Sunday, February 16, 2014

CSS Hunley Makes First Successful Submarine Attack in History

This day 150 years ago in Rebel Raiders’ History

-Dedicated to Civil War episodes, battles, people and ships that also appear in my game, GMT’s Rebel Raiders on the High Seas.

February 17, 1864 – Rebel Submarine Hunley Sinks Union Housatonic

Historical Event:  On February 17, 1864 the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley attacked and sank the Union screw sloop USS Housatonic in Charleston harbor.   This earned the USS Housatonic the dubious distinction of being the first warship ever sunk by a submarine.  Unfortunately for the crew of the CSS Hunley, they did not live to celebrate their victory, as the tiny vessel was dragged to the bottom as the warship went down.   The wreck of the CSS Hunley was found on the seaward side of the sunken sloop. Evidence suggests that the spar torpedo used to sink the Union vessel detonated while still attached to the submarine, and that the concussion from the blast may have knocked Lt. Dixon and his seven submariners unconscious – sending them into a slumber from which they never awoke.

The Union warship was not chosen at random.  She was one of the most powerful, formidable and successful vessels in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  In January 1863, for example, the USS Housatonic captured the famous blockade runner Princess Royal as it attempted to enter Charleston.  The Confederates sent two ironclads out of the port to try to save the Princess Royal, which was carrying what was then described as “the war’s most important single cargo of contraband” – engines and armor for a new ironclad that was to be built in the city.  They were driven back by the firepower of the USS Housatonic’s mighty guns, which included a 100-pound Parrot and an 11-inch Dahlgren.

Game Connection:  The CSS Hunley, which proved deadly to over 20 sailors during her sea trials and one and only combat voyage is represented in Rebel Raiders on the High Seas by CSN Card 73.  Her partner in death, the USS Housatonic, is represented by USN Card 27.   The Union vessel is definitely one worth sinking, as it is especially good at intercepting the Blockade Runners upon whom the South – and the Southern Player in Rebel Raiders – depends.

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