ONR Science & Technology Focus
               Oceanography       Space Sciences       Blow the Ballast!       Teachers' Corner   
Rescue of the Squalus Swede Momsen Submarines People Under the Sea Resources

Submarines: History - Submarines & the Civil War

CSS Hunely
Illustration of the CSS Hunley (U.S. Navy photo)

The Confederate States of America were the next to use submarines in combat. They built small, steam-powered submarines, called Davids, named for the Bible's legendary giant-slayer. On Oct. 5, 1863, one of these attacked the USS New Ironsides off the coast of Charleston, S.C., disabling but not sinking the ship with a 65-pound spar torpedo.

The Civil War also saw the first submarine to successfully sink its target, the 40-foot-long Hunley, which was operated by eight men turning a hand crank attached to her propeller shaft. The Hunley sank and was recovered three times during trial runs before it was successful. On Feb. 16, 1864, under the cover of darkness, the Hunley sank the USS Housatonic off Charleston. Accounts differ as to the reason, but the Hunley sank soon after sinking the Housatonic. It was discovered in May 1995 off the coast of Charleston and was recovered in August 2000.

previous page next page