confederate sub was intended to liberate Charlston from
the Union's effective naval blockade.
February 17, 1864, the Confederate submarine Hunley
carried out the world's first submarine attack, on the Union
sloop-of-war Housatonic, sinking it in three minutes.
The Hunley crew signaled their success back to shore,
but they never returned. In "The Uncivilized Engine of War,"
scientists are trying to figure out what happened.
In 1995, after a 14-year search, a team led by author and
shipwreck hunter Clive Cussler found the Hunley, completely
covered by silt, close to the spot where the Housatonic
had gone down. After five years of planning, the Hunley
and the remains of her crew were raised from the ocean floor.
Today, the sub lies suspended in slings inside a huge tank
on the dock at the Charleston Navy Yard.
personal effects such as this coin, have been found in
excavations of the Hunley
have recovered the skeletons of all eight crew members, their
clothing, shoes and personal possessions - all extraordinarily
well preserved by a fine silt painstakingly removed one spoonful
at a time.
did the Hunley sink? An X-ray examination of the sub
suggests the forward hatch is still open. The crew had to
have opened the hatch on the surface to signal their success
to shore. But then as they hurried to flee the scene, something--perhaps
an approaching Union ship--must have caused them to dive.
In their haste, did they fail to lock the hatch fully? Did
it spring open? We may never know for sure.
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