A young Confederate lieutenant, George Dixon,
was convinced that the boat could be useful to the South.
The CSS Hunley was moored off Charlestons Sullivan
Island, just a few hundred yards from the USS
Housatonic. In the first true submarine attack in naval
history, Dixon cast off toward the large warship. The
CSS Hunely attacked the USS Housatonic in calm
waters in the dark of night. The submarine was sighted
by lookouts on the USS Housatonic; however, it didnt
have the time or the opportunity to strike back or set sail.
The CSS Hunley hit the USS Housatonic driving
its shaft deep into the ships hull. The heavy charge of
gunpowder the submergible was carrying went off
prematurely, and the CSS Hunley never had a chance to
escape. It and all of its crew went down. The USS
Housatonic had the same fate. It was hit on the
starboard side and went down in just 4 minutes.
Another northern vessel moved to its rescue, and only a
few of its seamen were lost. Even though he lost his
life, Lieutenant Dixon had demonstrated that
submarines could be useful weapons of war.
Some people associated with the Navy during the
19th century were interested in the air above the ocean.
The USS George Washington Parke Custis of the Civil
War days might be labeled as the Navys first aircraft
carrier. Actually, it was a balloon boat used to launch
observation balloons over enemy installations. It was
122 feet long, and its total cost was 0.
Other Civil War Actions
Capture of Vicksburg. On the Mississippi River,
the capture of Vicksburg, Mississippi, by the combined
naval forces of Rear Admiral David G. Farragut, Acting
Rear Admiral David D. Porter, and the commander of the
Army in the West, General Ulysses S. Grant gave the
North control of the entire river. The capture of Vicksburg
cut off important Confederate supplies of food and
clothing coming from Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas.
Battle of Mobile Bay. On August 5, 1864, David
Farragut, the Navys first admiral, gave his famous
order Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!
(Torpedo was the name used at the time for mines.)
Farraguts order won the Battle of Mobile Bay (fig. 5-5).
This victory closed the Souths most important port
(since New Orleans had already fallen) and tightened
the Union blockade.
The Civil War produced many men whose names
are still famous in the Navy:
Andrew Foote, whose gunboats helped General
Grant capture the Mississippi River fortresses
John Dahlgren, the father of modern naval
ordnance (fig. 5-6)
Figure 5-5.Farragut (in rigging) at Mobile Bay.
Figure 5-6.Rear Admiral Dahlgren, standing next to one of
the guns he designed, was a leading pioneer in modern naval
ordnance and gunnery.