The H.L. Hunley was a Confederate submarine, the first of its kind to ever sink an enemy warship. Despite its fame and place in history, researchers still don’t understand what ultimately sunk the craft shortly after its successful mission. After 15 years of preparation, historians have started unveiling clues to this 150-year-old mystery.
February 17, 1864, the H.L. Hunley attacked and sunk the USS Housatonic, hoping the break the Union blockade that was strangling the Confederate economy. Despite its success in battle, the Hunley sank shortly afterwards. How the submarine sunk is still one of the Civil War’s greatest mysteries, and thanks to meticulous archaeological study, it might soon be solved.
Paul Mardikian, senior conservator on the Hunley Project in North Charleston, S.C., expressed his excitement to the AP.
“It’s like unwrapping a Christmas gift after 15 years. We have been wanting to do this for many years now.”
The Confederate submarine was first discovered in 1995. It was another five years before they could raise the vessel and send it to a museum to be preserved in fresh water.
Unfortunately, it was covered in what scientists call “concretion,” a hardened goo composed of sand, sediment and rust.
The Confederate vessel was bathed in a solution of sodium hydroxide to loosen the concretion in May of last year. And now, thanks to painstaking effort using dental tools and air-powered chisels, scientists have revealed 70 percent of the hull, along with clues and additional questions.
For one, they found the initials “C.N.” stamped on the hull. Scientists believe the initials might indicate the foundry that forged the Confederate submarine’s iron.
Likewise, researchers are getting a better understanding of the submarine’s weapon system. The Hunley was an experiment as much as it was a warship. Since the creators were still tinkering and improving the weapons system at the time, it’s not clear how the tiny hand-cranked Confederate submarine brought down the USS Housatonic, one of the Union’s fiercest warships.
The restoration process is being carefully monitored by the Friends of the Hunley, a group that hopes to one day display the submarine in a museum.
Despite the latest developments, the most intriguing facts about the Confederate submarine may have been found inside.
As previously reported by the Inquisitr, each of the craft’s Confederate crew was still at his post when the submarine was discovered, indicating a sudden catastrophe, or that they died with a certain amount of resignation so as to not try to abandon ship.
Whatever the Hunley’s fate was, the Confederate submarine was a significant leap forward in naval technology.
[Image Credit: Naval Historical Center]