What do U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, P.T. Barnum, entertainer and businessman, and Clive Cussler, best-selling author and adventurer, all have in common?
Answer: The H.L. Hunley, the world’s first successful submarine.
My parents came to visit my husband and I in Charleston this Labor Day weekend. They’ve been here before, so we have done a lot of the usual downtown tourist spots. I wanted to find something that would interest all of us. History is usually common ground for my father and husband and when I found out about the connection between my father’s favorite author, Clive Cussler and the H.L. Hunley, I knew I’d found a winner!
On April 19, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln ordered the Union forces to begin a blockade of all major Southern ports. This strategy helped inspire Horace Lawson Hunley, a New Orleans planter and lawyer to help design and build a submarine to attack Union ships. The H.L. Hunley sank twice in the Charleston Harbor during test runs, with losses of 13 men from the two crews, including Horace Hunley himself on the second mission. But on it’s third mission, on February 17, 1864, determined to help deter the Union’s blockade of the South’s ports, it became the first submarine to successfully sink an enemy ship. The Hunley rammed a spar torpedo into the Union warship, USS Housatonic. Unfortunately for its brave crew of eight men, the Hunley mysteriously sank shortly after signaling back to Confederates on land of their maritime victory.
Many years later, P.T. Barnum would offer a $100,000 reward hoping someone would find the exact location of the H.L. Hunley. However, it would not be until May 3rd, 1995 when Clive Cussler and N.U.M.A., the National Underwater Marine Agency that he founded, would find the Hunley on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean outside Charleston Harbor. The H.L. Hunley was raised from the ocean bottom on August 8, 2000.
The Hunley is currently housed at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center only minutes from downtown Charleston. Scientists are currently working to preserve the submarine and attempting to solve the mystery of what caused it to sink on its history-making third mission. Tours are open to the public on weekends. Visit www.hunley.org for more information on the history and mystery that surrounds the H.L. Hunley. What amazed us all on the tour was not only how small the interior of the submarine was, one of the crew was over six feet tall, but also how brave the Confederate crew members were knowing that the submarine had sunk twice before and volunteering for the mission anyway.
Until you can get here to Charleston to visit the Hunley, you can also pick up a DVD or Blu-ray of Clive Cussler’s treasure hunting adventure “Sahara” starring Matthew Mc Conaughey and Penelope Cruz. Or if you prefer you may read your way through Clive Cussler’s adventure-filled novels in both hardcover and paperback with titles too numerous to mention. Either way, find it all atwww.abundatrade.com.