On October 15th 1863 Confederate Marine Engineer Horace Lawson Hunley died when the submarine he designed sank in the Charleston, South Carolina Harbor.
Horace Lawson Hunley was born December 29th 1823 in Sumner County, Tennessee, the son of John and Louisa Harden (Lawson) Hunley. The family moved shortly after his birth to New Orleans, Louisiana. Hunley had a law practice there and he served in the Louisiana State Legislature.
When the Civil War started Hunley joined with James R McClintock and Baxter Watson to build a submarine. They started building the Pioneer in 1861, but to keep her from being captured when the Union took New Orleans in 1862 they had the CSS Pioneer scuttled. The three men attempted to build another submarine, but this one sunk in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Then Hunley went to work on his own, and had a third submarine built that was said to able to travel at speeds of 4 knots. One man was killed in the early test of this submarine when it was swamped by a passing ship.
Although Hunley wasn’t a part of the submarine’s crew, on October 15th 1863 he took command of a routine test run. The submarine sank, this time taking the whole eight man crew with it. The submarine would later be raised and would successfully sink the USS Housatonic, before going to its own watery grave.
Hunley’s body was recovered when the submarine was raised, and he is buried in the Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. The submarine was named the CSS H L Hunley after the man who had her built.