The H.L. Hunley was the first successful submarine. It was created by the Confederates during the Civil War in Mobile, Alabama, however it was moved to Charleston SC in order to be used against Union troops blockading the harbor. Named after Horance Hunley, the ship had three different crews over her lifespan and out of the 24 sailors that were part of the crews only 4 survived. The Hunley's only successful mission was on Febuary 17th, 1864 when it rammed a torpedo into the side of the USS Housatonic, killing 5 on the ship and sinking it. The Hunley was lost at sea after signalling a successful mission and was not seen again till August 8th, 2000.
Backstory and Context
The first crew of the Hunley was lead by Lt. John A. Payne and was a crew full of volunteers. The sub prepared for a nighttime attack when Lt. Payne stepped on the level controlling the dive plans and sunk the Hunley while the hatches were still open. Only four people escaped. The Confederate Army began to raise the Hunley 72 hours after it sank in order to prepare it for another run. (2)
The second crew of the Hunley was lead by its namesake Horance Hunley and met a familiar fate to the first attempt. This time the Hunley made it underwater normally, however they were not able to close the forward sea valve and the Hunley plummeted straight down into the bottom of the harbor. It was found days later by divers at a 30 degree angle stuck in the mud. All eight sailors were killed. (3)
The third crew of the Hunley were the only successful crew in sinking a ship. They attacked on February 17th, 1864 and went for the USS Housatonic. Sailors on the ship saw something suspicious coming toward the ship, however there cannons could not shoot downward into the water close enough so they fired rifles at the metal submarine. The Hunley drove a torpedo into the side of the Housatonic then quickly backed up pulling the detonating string and blowing up the Housatonic killing 5 men. The Hunley was able to rise one last time to signal mission success with a blue light however was never seen again after that point. (4)
The Hunley was found in 1995 by Clive Cussler under sand and silt on the Atlantic floor just outside the Charleston Harbor. It was in still in good condition and was recovered from the bottom on August 8th, 2000. They are still salvaging the Hunley trying to figure out why it never returned, which even now is still a mystery. It is currently sitting in a tank of seawater in order to prevent oxidation and ruin any hope of ever finding answers. (4)