This is the story that started it all for me…
This is Horace Lawson Hunley. Horace is a cousin of one of my direct ancestors.
Horace was born on June 20, 1823 in Sumner County, Tennessee. Although born in Tennessee, Horace was raised in New Orleans, Louisiana where he eventually practiced law and served on the Louisiana State Legislature.
Horace was a staunch supporter of the Confederate States of America and sought ways to improve the war efforts. Horace’s love of marine engineering ultimately led to the design and construction of the Pioneer, an early submarine. In February 1862, the Pioneer was tested in the Mississippi River and was eventually transported to Lake Pontchartrain for additional trials. The Pioneer was abandoned around the time the Union Army advanced on New Orleans.
Horace moved to Mobile, Alabama soon thereafter and began working on another submarine called the American Diver. Horace experimented with electromagnetic and steam propulsion but eventually settled on a hand-cranked propulsion system. Unfortunately, the American Diver sank in the mouth of Mobile Bay during a storm.
Yet Horace did not give up. In 1863, Horace began construction on another submarine named after himself – the H.L. Hunley.
On October 15, 1863, Horace and seven other crewmen were killed during a mock attack when the H.L. Hunley failed to surface. The Confederate Navy recovered the vessel and returned it to service. Horace was buried at the Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina.
On the night of February 17, 1864, the H.L. Hunley attacked a Union ship called the USS Housatonic. However, for reasons not yet known, the H.L. Hunley sank to the bottom of the ocean along with the Housatonic.
The H.L. Hunley was lost until it was recovered on August 8, 2000.