Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tammany's Ties To The World's First Submarine

The invention of the submarine was one of the key turning points in naval history as well as world history. It played an integral part in World War II history, on both sides, and during the Cold War, submarines were one of the greatest deterrents to World War III. 

It all began 154 years ago in the New Orleans area with a St. Tammany resident, Horace Lawson Hunley, designing it, building it, and testing it locally. The first one he built was the PIoneer, and the third one he built was the Hunley.

No one knows where the Pioneer wound up but the Hunley was found 22 years ago off the coast of Charleston, SC.

Mandeville resident John T. Hunley (shown above) said he wasn't related to Horace Lawson Hunley, but he studied the invention of the submarine extensively and was considered an excellent source of information on H. L. Hunley and his efforts to build the world's first underwater sea vessel. He was president of the "Raise the Hunley" organization.

Below is an article he wrote in 1992 about the first prototype, the Pioneer. Click on the image to make it larger.

Then, a couple of years later, in 1995

Later, David Carambat, in his popular magazine column "Treasures of the Tchefuncte," also told about the prototype underwater vessel, the Pioneer I, and its connection to St. Tammany Parish.

Here is his article. Click on the image to make it larger. 

 When the third submarine prototype built by Hunley was found offshore at Charleston, S.C., in 1995 John T. Hunley of Madisonville started the "Raise The Hunley" organization that was based in Madisonville, with himself as president.  

That year he traveled to New Orleans to meet with a friend of his, the acclaimed adventure novelist and marine researcher Clive Cussler. They discussed the recent discovery of the lost submarine "The Hunley," and how efforts were being planned to raise the historic vessel that rewrote naval history in Charleston, SC.

I was privileged to take pictures of this group and hear their amazing story as they tracked down the final resting place of The Hunley submarine, the world's first successful submarine, according to documents that detail the inside mechanisms and historic accounts that credit the vessel with sinking a ship on its own.

Click on the images of the article below to read more about this real-life adventure.

Clive Cussler and John Hunley in 1995

Horace Lawson Hunley owned a plantation in Covington and served as a state legislator and as the deputy customs collector in New Orleans, according to the Friends of the Hunley, a South Carolina commission set up to preserve the submarine. For some time, the last will of Hunley was lost to St. Tammany public records even though it had been seen and photographed in the St. Tammany Parish Archives years earlier. 

Here is an article about the search for the will. 

The will was found ten years later in a box that had been taken from the parish archives. 

For more information about the Hunley will and what it contained, 
CLICK HERE for a photo album of scanned pages from a report describing that will in detail.


Click on the video above for an inside look at the submarine, courtesy of the "Friends of the Hunley" website.

The submarine has become the focal point of a large interactive museum in Charleston, with extensive displays, historical artifacts, and the Hunley itself, resting in a tank of water and carefully being examined and restored. The museum is located at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, 1250 Supply Street (on the old Charleston Navy Base in North Charleston, South Carolina.

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