Horace Lawson Hunley was born 29 December 1823, in Sumner County, Tenn. He early moved to New Orleans where he practiced law and represented Orleans Parish in the Louisiana State Legislature. On outbreak of the Civil War, he joined James R. McClintock and Baxter Watson in sponsoring the building of Confederate privateer submarine Pioneer, later scuttled to prevent capture when New Orleans fell. The three men built a second submarine at Mobile, Ala., but it sank in Mobile Bay. Hunley then provided the entire means for building a third submarine named H. L. Hunley in his honor. This manual powered submarine had successful trials in Mobile Bay, then was shipped to General Beauregard for the defense of Charleston in August 1863.
When early submarine operations at Charleston failed to produce a sinking, Hunley provided a crew headed by Lt. George A. Dixon, CSA. But Hunley took charge in the absence of Dixon 15 October 1863, and perished with his entire crew of seven when the submarine failed to surface from a dive under CSS Indian Chief.
Dixon raised and refitted CSS H. L. Hunley, armed her with a "Lee Spar Torpedo" and sank steam sloop-of-war Housatonic off Charleston Harbor 17 February 1864. Though submarine and crew perished in this mission, H. L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink a warship in combat, casting a long shadow into the 20th century.
13 April 2000