FROM CIVILIANS TO MILITARY TAKEOVER
Charles Hasker (survived)
Lt. John A. Payne (survived)
William Robinson (survived)
With the Confederate Navy now in control of the Hunley submarine, a crew to man her had to be assembled. The new volunteer skipper of the small submarine was Lieutenant John A. Payne, a veteran of the Confederate Navy assigned to the Charleston-based ironclad
Chicora. Little is known about the lives of the civilian volunteers who first manned the Hunley.
With a volunteer crew and a Naval officer at the helm, the curious sub readied herself for a nighttime attack on a Union ship. But tragically, disaster struck and the Hunley disappeared off the end of Fort Johnson wharf. Four crew members escaped; the other five were drowned. Charles Hasker, a crewmember who survived, later reported that the officer in charge, Lt. John A. Payne, accidentally stepped on the lever controlling the dive planes causing the submarine to dive while her hatches were still open.
The Confederacy did not give up hope. Within 72 hours of the fatal accident, General Beauregard sent the following order: "Fish Torpedo still at bottom of bay, no one working on it. Adopt immediate measures to have it raised at once."
General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the defense of Charleston.
Work quickly began to salvage the submarine from the harbor's bottom and exhume the crew from their iron sarcophagus.
From a letter sent to Charleston native, Beckie Honour, by her husband who was stationed at Fort Johnson, come the following lines summing up both the submarines arrival and ultimate sinking.
"Sunday morning August 30th 1863, My Dear Beckie: You doubtless remember, and perhaps you saw while in the city the iron torpedo boat which certain parties brought from Mobile to blow up the 'Ironside.' They have been out three times without accomplishing anything, and the government suspecting something wrong, proposed to them to allow a Naval officer to go with them on their next trial, which they refused. The boat was therefore seized and yesterday some men from one of the gunboats was placed in her to learn how to work her, and go out and see what they could do. Just as they were leaving the wharf at Fort Johnson, where I was myself a few minutes before, an accident happened which caused the boat to go under the water before they were prepared for such a thing, and five out of the nine went down in her and were drowned. The other four made their escape. They had not up to last night recovered either the boat or the bodies. Poor fellows they were five in one coffin."
Click here to learn more about the Hunley's second sinking.
The Civil War
The First Crew
The Second Crew
The Third Crew
The Historic Mission
Complete The Journey