1) Welcome to the new Hunley Newsletter



A special welcome to all the new subscribers. This newsletter is published every two weeks so no one is bombarded with mail.  This issue is about the various theories on why the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley sank and what might have happened that night of February 17, 1864. Contributions to this letter are from the great friends and rocket scientist in the CSS H L Hunley Club, a battlefield of wits and personalities galore, as well as data provided by Sen. Glenn McConnell, Friends of the Hunley, Inc., Dr. E. Lee Spence, I simply puzzled it together and added my two cents worth.

This weeks special at The Hunley store

Free Hunley Pin with any order over $10.00 offer ends May 1 2003




by George W. Penington  

There have been numerous discussions in the CSS H L HUNLEY CLUB and in the press around various theories about the sinking of the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley. I have tried to compile these theories, excerpted from our discussions to condense them to an abridged form.  I have also tried to give credit where credit was due, but in many cases there were conjoining parts and pieces on theories scrambled with original thoughts mixed with known facts. The task at hand was not as easy as I thought it would be so no one take offense. I have had the advantage of being able to look at all the theories and the disadvantage of not having all the facts. Can any of the theories be ruled out? I think with most of them only parts can be rejected in time. The article starts with some of the facts that we know from the information that was provided, editorial privileges and b.s. (biographical sampling). A little logic and familiarity with the waters of Charleston Harbor, the help of the experts in the “Club”, and information from the “Friends of the Hunley, Inc.” make these facts fairly secure.

In this newsletter, the reader has the opportunity to choose the Sinking Theory that he or she thinks the best, most logical, most likely or closest to what actually happened on the night of February 17, 1864. The reader may also choose to add their own theory. I have started out with known facts including the physical and mechanical justifications to these facts, have given other opinions when appropriate and then numerated and captioned the various theory categories. PLEASE VOTE ON THE THEORY OF YOUR CHOOSING and I will let you know the outcome next newsletter.  Believe me it won’t be easy.


#1 The snorkels were discovered in the upright position. There were consistent problems with the snorkel and air bellows.
#2 The rudder was found completely underneath the sub.
#3 The Hunley was found approximately 650 feet from the wreckage of the Housatonic.
#4 The Hunley did not sink lying on her starboard side but somewhere in time rolled over. There was an unexplained cannonball size hole and a gash on the starboard side. The Hunley when discovered was found rested on her starboard side. • “The two holes on the starboard side of the hull appear to not be contemporary to the submarine's sinking. McConnell said both holes could have been made by an anchor that was dragged across the hull of the sub before it was covered in the silt.” The analysis of the Hunley interior sediments shows that several hull penetrations happened years latter after the sinking.......................... http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2001AM/finalprogram/abstract_28473.htm
 "After initial sedimentation of fine-grained materials with rare bivalves and later filling of relatively coarse shelf
materials, in situ shells indicate a calm period of little to no deposition. Afterwards, another episode depositing shelf-reworked fauna added additional materials to the sub", may show the results of separate events that cause the large hole in the stern and one of the other holes. “
#5 The lower spar was bent possibly from the impact with the Housatonic or from the crash dive.
#6 The crew was in all probability seriously hurt from the explosion which happened less than 150 feet away.
#7 A “blue light” signal was seen from the Housatonic and Battery Marshall. “Blue lights were common signals used by both sides. We also know The lantern found on the Hunley is definitely not blue. The lens was not covered in concretion and clearly visible to the naked eye.


#8 The Hunley was not operating as a submarine, but more as a “David” a surface semi-submersible vessel when it sunk the USS Housatonic.

#9 Dixon knew the tide schedule when he departed Sullivan’s Island and had developed a mission time table. The Hunley could not make headway against the tide so everything had to be timed perfectly. 


This final crew had only been together three months, had practiced the long dive, lengthy runs,  and strenuous cranking periods. We know from information that has been released that the aft hatch is latched closed. The forward latch is not engaged, latched nor closed all the way and an x-ray shows the hatch is slightly opened a small amount, less than one degree.  The fact that the hatch was closed but not latched either indicates a forced or sudden dive or that Dixon may have unlatched it at the last moment to attempt an escape.

 Ballast tanks, at the bow and the stern were flooded by valves to submerge and pumped dry by hand to resurface. The Iron ballast keel could be jettisoned by unscrewing the heads of the bolts from inside the submarine.

There was air in the upper portion of the cabin interior for an extended period indicating there were no significant leaks.


McClintock admitted that his boats suffered from three basic problems: the lack of a self-propelling motive power, inaccurate compass readings, and an inability to measure the horizontal movement while running submerged.

"...One difficulty which Mr. McClintock very frankly pointed out was the uncertain action of the compass in such a vessel...He also pointed out another requirement which he had not succeeded in applying - rather from want of means than from want of skill, or from any great difficulty in the requirement [illegible]. He states that when under weigh beneath the surface, it is quite impossible to ascertain whether the vessel is progressing as there are no passing objects by which to recognize the fact of motion; on several occasions when experimenting with his boat they continued working the crank while all the time the boat was hard and fast in the mud ("Report on a submarine boat invented by Mr. McClintock of Mobile, U.S. of America," PRO, Adm. Series 1/6236, File 39455).



Hunley Sinks landing on rudder

Bow settles as crew adjust

Hunley sits level on bottom

Hunley in attack mode

Forced Dive

Spar is bent



Analysis of the sediment and degree of preservation indicates that Dixon was covered before the rest of the crew, indicating a possible leak from the forward area or did a sudden dive cause the stern ballast tank to empty forward.

We do know that the crew was not all at their stations.  The two crewmen right behind Dixon moved forward and the two men farthest aft moved aft we assuming to work the aft pump. One crewman was found closer to the top, a possible indication of an escape attempt. None of the others made an effort to escape. The majority of the crew showed no indication of awareness that the sub was mortally sunk.

* In an endurance test dive, the crew of the Hunley sat on the ocean bottom for two hours, thirty-five minutes without surfacing for air.


crew quietly losing consciousness and dying of oxygen deprivation.

Did they all go to sleep to never wake up.    The crew members have been found at their work stations. This suggests there was no panic on board. Scientists half- expected to find the bones of the crewmen mingled on the floor of the sub as they died climbing over each other trying to open the sub's hatches. The remains have been found in neat intervals in the mud.
 Stalactites and oxygen stains that suggest that the sub's interior did not fill with water right away, shooting a hole - so to speak - in the single-bullet theory.

The only crewman not found at his seat was found on top of what may be the remnants of a bellows used to pump air into the Hunley. He could have been trying to suck new air into the sub when it went down.

Doctors deduce the crew may have died from anoxia, a complete lack of oxygen. If that occurred, the crew would have simply run out of oxygen and gone to sleep.


(I) Dixon miscalculated.

 ..One theory is in maneuvering for the attack, backing away, and avoiding the sinking Housatonic, Dixon found himself farther from base than he planned and was faced with the prospect of going across the paths of ships coming to the rescue rather than away from them so he took the Hunley down. Did Lt. Dixon
(1) Intentionally take the Hunley down to wait for the tide to turn.
(2) Submerged  to rest the crew and perform first aid  or
(3) Submerge to allow the Yankee rescue efforts to subside.



The theory that the Hunley may have been running submerged or waiting it out on the floor of the harbor for the Canandaigua and other rescue vessels to leave the area has been discussed.  We know that the interior stayed dry by evidence of the stalactites that allows us to conclude that there was air in the 25’ of cabin area that lasted for years.
Maria Jacobsen has stated that it was not possible for Lt. Dixon to look out the hatch portholes when the latch was engaged. “You can’t fit your head in the conning tower with the latch locked down.  Therefore Dixon left it unlatched for surface operations.”  It certainly seems unlikely that Dixon would have intentionally gone for the bottom with the hatch unlocked.

The bones were found near the front of the sub, slightly behind and just a foot below the front hatch that opens through the top of the sub. "We had never expected to find human remains at this high level," said Jacobsen, who works inside the sub in a space so cramped she can barely move her head up and down. "That is a huge surprise."

The time Dixon’s watch stopped supports this theory.
Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Hunley Commission, says the watch supports one longtime theory. “I believe the apparent time suggests the watch out-lived the crewmen and continued to tick for many hours past their deaths,” McConnell said. “It also raises the supposition that the submarine may have remained less than flooded long after the demise of the crew. If the submarine had flooded shortly after the attack, it seems probable the watch would have stopped at a time closer to, but after 8:45 p.m., when the attack on the Housatonic occurred.”


(III) EQUIPMENT MALFUNCTION  including malfunction of the snorkel valves or the dive planes. One theory offers the possibility that this equipment had mal-functioned that night unbeknownst to the crew and that the oxygen was reduced and anoxia had set in with the effect of decreased ability to make sound decisions.  The lack of oxygen theory has as much merit as any. When the candle went out after a half hour the crew may not have responded correctly to this vital signal. What stage of anoxia would the crew have been in when the air in the boat could no longer support a candle flame?

"One or both hatches may have been opened for use of the blue signal lamp (a blue calcium)  It certainly seems unlikely that Dixon would have intentionally gone for the bottom with the hatch unlocked."

"If the Hunley was still able to make headway, Dixon's crew would have been cranking for their lives. They wouldn't have been concerned about the direction as long as it was toward safety..
b_rogoff … "I agree with the theory that something went wrong with the prop or rudder or both. Otherwise, the Hunley would have been long gone by the time the Canandaigua showed up. If either the rudder or the prop
was damaged, it could help to explain why the boat was found further out to sea than the Housatonic."

"After the detonation, the crew would have been cranking backwards like crazy, probably harder than they had even cranked before. (They were getting shot at after all.) Dixon would have been trying to control the rudder and to adjust the trim at the same time."

"The torpedo lanyard would have indeed been trailing the boat. If the boat was backing in a curve, the lanyard would have been dragged along the same curve. When the boat reversed course, it could have run right over the lanyard, which might then have been sucked through the fairing into the prop. (Reminds me of the Caine mutiny when Queeg
(Bogie) ran over his own line.)"

"In any case, Dixon might have sent someone over the side to try to repair the damage IF he knew what needed to be done. Or perhaps it simply couldn't be repaired."

"Or perhaps he didn't know about the damage. That would mean that the fate of the Hunley's crew was a cruel one. Imagine cranking at top speed for 45 minutes, expecting to be well on your way home, and then discovering that you've been going in circles. You're still in danger of being spotted and attacked and actually getting further out to sea"…..Barry


The Hunley controlled her depth using a combination of things: the ballast tanks and the dive planes and forward motion. The normal mode of operation was to trim the tanks to neutral buoyancy and then use the planes to control the depth once the propellers were turned or by motion from gravity. An equipment failure in any one of these systems could be catastrophic.

If the propeller shaft was damaged the dive planes were rendered useless without forward or reverse motion. Without the command to close the hatches and latch them down and the boat started diving, Dixon and his First mate would have had to react. A sudden 45 degree dive would cause water to spill out of the ballast tanks into the crew compartment expediting the unexpected dive. (Remember the sub is almost 40’ long in 27’ of water.)  The sub would suddenly be in a dive mode whether forward or reverse and before the action could be stopped, the Hunley would have hit bottom in the shallow water around the battle area. Now to surface the crew would have to release the ballasted keel.  The keel release mechanism may have failed as it did in the second Charleston Harbor sinking.


(IV) SWAMPED - the men opened the hatches for air as they began their return and a wave washed over the sub and swamped it. This may have been one of the reasons for the first sinking.

The Hunley was struck and fatally damaged by another Union ship that was coming to the rescue of the Housatonic - Did the Canandaigua come along and swamp her?  This theory includes that the Hunley was swamped by waves on its return journey.
 (V) Single-bullet theory (Lucky Shot) surmises that a Minie ball fired from the deck of the USS Housatonic shattered the Hunley's forward cast-iron conning tower during the attack, allowing water to pour in while an injured Lt. George Dixon struggled to control the contrary sub. This theory has been disproved due to air left in the sub after she sank. A conning tower hole would have quickly allowed the sub to fill with water, but some people still think it’s feasible..
(VI)  The Hunley was destroyed by the same explosion that sank the Housatonic?  “Was she drawn into the vortex of the sinking sloop”

This theory that the Hunley was sucked into the Housatonic was disproved upon her discovery in 1970 by Dr. E. Lee Spence.
The following letter confirms that many believed this idea to be true before then.

Letter from Captain Gray, C.S. Army, to Major-General Maury, C.S. Army,
regarding the loss of the H.L. Hunley and her crew.

Major-General DABNEY H. MAURY,
Mobile, Ala. (excerpt)
          The United States sloop of war was attacked and destroyed on the night of the 17th of February. Since that time no information has been received of either the boat or crew. I am of the opinion that the torpedoes being placed at the bow of the boat, she went into the hole made in the Housatonic by explosion of torpedoes and did not have sufficient power to back out, consequently sunk with her.     I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant, OFFICE SUBMARINE DEFENSES, Charleston, S. C., April 29, 1864 M. M. GRAY,
Captain in Charge of Torpedoes.

D. D. Porter's history of the war states explicitly that HUNLEY was sucked into the hole blown in the Union ship,
and dragged down with it. He states clearly that she was found that way, with all her crew drowned.

“Frankly, I've never been entirely comfortable with the assumption, based mainly (entirely?) on the blue light reportedly seen on shore, that HUNLEY actually survived the attack. Of all the scenarios for the boat's loss I've read, none seems as likely to me as the boat being sunk/mortally damaged by the explosion of her own torpedo.” -----------> AH

 (VII) SANK IN A GALE:     Senator McConnell announced that there is evidence to be released that the Hunley may have been lost the night of the sinking in a gale. The intimation was that the Hunley after signaling its success to the troops at Battery Marshall may have been swamped by a wave from the sudden gale. This may have caused water to flood into the open hatches, causing the Commander to suddenly go below, closing the hatch, but not locking it down,  Proceedings of a court of inquiry convened on board the USS Wabash, February 26, 1864

First. That the U. S. S. Housatonic was blown up and sunk by a rebel torpedo craft on the night of February 17 last, about 9 o'clock p. m., while lying at an anchor in 27 feet of water off Charleston, S. C., bearing E. S. E., and distant from Fort Sumter about 5½ miles. The weather at the time of the occurrence was clear, the night bright and moonlight, wind moderate from the northward and westward, sea smooth and tide half ebb, the ship's head about W. N. W. “…………..The mast of the ‘Housatonic’ are all that can be seen of her, and the gale which is now prevailing will do much to make a complete wreck of that once noble ship”

But further research shows that eyeball testimony lugs a strong load on the scale of truth. One of the surviving sailors from the Housatonic wrote a letter to the Boston Herald that ended up in the Charleston Mercury on March 14, 1864. The letter in part states, “The event took place about 9 o’clock on one of the coldest nights of the winter.”.

We know from varying accounts and from personal experience that the weather in Charleston Harbor in February is cold and can get severe in short order without notice. The old Charleston Daily Courier reported that "several ironclad's were seen to anchor at Light House Inlet off Morris Island after dark to escape the rough seas off shore."

In a letter by Augustine Smythe, sailor from the C.S.S. Palmetto State dated February 21st, 1864 states "The submarine torpedo boat - The Fish - which has been put in repair and been lying down at Sullivan's Island for some time, went out on Thursday night and it is supposed, sunk a blockader, as one of them was seen to go down.  This attack was unknown at the time even at Head Quarters.  They supposed it was the storm.  Since then however, nothing has been heard of her and she is put down as lost. 

So there are snippets of information that indicate the possibility of some time of severe weather in the Harbor the night of the sinking of the USS Housatonic and the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley. It may have been that a gale or storm in the area may not have been significant or of note at the time within the scope of all the other war activities that were going on. We have the advantage of knowing that the design of the Hunley made it vulnerable to wave action or rolling particularly if the hatches are open. You may recall that one of the theories around the first sinking of the Hunley at Fort Johnson evolved around the possibility that the wash or wake from the C.S.S. Etiwan set into motion that sinking.


 (VIII)   SUICIDE An agreement was made among the crew that if the Hunley ever got stuck on the bottom under water they would open the seacocks and end it all.  They had decided that they would rather drown quickly at their own choosing than suffocate slowly.  We have not been provided with information about the seacocks and what position they were in. Due to the fact that there was air in the sub long after it sank pretty much rules this out..

 In the TNT cable network movie "The Hunley," the crew floods the disabled sub, choosing death by drowning rather than slower death by suffocation. 


"After the Hunley’s torpedo detonated, it left somewhere between 50 and 150 feet of detonating tether strung out ahead of the boat. As a natural fibre material, fully saturated, this cord probably had near-neutral or slightly negative buoyancy, and would begin trailing aft as the submarine began to move forward again and picked up speed."

 "Assuming (as I believe to be correct) that the tether reel was a simple spool affixed to the hull near the forward hatch; the reel could neither be rewound from inside the boat nor jettisoned entirely. In those circumstances, the remaining tether would likely begin trailing aft from the reel, back along the shoulder of the boat's hull. It seems distinctly likely to me that this could result in the cord becoming fouled in the screw, and possibly jamming it altogether."

 "The latter scenario would, in my view, be almost certainly fatal to the boat and crew. Without its forward motion to literally drive it to the surface, the Hunley’s crew would have to achieve positive buoyancy within the boat. This may he been difficult to do, particularly if the boat settled on the bottom with a substantial list (as she was ultimately found). William Alexander described how, on the boat's earlier "endurance" dive, they very nearly didn't get off the bottom due to one of the two pumps clogging. It also would likely have been very difficult to unbolt the keel weights in the extremely dark and crowded interior of the submerged boat. Also, although there is no clear evidence of a massive, fatal injury to the craft now apparent on the wreck, one should not discount the possibility of numerous small leaks caused by the concussion of the torpedo. Propelling the boat to the surface may have been their only real hope of staying afloat, and with the torpedo tether wound securely around the screw, they may well have been without any propulsion at all." AH  Tigone





February 17th, 1864

High tide - 3:40 PM



3:40 PM high water


4:30 PM beginning of ebb current



4:30 PM beginning of ebb current


7:00 P.M. Hunley ships out at  Half way to low tide going out –
Hunley leaves dock at Breech Inlet

Less work for the Crew. The currents at Breech Inlet are ferocious. They ride the current out.

7:00 P.M.

7:45 PM maximum ebb occurring



7:45 PM maximum ebb


8:00 PM Hunley is half way to target –


8:00 PM Hunley clears breakers


8:15 PM Dixon checks bearings  takes a bearing on Housatonic.



8:15 PM Dixon checks bearings  takes a bearing on Housatonic

8:45 – 9:00 PM Hunley is full speed ahead. They are spotted
by lookouts on Housatonic about 100 yards out. (Football field)

is sounded after a minute and a half and Housatonic slips anchor and
starts backing up.

8:45 PM Hunley spotted by lookout on Housatonic


8:50 PM Housatonic crew reacting – starts reversing


Her bow is toward Fort Sumter. Hunley has slammed
against the hull of Housatonic and explosive is set. The sudden stop
has bent the spar and slammed the crew forward. Some are injured.


8:50 PM Housatonic crew reacting – starts reversing


9:00 PM Explosion - The hatches are closed during the explosion but the concussion rocks
the ship and crew. *

Between the outgoing current and the reverse cranking of crew, and
the Housatonic reversing, line to firing pin is feed out and Hunley
has drifted less than 150 feet away in the next minute and a half.


9:00 PM Explosion– Housatonic sinks within 3 minutes – Rescue operations started -


9:20 PM The Hunley drifts away with the current for the next
20 minutes. Possible 1700 yards.

The Housatonic sends two life boats to the Canandaigua – who knows nothing about sinking. “that a boat belonging to the Housatonic reached this ship last night at about 9:20”

Canandaigua is over 2 miles away at Rattlesnake Shoals – Discrepancy in time here.

         “ Two boats of the Housatonic were lowered and received all they could hold; the Canandaigua, which knew nothing of the catastrophe, sent her boats immediately on hearing of it, and took off the crew, who had ascended into the rigging.”


9:30 PM blue light observed on shore and by Housatonic**

Roughly 30- 45 minutes elapsed between the time of the attack and the blue light signal.



9:30 PM It would then be another hour - twenty minutes before the tide turns fully.

 9:45 PM Canandaigua cranks up and starts heading toward the Housatonic to
perform rescue operations..


The Hunley is pointed toward Sullivan’s
Island dead ahead North. The signal light is sent and answered by
Battery Marshall.

9:45 PM Fires are lit on the beach The Hunley can now see the Canandaigua in her North East quadrant
about equal distance as the Housatonic in a path to cross her bow.


The Housatonic has gone down and mast and rigging can be seen in the Hunley's North West
quadrant about 1200 yards away as she moves toward the bonfires lit on beach of Sullivan’s Island -  Battery Marshall.


9:45 PM low water
Dixon can see that he will not be able to outrun the Canandaigua and prepares to dive. As she crash dives, Dixon realizes that something
is wrong with the steering, part of the propeller shroud has possibly blown off. ***

Dixon is running the surface – not making headway against the tide - when suddenly engine sounds
can be heard. The Canandaigua will pass directly ahead at full emergency speed. The wake and propeller wash strike the Hunley flooding the open hatches forcing her into a rear dive when she lands aft first on her

9:45 PM low water
As the sound of the Canandaigua passes in the distance, the
crew tries to make repairs including releasing the keel which is bent
and will not release. The cranks are turning but crew cannot determine forward motion.

“At 10:30 all were brought from the wreck. Brought on board of this ship, belonging to the Housatonic, 21 officers and 137 men. At 11:30 stood toward the Wabash, to the southward and westward.” log of the U. S. S. Canandaigua,


10:50 PM beginning of flood current


There was a period of about 45 minutes in which there were no other
vessels in the area that could have spotted the Hunley on the surface
and Dixon surely knew that. Had he been able to take advantage of
that opportunity to escape on the surface, he would have.  Barry



February 18.--At 12:40 a.m. Two and a half hours have passed - anoxia and eventual
suffocation take over. Her resting place is within 650 feet of the

10:50 PM beginning of flood current



February 18.--At 12:40 a.m. Lieutenant-Commander Belknap left the ship (Canandaigua) and went inside the bar in the tug Daffodil. Clear and moonlight till 3:30 a.m., when the moon went down. At 6 a.m. picked up one of the Housatonic's launches, sent it inside the bar in tow of the tug. At 7:45 steamed by the Housatonic and at 8 a.m. let go our anchor near our old station in 5 fathoms water, Sumter bearing N. W. W. and Breach Inlet N. N. W.


Remember that weather conditions affect tidal ranges and current speeds, sometimes very strongly.

*Add in the fact that they were probably less than 250' away from the Housatonic on the tail end of the ebb tide, causing them to drift away off-shore. The incredible force and pressure from the blast would have caused near un-consciousness and confusion, if not killing a few of them. The blast effect could have caused the propeller to turn in reverse (if not geared) breaking or bruising arms or legs. Waves of water from the blast and the ocean would have added to the weight of the ship and soaked the freezing crewmen. The remaining crew would have to make a turn toward shore, the blacked out blockade runners are now lit up or visible, and the decision to dive (against the standing order not to submerge) is made.

** We know from witness accounts that a blue light signal was seen. Was it a signal from the Hunley or a danger signal given by the Union forces?
Was a lamp signal given by the Hunley and if so was the hatch fully closed afterwards or did Dixon try to get the hatch open to escape after the Hunley was sunk.


***Two pieces of a thin (5.6 mm in diameter) glass tube, the remains of the submarine's depth gauge were found concreted to the submarine's hull near Lt. George Dixon's post. If this was shattered as a result of the explosion then Dixon had no way of knowing how deep he was.

 “I would imagine that submarining around, or "waiting it out" on the
 bottom, with an unsecured hatch is not a Standard Operating Procedure……...” yello_armadillo

”In the end, I think that the damaged shroud and rudder are going to be key.  Somehow, the rudder was detached from the sub (thus it being found underneath the Hunley).  I suspect that the rudder was damaged, either by the explosion or by a collision with one of the rescue vessels.  “

”They may have spent the 45 minutes before help arrived trying to repair the damage on the surface before diving to avoid detection by the rescue ships.  Or, without a rudder and/or a damaged propeller they might have drifted with little or no control over the direction, and submerged to avoid being swept out to sea.  “

”At any rate, I think they ended up on the bottom alive and died of lack of oxygen some time later.  I think the presence of the stalactites tells us that they didn't drown.” "Ian Chafee", 16 Sep 2002


“The point I've been trying to make about the Hunley is that avoiding detection was not a valid reason for submerging the boat and sitting on the bottom after the attack. There was a period of about 45 minutes in which there were no other vessels in the area that could have spotted the Hunley on the surface and Dixon surely knew that. Had be been able to take advantage of that opportunity to escape on the surface, he would have”….Barry


“Mission Plan: Hit and Run or Hit and Hide?  I think the evidence tilts away from a planned dive to the bottom, but doesn't rule out an emergency dive that went wrong”.  "jvnautilus" Michael


“It seems plausible that as had been done in practice, that the captain allowed the boat to go to the bottom to allow time to pass before attempting the escape. He has already signaled to the shore and was prepared to make the run after a reasonable time had passed.”

“Let’s assume that he waited until the air became reasonably untenable and then ordered the tanks to be pumped. Now is where my questions about the pumps come in.”

“How many strokes could be made before the air is exhausted.  It could be that it would be impossible for the pumps to be worked enough with the air remaining to get water out as fast as it was coming in, or in the worst case, depending upon the characteristics of the pumps to pump at all because of the pressure difference.”  "Donald Gerue"9 Sep 2002”


“And don't forget that the crew was probably injured and deafened by the premature explosion. Either of those things would have had a serious effect on their morale. Imagine sitting there in the dark with your hands on the crank and being unable to hear the captain or even the man next to you. Anyone would feel panic under those conditions.”

”There's a big difference between actively doing something to save your life, like cranking for shore, and crouching inside a cold iron tube, shivering, and waiting for something to happen that may or may not improve your chances of surviving, like the tide turning or the rescue vessels leaving. Dixon was well aware of all these things and I think he would have chosen to allow those men to try to save their lives no matter what theoretical advantage there may have been to waiting.”   Barry


“The discussion about the blue light is interesting. Another way of interpreting it is that they were moving underwater for over a half hour and came up to get their bearings to land and to see what had happened.  While the one man stood in the hatch, watching for the bonfire, he saw a ship in the area and also that they had not gone far.. Capt. Dixon, assessing the state of his crew, and worrying about the ship nearby, thought that the best course was to go to the bottom (which I am assuming he knew the depth,). They closed the hatch went to the bottom  and when the time came they found they could not ascend.”  Don Gerue





Report of Lieutenant-Commander Whiting, U. S. Navy, commanding U. S. S. Ottawa.

Off Charleston Bar, January 22, 1863.

SIR: I have the honor to report that last night at about 10:40 p.m., while at anchor off the Swash Channel, a schooner was made standing out between us and the bar.

Being in readiness to slip, I allowed her to approach so as to draw her out from the channel way. When underway I steamed toward her, cutting off the retreat which was attempted. She was brought to with a shot from the 20-pounder Parrott, which struck in the port bow, bursting and doing some damage.

On boarding she proved to be the schooner Etiwan, of Charleston, S.C., just out from there. The master, A. O. Stone, reports the cargo to be 99 bales of cotton and 2 barrels of resin. She has a crew of five men. I enclose a report to the district judge, with the papers found on board.

I would respectfully report that while in chase of the Etiwan and nearing her, the Housatonic fired across our bows, I suppose intended for the schooner. I sent up a rocket and showed the red light on the side toward her. A second shot was fired from her about the time our shot was fired at the schooner, which passed over our mastheads. I immediately hoisted the running night signal lights. A few minutes after, while lowering a boat to board the prize, a third shot was fired from the Housatonic, which passed directly over the quarter-deck, abaft the mainmast. A blue light was then burned to show the position of the vessels, finding that the regular running lights were not sufficient.

At the time we were fired upon the Powhatan and Quaker City were visible with the glass in their stations and the Housatonic distinct with the naked eye.

It is to be supposed that our identity was not sufficiently marked to protect us from the fire of a blockading vessel, which I hardly need add might have proved exceedingly disastrous; but as I employed all the preconcerted signals, I could do no more.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


 Captain S. W. GODON,
U.S.S. Powhatan, Senior Officer Present.

*The schooner “Etiwan” should not be confused with the 132 ton CSS Side-wheel steamer “Etiwan”. It is ironic that on April 4 (or 6), 1863 the CSS Etiwan, aka Etowan, Etowah, Etwan, or Hetiwan exploded a torpedo (mine) under her hull and just before sinking, intentionally ran aground near Fort Johnson less than a hundred yards from where the first sinking of the confederate submarine H L Hunley, August 29, 1863 occurred. The CSS Etiwan was repaired held some responsibility for this sinking in Charleston Harbor. The Etiwan ran aground again in the same area, June 7, 1864 and was shelled by the new Union batteries set up on near by Morris Island. After the war the wreck of the Etiwan was repaired by the Federal government and she was renamed the Saint Helena.

"In case of an alarm, a blue light will be burned; in case of an attack, a rocket will be sent up."

"Blue lights burned at night by our tug packets indicate the approach of the enemy."

I immediately gave orders to beat to quarters and slip the cable, firing a rocket and burning a blue light in the meantime as a signal of alarm.  Almost at the instant a vessel was seen to the N. N. W. of us, distant 300 yards, burning a blue light, which is known to be the signal of distress.....................

General order of Rear-Admiral Porter, U. S. Navy, embodying instructions to blockading vessels off Eastern and Western bars.

No. 18.

The signal for danger will be the firing of a gun and the burning of a blue light.

I have therefore to request that a supply be sent, as also blue lights, if the signal for danger be not changed.





 Monday April 27, 2003 was to be the day for the announcement of a date for the re-burial of the eight men who went down with the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley. That day has come and gone and it appears that the preliminary date of November, 2003 can not be met. The unofficial word is that the services will not be held until sometime in 2004. One of the reasons for the delay is that only four of the crew faces being reconstructed are ready. The remains of the other four crew members are still being studied and there is no firm completion date.

While talking to various staff members of the Friends of the Hunley, I got the uneasy feeling that maybe no one realized the immensity of the task at hand and the interest developed in participating in the burial services. The logistics of handling the over 10,000 re-enactors and by my low estimate of 40,000  visitors is not something that can be handled by a few volunteers. There are several countries like England and Germany that have submarine services that want to send their representatives, their are the politicos that of course require front row seating, family members, Ambassadors, Mayors, and Senators from all over.

The bridge run several weeks ago attracted over 30,000 healthy runners and was coordinated by a group of over 2500 volunteers.

The re-burial should be a solemn occasion burdened only by grace and dignity but I see it heading toward a major fiasco. Planning the routes, traffic control, people movers and the invading hucksters, available hotel accommodations, food, firemen, EMS, police, the military ...all have to be coordinated. In the winter it's too cold for the old folks to walk, too hot in the summer, you would have people fainting everywhere.  You won't be able to fit more than a hundred people around the grave site, Magnolia is too small. So someone has to arrange for Television and big screen projectors for the visitors to visually attend.   And then someone has to pay for all of this. Does registration fee, tickets and T-shirts - mementoes irk anyone.  I hope the Friends of the Hunley, Inc. are up to the task.

February 17, 2004 appears to be out because S.C. Wildlife has their big meeting in that time frame.


-----Original Message-----

From: DAWN

Sent: Tuesday, April 29, 2003 10:47 AM

To: mistergwp@thehunley.com

Subject: picture of the confederate transport sumpter


i was wondering if you can tell me where i can find a little bit clearer image of the confederate transport ship '' sumpter''? like the one in the article, my gggrandfather was a member of the 23rd georgia infantry that was on board the sumpter when it sank. this is a long shot, but, i was wondering also, if you know where, or if, any kind of schematics of the sumter still exist.

r. thompso


This is a link to the CSS SUMTER, I am also cross copying Dr. Spence who discovered the ship in Charleston, He may have access to a better picture. I am not 100% sure this is the same " Sumter" . Hopefully we will hear from him soon. PS. If you can't download this picture let me know and I will send it separate. http://www.thehunley.com/SPENCE/CSS%20SUMTER.jpg

George W. Penington

-----Original Message-----
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2003 12:24 PM
To: mistergwp@thehunley.com
Subject: The Captain and the Submarine


This is in regards to the question in the April 18th newsletter The book by Ruth Duncan called The Captain and the Submarine.  I got the book on loan from the library in Mobile, Alabama.  It is more on what H.L.Hunley was about than anything else.  I expected it to be on George Dixon, but it wasn't.  I did a research paper on the Hunley that was supposed to be 5  pages long.  I couldn't find a good stopping place, so it turned out to be 100 pages long.  So I have quiet a lot of information on the Hunley.  I've been interested in the submarine since I was 12 years old and that was a long time before there was a remote possiblity of finding her last resting place.



Hey…thanks for the update.  Why don’t you send your paper and I will publish it.  Well. I guess it depends on whether you got an “A” or not.  Just kidding…send it on.

George W. Penington


-----Original Message-----
From: Jack
Sent: Sunday, April 27, 2003 1:24 PM
To: mistergwp@thehunley.com
Subject: Location of The Hunley

Could you please tell me the location of the Hunley.  (city, state, etc) My husband and I would like to visit.  Thank you.


Hope this helps, and thanks for writing.  George

Tours and Gift shop are also closed on Holidays



Gold Coin on display starting November 15


2002 Weekend Tours Announced
Friends of the Hunley is happy to announce that tours of the Hunley are now available every Saturday and Sunday. Tours will not be available on weekdays so that the archaeologists can continue their work preserving the Hunley for future generations.

Tickets will be $10.00 plus a service charge. Tickets for the Hunley tours can be easily purchased by either calling toll-free 1-866-866-9938 or on the Internet at www.etix.com.

Tickets to see the H. L. Hunley must be purchased in advance and all proceeds go to support the Hunley conservation project.

If you have questions about what is involved in the tour, please call the Friends of the Hunley directly at 843-722-2333. If you have questions specific to your tickets, please contact Etix.com at support@etix.com

TOUR DATES -(weekends only)


Tours will be closed December 21-23. Tickets will be $10.00 plus a service charge. Tickets for the Hunley tours can be easily purchased by either calling toll-free 1-866-866-9938 or on the Internet at www.etix.com. Tickets to see the H. L. Hunley must be purchased in advance.

The gift shop will be open in October: Wednesdays and Thursdays (10am-4pm) and Fri-Sun (10am-5pm). November and December: Mon-Thurs (10am-4pm), Fridays and Saturdays (10am-5pm) and Sundays (12pm-5pm). It will be closed on Thanksgiving Day and Dec. 21-26.

If you have questions about what is involved in the tour, please call the Friends of the Hunley directly at 843-722-2333 ext. 3.

Warren Lasch Conservation Center
Former Charleston Naval Base
1250 Supply St., Bldg. 255
N. Charleston, SC 29405
Phone: 843-744-2186
Hunley Information Hotline: 843-723-9797

From I-26 (either direction) take Cosgrove Ave. -Naval Base Exit. (You will see the brown Hunley signs on the Interstate)  Go to end of Cosgrove and take a left. Go to Mcmillan Dr. Naval base entrance. Gate Keeper will direct you in from there.

FROM Columbia

 I-26 East to Charleston
Take the Dorchester Rd. exit
You’ll turn left on Dorchester Rd.
Follow it to Rivers Ave., take a left.
About a couple of blocks down you’ll get to McMillan Ave.
Take a Right on McMillan Ave.
Pass through the guard shack entrance.
You will come to a light (Hobson Ave).
You will take a right on Hobson Ave.
About 1 ½ miles down on the left you will see the CPW building.  It’s white with a blue roof (that’s Supply Street)
Take that left onto Supply St.
We are on the left side of the street

FROM Downtown Charleston

I-26 West to the Spruill Ave. ext.
Left on Spruill Ave.
About a mile or so you will take a right on McMillan Ave.

 (follow the directions above)

u have questions specific to your tickets, please contact Etix.com at support@etix.com


-----Original Message-----
From: Evilmike2
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2003 1:38 PM
To: mistergwp@thehunley.com
 Quest for unknown artillery man

  I need to contact the c.w. artillery collector on james island. Who is he????

·      Any of these sound familiar as your artillery man????   if so I will start calling.  Will put together a map for you later today.

·      10th S.C. Volunteer Infantry - Eutaw Volunteers
P.O. Box 828 John's Island SC 29457 Naumann, George 607-9095 (wk) 806-1436 (hm) email: gnaumann@concentric.net

·      1st Regiment S.C. Artillery
c/o Keith Purdy, PO Box 20126 Charleston SC 29413 Purdy, Keith 566-9777; Fax: 571-3313

·      27th S.C. Volunteer Infantry, Company G
c/o Jim Tapley 404 Clarine Avenue Goose Creek, SC 29445 Tapply, Jim 553-3133

·      47th New York Volunteer Infantry
c/o Jack Thompson, 17 Archdale Street Charleston SC 29401 Thompson, Jack 722-7033

·      54th Massachusetts Volunteers
c/o George Hughes, PO Box 12454 Charleston SC 29422-2454 Hughes, George 795-8438


14 Apr 2003
Remote User:


Hi I first heard about the Hunley from the Clive Cussler book, and then saw the recovery on Nat. Geo. TV. I wanted to find out more and found your web site. Great job. I may buy the model next! Bob Schroth Twin Peaks CA

18 Apr 2003
Remote User:


Met Maria Jacobsen at the lab. She's not only smart but she's also a cutie.

19 Apr 2003
Remote User:


I find articles on the site too wide for my screen and it is awkward to have to scroll back and forth to read them. Would wish the CSS Hunley was consigned to a national museum that had the funding to care for it instead of being fought over by cities unwilling to properly preserve what is a national treasure. The Hunley is a part of Naval and Submarine History and should not be merely considered a factor of the southern cause. I enjoy the site. Am curious for an update on the facial reconstructions. Would like to "meet" these men who so bravely sailed this fragile craft.

20 Apr 2003
Remote User:


It was great, however I would have enjoyed a drawing of THE HUNLEY showing its dimensions and maybe how it was made

25 Apr 2003
Remote User:


On March 11 2002 someone commented that they are related to Edgar Collins Singer. My husband is too by way of Horace Meach Singer, the gentleman you spoke of in Chicago. I have much family history I would like to share if you are indeed a relation. Please contact JAMusyt@aol.com

26 Apr 2003
Remote User:


I am since 12 years interested in the lost cause. I just read a biography of P.G.T.Beauregard ,the Napoleon in Grey, where the blockade of Charleston is well described. I like your site very much, even here in Swiss i am about the only student of the South's struggle for Independence. I hope you will stay the way you are . H-j.Horisberger

29 Apr 2003
Remote User:


April 29, 2003: This is the most wonderful web site for history I have ever seen. Keep up the good work. We have in our history relatives that were in the Civil War. We are looking for anyone who might have any information on (JOSEPH PATTERSON) who was on THE HUNLEY'S SECOND CREW. Joe Amon Patterson at JAPLM@ACADEMICPLANET.COM . Thanks again for this wonderful web site.




Is to provide specialized information to those who are interested in the recovery efforts and history of the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley. It is available free to anyone who might benefit from the information it contains, for example, students and history buffs. Our mailing list will always be kept private and will never be sold.

Feel free to forward this newsletter to any friends or associates





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