The first submarine to sink a ship using a torpedo was the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley on February 17th, 1864. The H.L. Hunley was a hand-powered submarine that measured only 40 feet long and was manned by a crew of nine men.
The Hunley was designed and built by Horace Lawson Hunley with the goal of breaking the Union Naval blockade off the coast of South Carolina during the American Civil War. It was made of iron and had a crew compartment that could be flooded to lower the submarine into the water for submergence.
The Hunley’s success in sinking the Union ship USS Housatonic was due to its use of a primitive torpedo. The torpedo was a copper cylinder that was filled with 90 pounds of black powder and attached to a long pole that extended from the Hunley’s bow. The crew would ram the torpedo into the side of an enemy ship and then back away to a safe distance before detonating it with a rope attached to its stern.
On the night of February 17th, 1864, the Hunley made its way towards the USS Housatonic, which was blockading Charleston Harbor. It approached the Union ship undetected and rammed its torpedo into the Housatonic’s hull. The explosion was massive and the Housatonic sank within minutes, with five of its crew members losing their lives.
After successfully sinking the Housatonic, the Hunley disappeared without a trace for almost 140 years. It was finally discovered in 1995 off the coast of South Carolina and brought to the surface in 2000. The submarine is now on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, South Carolina.
The sinking of the USS Housatonic by the H.L. Hunley was a significant event in naval history, as it demonstrated the potential power of submarines and torpedoes in warfare. The Hunley’s achievement paved the way for future advances in submarine technology that would eventually lead to the development of modern submarines.