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Horace Hunley and His Submarine, October 1863

Waring Hills Oct 18, 2010


Horace Lawson Hunley (1823 - 1863)


One hundred and forty-six years ago today, Horace Hunley was brought up from the depths of Charleston Harbor, not far from the Yorktown’s present location,  along with the 2nd crew of  his new submarine. He was born in Tennessee, but grew up in New Orleans. Trained as a lawyer and a member of the Louisiana state legislature, he turned his talents and interests to the future world of submarines with the advent of the Civil War.

Hunley formed a team with James R. McClintock and Baxter Watson in building his first submarine called the Pioneer, which was scuttled to prevent capture when New Orleans fell in 1862. Interestingly, New Orleans was captured by another gentleman who was born in Tennessee and grew up in New Orleans, David Glasgow Farragut.


Pioneer 1862


Next, a second submarine was built at Mobile, Alabama, but it sank in Mobile Bay. A third submarine financed solely by Hunley was named H. L. Hunley in his honor. This manual powered submarine had successful trials in Mobile Bay, and was secretly shipped to General Beauregard for the defense of Charleston Harbor in August 1863.


Conrad Wise Chapman's painting of the CSS Hunley, 1863.


On 15 October 1863, while the Hunley’s skipper Lieutenant Dixon was away, Horace Hunley decided to take out the submarine himself for tests. While attempting to dive and travel underneath an anchored ship in Charleston Harbor, the Hunley entered a steep dive and buried its nose in the mucky bottom. The eight crew members onboard died. Horace Hunley and  Thomas Parks were at the two hatches, where they were asphyxiated. The other six crew members drown in the partially flooded submarine. They were all from Mobile and experts on the Hunley: Robert Brockbank, Charles McHugh, John Marshall, Henry Beard, and Joseph Patterson.

Three days after this dive, the Hunley was found by divers and its crew removed and buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina.

For an extensive look at Hunley history and manuscripts read more here at the Naval Historical Center.



"The Flag of Sumter Oct. 20 1863" Alan Thompson Photography This oil-on-board painting depicts a Confederate Second National flag flying over Fort Sumter, with Morris Island and the blockading Union fleet off the South Carolina coast. Chapman made a series of sketches of Charleston's wartime defenses, and created 31 paintings in 1864. The entire set was purchased for the MOC in 1898.


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One thought on “Horace Hunley and His Submarine, October 1863

  1. J Jilote says:

    May I use your info on Horace Hunley and the Hunley in my family genealogy of HENRY BEARD?

    I have been told by many relatives that Henry BEARD is in our BEARD family tree and related to our Barnwell Preston BEARD b. 1832. I have not been able to place Barnwell anywhere until 1850 when he is found in Colleton Co., SC.

    I have found info that states that Henry Beard worked for Horace Hunley as a mechanic in Alabama. I have yet to find where he was born or which family he belongs to, but I intend to.

    Any info or suggestions you may have that would be greatly appreciated.

    Janet N Jilote
    Charleston, SC

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