What? You like tall, skinny blondes, I don't. Don't judge me.
Subs. We all like them. Some are full of salami, some with veggies, and some with semen.
Um, I meant SEAmen. As in sailors. Full of semen. (I didn't just use that old joke, did I?)
Anyway, let me start over.
Submarines. they are an effective weapon of war. They are the reason, (not really), the US joined WWI. They almost starved Briton into submission in WWII. They played cat and mouse with each other during the cold war, almost starting several nuclear exchanges between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. (The US and the USSR, duh)
The first documented use of a sub in wartime was during the American Revolution. In 1776, David Bushnell created the Turtle. It was hand powered, with cranks turning various screws to adjust the depth and direction. It was designed to use a screw to attach an explosive to British vessels. It was used several times, but was never successful. It's mother ship was sunk in late 1776, and the Turtle went down as well.
Looking at how the Turtle performed, and how much it cost to build, use and maintain, governments decided to pass on any more of them.
For a while.
Along came the American Civil War. And along with the war, came the opportunity to use submarines again.
The Civil War sub you all think I'm going to tell you about is probably the C.S.S. Hunley. Most people know a little about the Hunley. It was launched in July 1863, and sunk August 29, 1863, killing 5 crew members. It was raised, repaired and launched again. On October 15, 1863, it sunk again. This time all 8 crew members were killed. Again, it was raised, repaired and re-launched. On February 17, 1864, it sunk again, for the third and final time, killing all 8 of her crew.
However, before she sank for the last time, she became the first submarine to ever sink a ship. While the Hunley was never fully submerged, and was spotted and fired upon, she still managed to attach her torpedo to the U.S.S. Housatonic, and sink her.
The story of the Hunly is a good story. (she was found in 1995, and raised in 2000. In 2012, experts determined she was 20 feet from her torpedo when it exploded, and that caused the damage that sunk her). But, what a lot of people don't know is, the Hunley wasn't the first submarine in the Civil War.
That honor goes to the U.S.S. Alligator.
Using a design by French engineer Brutus de Villeroi, the Alligator was launched on May 1, 1862, and delivered to the US Navy. It was officially commissioned into service on June 13, 1862.
On the 25th of June, she was given her first mission: To destroy a bridge on the Appomattox River. There were only two problems with this mission. First, the water around the bridge wasn't deep enough for the Alligator. Second, the Appomattox river wasn't deep enough, either.
There were, however, some issues discovered with the Alligator. For one thing, it was propelled using 16 oars. This made movement painfully slow when submerged, as you couldn't remove the paddle from the water. So, in July of 1862, the oars were replaced by a hand powered propellor. In good seas, she could make 4 knots.
While submerged, fresh air was supplied via two tubes connected to float rings on the surface. And, the Alligator included a novel idea. It had a separate, sealed off chamber where a diver could enter and exit the vessel while submerged.
On March 18, 1863, President Lincoln watched the Alligator as it ran through some drills. He was impressed with the novelty of the sub, but was unsure if a submerged vessel could ever be effective against a surface ship.
In March of 1863, The U.S.S. Alligator received her second mission. She was to be towed by her tender, the U.S.S. Sumpter, to Port Royal, South Carolina. From there, she was to proceed under her own power to Charleston harbor to help with the taking of the city. On March 31, the Sumpter and Alligator left port and began their mission.
On April 2nd, the weather started getting rough. The tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Sumpter may have been lost. The Alligator was. Well, to be honest, the heavy seas caused the Alligator to founder, so the crew of the Sumpter had to cut her loose. And, like any good submarine would do, it promptly sank off the coast of Cape Hatteras.
So, while the Alligator never sank an enemy ship, hell, never even saw action, unlike the Hunley, it was able to fully submerge.
After the Civil War, inventors and engineers took the idea of submarines and ran with it. 50 years later, we had the outbreak of WWI, and submarines ushered in a new era in naval warfare.
So, while the Civil War used technology that was ahead of it's time, it also used outdated technology. Both the Union and the Confederacy suffered from a lack of arms early on in the war, so they armed divisions of men with pikes. Yeah, pikes. You know, those long sticks with a metal point on the end? Looks a lot like a lance? MmHmm. In 1861, modern armies were being supplied with medieval weaponry.
But, that only makes sense, I guess. The same people who though pikes were a good idea also though a breech loading rifle was a bad idea. Unlike the muzzle loading rifles, where an expert could fire 3 rounds a minute, a breech loader could get 7-10 off, depending on the speed of the loader. And, it also held 7 rounds as opposed to one. But, the war department, and some generals, thought it would lead to a waste of ammunition. In fact, Union soldiers were issued 40 rounds before battle, and were sometimes rewarded for every unfired round they brought back. (of course, they also though it was a good idea to stand 100 yards apart and shoot at each other. When using a non-rifled barrel, that's ok. Those guns weren't accurate at all. but with the Civil War came rifling, and accuracy up to 1,000 yards. Men at 100 yards were sitting ducks) (it should be noted that, in 1861, rifled barrels were scarce. But by 1864, they were common)
Ok. That's enough for today. I'm still, technically, on vacation until tomorrow. So, neener-neener?