Bill Jenkins on “The H.L. Hunley: First Submarine to Sink an Enemy Ship”
H. L. Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War, but a large role in the history of naval warfare. Hunley demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare. She was the first combat submarine to sink an enemy warship, although Hunley was not completely submerged and was lost at some point following her successful attack. The Confederacy lost 21 crewmen in three sinkings of Hunley during her short career. The submarine was named for her inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley, shortly after she was taken into service under the control of the Confederate Army at Charleston, South Carolina.
Hunley, nearly 40 feet long, was built at Mobile, Alabama, and launched in July 1863. She was then shipped by rail on August 12, 1863, to Charleston, South Carolina. Hunley (then called Fish Boat) sank on August 29, 1863, during a training exercise, killing five members of her crew. She sank again on October 15, 1863, killing all eight of her second crew, including Horace Hunley himself, who was aboard at the time, even though he was not enlisted in the Confederate armed forces. Both times Hunley was raised and returned to service. On February 17, 1864, Hunley attacked and sank the 1240-short ton screw sloop USS Housatonic on Union blockade duty in Charleston’s outer harbor. Soon after, Hunley sank, killing all eight of her third crew. This time, the innovative ship was lost.
Finally located in 1995, Hunley was recovered in 2000 and is on display in Charleston. Examination in 2012 of recovered Hunley artifacts suggests that the submarine was as close as 20 feet to her target, Housatonic, when her deployed torpedo exploded, which eventually caused the sub’s own demise. (Description courtesy of Wikipedia.)
Bill Jenkins is a member of the Friends of the Hunley and is also a special member of the 26th North Carolina Regiment, a Confederate re-enactor unit.
Bill worked for Texaco in Westville, NJ, for 32 years before retiring in 1985. He and his wife Rosie now live in Elsinboro, which is located on the Delaware River in Salem County.