The first time I learned about the Confederate submarine CSS H.L Hunley, I was at a Civil War reenactment near Binghamton, NY.
There was an exhibit showcasing the naval aspect of the Civil War: one that is overlooked by so many student of the Civil War, who concentrate on the land battles and the soldiers and civilians caught up in the conflict. I was intrigued, and hoped to visit Charleston, SC one day to see it (more on that later in this post).
I'm guilty of ignoring the naval war, too. Although, I blogged previously about the ironclad USS Monitor, which was built (in part) from wood obtained just a few miles from my home near Johnson City, NY. (If you've read that post - No, I've never solved the mystery of what happened to the Monitor marker that was once located inside the Oakdale Mall in Johnson City.) When I grew up, every school child learned about the battle of the "Monitor vs the Merrimack" (the Battle of Hampton Roads) and the end of the wooden ship era.
The H.L. Hunley, though, was a submarine: and many of us just don't associate submarines with the Civil War. It was a "secret weaon" of the Confederacy - its existence shrouded in secrecy, a submarine that performed one mission sucessfully, and then sank several minutes later, taking its entire crew to a watery grave.
For years, people searched unsucessfully for it - P.T. Barnum even offered a reward for its recovery. It was finally found in 1995 and the crew buried in 2004 (in what is called the Last Civil War burial.) Since 2000, people have been working on its restoration in North Charleston, SC.
A major landmark (so to speak) was reached in its restoration this past week when a truss keeping the Hunley stable was finally able to be removed. The sub can now be viewed (in its restoration tank) without the obstruction of the truss.
As for me trying to see the Hunley-spouse and I made it to Charleston last year, but when we tried to visit the Hunley, we got hopelessly lost. (We ended up at a Civil War reenactment instead, which I will blog about one of these days.) So, maybe getting lost was for the best.
I hope we will return to Charleston before too long, so we can finally view the H.L. Hunley. Good things come to those who wait....