In just weeks following the loss of the American Diver, Horace Hunley, James McClintock and Baxter began construction of a new vessel. Construction of a third submarine would have been impossible had it not been for an organization of patriotic engineers that formed in Mobile, of which H.L. Hunley, McClintock and Watson became members. The group had close ties to the Confederate Secret Service and had a burley Texan named E.C. Singer as it leader.
Several eyewitness accounts regarding this underwater demonstration exist to this day. From a post-war letter written by Captain P.M. Murphey of the CSS Selma, comes the following. "Whilst lying at Mobile in company with my officers and others of the C. S. Navy, I witnessed the experiments of the Submarine Boat which appeared to be a perfect success."
Another of H.L. Hunley's investors was Gus Whitney, relative of Eli Whitney, who invented the cotton gin.
Singer held a patent on the underwater contact mine and would end up building the torpedo used on the H.L. Hunley. The group of Confederate engineers came to be known as the "Singer Secret Service Corps," but was also known as the "Singer Submarine Corps" and "Singer's Torpedo Company"
With encouragements from the three new inductees, the Singer Secret Service Corps decided to invest in a third submarine under the direction of James McClintock and a Lieutenant Alexander. The third submarine was referred to by some as the "Fish Boat" of the "Fish Torpedo Boat", but would be officially named for her committed benefactor, H.L. Hunley.
While the H.L. Hunley began her preliminary testing, the news of the defeat at Gettysburg and loss of Vicksburg had reached Mobile. Satisfied with their submarine's performance, in July 1863, the Singer group arranged a demonstration of the H.L. Hunley's attack capabilities for Mobile's Naval commander, Franklin Buchanan.
An old coal-hauling flat boat was anchored in the middle of the Mobile River. The newly constructed H.L. Hunley slid down wooden ramps into Mobile Harbor and as the submarine plowed toward the target, a long rope with a powder-filled cylinder attached at its stern trailed in her wake.
Nearing their target, a candle was lit, and a final compass reading was taken. Diving planes were slowly depressed, sending the submarine downward. In front of the assembled crowd of high-ranking officers, the H.L. Hunley disappeared below the surface.
Finally, at twenty feet below the surface, the jet-black sub leveled off. The only sound inside was the iron crankshaft turning in the hands of the apprehensive crew. Suddenly there was a heart-pounding thud - a huge concussion enveloped the H.L. Hunley, causing her to shudder then list to one side. Once the tremendous shock wave had dissipated, the vessel stabilized and the skipper ordered the fore and aft ballast tanks pumped out. It had happened…success. The H.L. Hunley has successfully attacked her target.
Now the question became: where is this new stealth weapon most needed to help the Confederacy? Mobile, possibly due to her deep-south location, was not at great risk and had a relatively fortified port. Within days after the demonstration had taken place, the H.L. Hunley was loaded aboard two flat cars and sent to Charleston, S.C.
Click here to learn more about Charleston and the H.L. Hunley.
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