Researchers say they’ve solved one of the most enduring mysteries of the American Civil War: what caused the puzzling demise of the H.L. Hunley, the first combat submarine in history to sink an enemy warship.
The Confederate craft famously disappeared with all its crew on 17 February 1864, just after destroying the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbour. The Hunley’s wreck was not found until 1995. When it was raised from the seabed in 2000, the skeletons of its eight-man crew were still at their stations, with no evidence of escape attempts.
… Still, says Delgado, perceptions of the craft as a failed experiment are wrong. The submarine was at the cutting edge of nautical engineering for its time, and its pyrrhic victory bolstered the spirits of the Confederate side after a string of battlefield defeats. “There’s nothing primitive about the Hunley,” Delgado says.