Civil War Submarine Hunley; Modern Marvel of 1860s

By David Reed
Humboldt (California) Beacon

Submarines, that’s World War 2 stuff, right? Go back about 80 years earlier and you’d be closer. The sub “H.L. Hunley” sank the USS Housatonic in early 1864 during the American Civil War, becoming the first craft of its kind. Humboldt County residents will get a chance to see a replica of the historic sub at Fortuna’s Civil War Days on Sept. 20 and 21.

USSHousatonic.jpg

”She had everything on board that you would see in a modern submarine except a nuclear reactor and an electric motor,” explains John Nevins, member of the “Friends of the Hunley” and one of the curators of the traveling exhibition. Nevins explains that spectators are surprised that the ship looks so much like what they’d consider a “modern submarine” even though it was built 145 years ago.

 

”It was 100 years ahead of its time,” Nevins says of the 40 foot long, 4 foot high and 4 foot wide war ship.

Spectators at the Civil War Days event will get free access to the Hunley exhibit with their admission. Nevins says there’s a lot to learn about the historic craft and the presentation changes depending on the interests of the crowd….

It’s a multifaceted story with elements of technology, innovation, persistence, sacrifice, even love and ‘sneaky stuff,’ like spies.” Nevins lives in California and is one member of a team that brings the reproduction to events all over the country.

The reproduction was built at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston S.C., just feet from the real “Hunley.” The Hunley has resided at the conservation center since it was raised from Charleston harbor in 2000 where it had rested since sinking just after its successful first battle.

The exhibit is a working model of the original both inside and out. “ The right side of the ship comes off so even a grade school child can see inside,” Nevins adds that he and exhibit leader John Dangerfield do their presentation from inside the craft. They show how the 8 man crew worked the propulsion, navigation and unique weapon the ‘spar torpedo’.

The Hunley exhibit will be shown both days of Civil War Days in the upper portion of the event site. The reenactment and battles will take place down in the “Bowl” area behind the River Lodge Conference Center.

The Fortuna Civil War Day’s event is co-produced by the Reenactors of the American Civil War and the Rotary Club of Fortuna Sunrise with funds going to local Rotary projects and Reenactor educational events.

The reenactment is held directly west of the Kenmar exit, bordered by the Eel River and Highway 101. Free parking and the re-enactment site are just a quarter mile west of the highway.

Re-enactment organizers ask that spectators do not park at the River Lodge Conference Center either day, due to events at the lodge. Admission to the event is $8 for adults and $2 for children. For details about the 2008 Fortuna Civil War Days, go to http://www.civilwardays.com/

Link to our Civil War page on Hunley:
CSS Hunley: Submarine’s Hatch May Have Cost All Their Lives

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