Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday in History: Rebel Persistence

Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Forces at the Battle of Gettysburg, was an honorable man. When his men failed to triumph over their enemies in that historic battle, he did the only honorable thing: on his day in history in 1863, he turned in his resignation.
Robert E. Lee in 1863
photo taken by Julian Vannerson
When the President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, recieved the letter, he refused to accept it. He knew that Lee was an excellent general, and wasn’t going to waste an excellent asset. This was not the only time that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” would apply to the Confederacy’s war tactics.
One proof of this is the intersting case of the H. L. Hunley, the first submarine in the world to sink an enemy ship. Before its success, it had had some failures. Some very spectacular failures, in fact.
The Hunley was one of the first submarines in the world, and there was obviously some trial and error in training a crew to use it. The first time it sank, it was because someone accidentally activated the diving mechanism while all of the ship’s hatches were still open. Five of the crew were killed; the man who had made the mistake was not one of them.
The H. L. Hunley, by R.G. Skerrett.
The original painting is in the Navy Art Collection
in Washington D.C.
Two months later, after the ship had been raised and re-crewed, her creator was on board during a test battle, and a malfunction caused the ship to stay submerged when it should have surfaced for air. All eight men on board were killed.
The Hunley was deployed for its first real mission during the Charleston blockade in February of 1864. It sneaked up to the USS Housatonic, fired a torpedo, and sank the Union sloop. Unfortunately, after this victory, it was lost.
On this day in history in 2000, the H. L. Hunley was rescued from the bottom of the ocean, where it had come to rest near its first and only victim. Today it can be seen at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in the Charleston Navy Yards, where visitors can observe evidence of the real reason that the Hunley went down for the final time: the torpedo it launched was definitely enough to take down the Union ship, but also had plenty of kick to take the little submarine down with it.

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