Confederate sub made history 150 years ago Monday

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Confederate sub made history 150 years ago Monday
FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2012 file photo the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sits in a conservation tank at a lab in North Charleston, S.C., after a steel truss that had surrounded it was removed. Four days of events are scheduled for February 2014 to mark the 150th anniversary of the mission in which the hand-cranked submarine became the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship. The Hunley and its eight-man crew never returned from the mission. The wreck was discovered off Charleston in 1995 and raised five years later and brought to the conservation lab. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, file)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sits in a conservation tank after a steel truss that had surrounded it was removed on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Scientists say removing the truss allows the first clear view of the sub since it sank in 1864 off the South Carolina coast. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sits in a conservation tank after a steel truss that had surrounded it was removed on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Scientists say removing the truss allows the first clear view of the sub since it sank in 1864 off the South Carolina coast. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sits in a conservation tank after a steel truss that had surrounded it was removed on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2012 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. The crank that Confederate sailors turned to propel the sub is visible at top left. Scientists say removing the truss allows the first clear view of the sub since it sank in 1864 off the South Carolina coast. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
A diagram showing the design of a torpedo attached to the spar in front of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is seen in North Charleston, S.C., on Monday Jan. 28, 2013. Scientists say they have found remnants of the torpedo casing on the spar indicating the Hunley was no more than 20 feet from the Union blockade ship Housatonic when the Hunley sank it off South Carolina in 1864, becoming the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith).
FILE - The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is raised from a barge by a crane at the former Charleston Naval Base in North Charleston, S.C., in this Aug. 8, 2000, file photo. Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, is the 150th anniversary of the attack in which the Hunley sank the Union blockade ship Housatonic off Charleston, S.C., during the Civil War, becoming the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Paula Illingworth, File)
FILE - In this April 19, 2012, file photo, the lantern used on the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is seen after conservation in a lab in North Charleston, S.C. The picture to the left shows what the lantern looked like after the sub was raised off the South Carolina coast. Monday, Feb. 17, 2014 is the 150th anniversary of the attack in which the Hunley sank the Union blockade ship Housatonic off Charleston, S.C., during the Civil War, becoming the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith, File)
The remnants of the torpedo casing that were on the spar attached to the front of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley are seen during a news conference in North Charleston, S.C., on Monday, January 28, 2013. Scientists say the find indicates the sub was no more than 20 feet from the Union blockade ship Housatonic when the Hunley sank it off South Carolina in 1864, becoming the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith).
Conservator Paul Mardikian shows a bolt, its threads still intact, used to attach the spar that was at the front of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley during the a news conference in North Charleston, S.C., on Monday Jan. 28, 2013. Scientists have found remnants of a torpedo casing on the spar, indicating the sub was no more than 20 feet from the Union blockade ship Housatonic when the Hunley sank it off South Carolina in 1864, becoming the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith).
Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, a member of the South Carolina Hunley Commission, left, listens as conservator Paul Mardikian explains how a spar was attached to the front of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley during a news conference in North Charleston, S.C., on Monday Jan. 28, 2013. Scientists have found remnants of a torpedo casing on the spar, indicating the sub was no more than 20 feet from the Union blockade ship Housatonic when the Hunley sank it off South Carolina in 1864, becoming the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
This picture taken Friday, June 24, 2011 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C., shows the crank the crew used to power the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley. The sub, the first in history to sink an enemy warship, was rotated upright this week for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
South Carolina State Sen. Glenn McConnell, the chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission, stands overlooking the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley on Friday, June 24, 2011, at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. The sub, the first in history to sink an enemy warship, was rotated upright this week for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sits in its slings on Friday, June 24, 2011 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C.. The Hunley, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship, was rotated upright this week for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864 The hole at the lower right is on a side of the sub not seen in almost 150 years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sits in its slings on Friday, June 24, 2011 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C.The sub, the first in history to sink an enemy warship, was rotated upright this week for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864. The side of the sub in this photo had not been seen in almost 150 years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sits upright in its slings on Friday, June 24, 2011 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. The sub, the first to sink an enemy warship, was rotated upright this week for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley rests on its side as workers adjust slings to move it upright on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. When the process is completed, the hand-cranked sub will be upright for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
Workers release the tension on slings holding the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. When the process is completed, the hand-cranked sub will be upright for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley rests on its side on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Workers are rotating the hand-cranked sub and when they are done, the sub will be upright for the first time since it sank with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this June 15, 2011 photo, water is sprayed on the hull of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley after it was raised at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. The water helps keep the hull from deteriorating when exposed to air. Raising the Hunley was the first step before the sub, which is tilted on its side and is the first in history to sink an enemy warship, can be turned upright for the first time since it went down with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this June 15, 2011 photo, Paul Mardikian, left, and Chris Watters, who work conserving the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, attach cables to the truss holding the sub before it was raised at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Raising the Hunley is the first step before the sub, which is tilted on its side and is the first in history to sink an enemy warship, can be turned upright for the first time since it went down with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this June 15, 2011 photo, Paul Mardikian, senior conservator of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, attaches a cable to the truss holding the sub before it was raised at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Raising the Hunley was the first step before the sub, which is tilted on its side and is the first in history to sink an enemy warship, can be turned upright for the first time since it went down with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this June 15, 2011 photo, a worker positions a wooden platform beneath the truss holding the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley after it was raised at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Raising the Hunley was required before the sub, which is tilted on its side and is the first in history to sink an enemy warship, can be turned upright for the first time since it went down with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this June 15, 2011 photo, an overhead crane slowly raises the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Raising the Hunley was required before the sub, which is tilted on its side and is the first in history to sink an enemy warship, can be turned upright for the first time since it went down with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this June 15, 2011 photo, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, with some of its hull plates removed, is seen at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C., after it was raised in its tank. The Hunley was raised so the sub, which is tilted on its side and is the first in history to sink an enemy warship, can be turned upright for the first time since it went down with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this June 15, 2011 photo, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is shown after it was raised in its tank at a conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C. Raising the Hunley was required before the sub, which is tilted on its side and is the first in history to sink an enemy warship, can be turned upright for the first time since it went down with its crew of eight in 1864. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this Aug. 3, 2010 photo, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, with some of the hull panels removed to allow excavation, rests in a conservation tank at a lab in North Charleston, S.C. Aug. 8 marks the 10th anniversary of the raising of the sub, the first in history to sink an enemy warship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
In this Aug. 3, 2010 photo, facial reconstructions of several members of the crew of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley sit on display at the conservation lab in North Charleston, S.C., where the Confederate submarine is being conserved. A decade after the Hunley was raised off the South Carolina coast, scientists are still not sure why the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship sank after sinking a Union blockade ship. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
Spectators gather around the grave containing the eight caskets of the crew of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley Saturday, April 17, 2004, in Charleston, S.C. Thousands of men in Confederate gray and Union blue and women in black hoop skirts and veils escorted the crew of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship, to their final resting place Saturday. The hand-cranked Hunley made history on Feb. 17, 1864, when it rammed a spar with a black powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic. (AP Photo/Alan Hawes, Pool)
A replica of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship, is lowered into Lake Moultrie in this June 30, 1998 photo. The replica was made for a Turner Network Television movie. An expedition is planned to raise the sub from the waters off the coast of South Carolina by July 17, 2000. Guiding it into the water are Woody Richardson, left, Chris Draper, center, and Dave Wood. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky)
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) -- On a clear, moonlight night 150 years ago, the hand-cranked Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley glided out over glassy seas off South Carolina, sailing into history as the first submarine ever to sink an enemy warship.

A century and a half later - and nearly a decade and a half after the sub was raised - just why the Hunley and its eight-man crew never returned is a mystery, albeit one that scientists may be closer to resolving.

Monday marks the 150th anniversary of the Feb. 17, 1864, mission in which the Hunley sank the Union ship Housatonic as the Confederates desperately tried to break the Civil War blockade that was strangling Charleston. While the Housatonic sank, so did the Hunley.

On Monday evening, re-enactors planned a gathering at Breach Inlet between Sullivans Island and the Isle of Palms northeast of Charleston for a memorial service honoring both the Hunley crew and the five Union sailors who died. The loss of life came when the submarine set off a black powder charge at the end of a 200-pound spar, sinking the blockader.

The remains of the Hunley - which was built in Mobile, Ala., and brought to Charleston in hopes of breaking the blockade - were discovered off the coast in 1995.

Five years later, in August of 2000, cannons boomed, church bells rang and thousands watched from the harborside as the sub was raised and brought by barge to a conservation lab in North Charleston. There, scientists have since been slowly revealing the Hunley's secrets.

Among the first artifacts recovered from the silt and sand clogging the inside of the submarine were buttons from the crewmen's uniforms. Later came one of the most sought-after artifacts of the Hunley legend - a gold coin that had deflected a bullet and thus saved the life of Hunley commander Lt. George Dixon at the Battle of Shiloh.

The $20 United States gold piece was given to Dixon by his sweetheart, Queenie Bennett. The words "Shiloh April 6, 1862 My life Preserver" are inscribed on the coin.

One of the initial surprises was that there were eight crewmen, not the nine thought to have been aboard before the Hunley was raised. The remains were found indicating the crewmen were at their positions at the crank. There was no evidence of an attempt to escape through the hatches, raising speculation as to what prevented the Hunley from returning from its mission.

Scientists announced a year ago they may be closing in on exactly what happened.

An examination of the spar found it was deformed as if in an explosion. Scientists now believe the Hunley was less than 20 feet from the Housatonic when it sank. That means it may have been close enough for the sub's crew to have been knocked unconscious by the explosion - long enough that they may have died before awakening.

For years, historians thought the Hunley was farther away and had speculated the crew ran out of air before they were able to return to shore.

Those who went down on the Hunley comprised the third crew of the submarine. Two previous crews died in accidents before the sub could even attempt its mission.

In April of 2004, thousands of men in Confederate gray and Union blue as well as women in black hoop skirts and veils walked in a procession with the crew's coffins from Charleston's waterfront Battery to Magnolia Cemetery. There they were buried near the other crews in what has been called the last Confederate funeral ceremony.
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