Analysis: Were Submarines Used During The Civil War

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Were Submarines Used During the Civil War? When one thinks about the various technological advancements made during the American Civil War, inventions such as infantry rifles, the Gatling gun, or Minié ball projectiles come to mind. However, one of the major advancements in warfare was submarines, a branch of Naval combat that had never been tested to a large measure until the Civil War. Although submarines did not have a significant impact on the outcome of the war, the research and engineering of battle submarines would pave the way for their future development for years to come. The very first working submarine was created in 1623 by inventor Cornelius Drebbel, which means that undersea navigation had actually been discovered and researched…show more content…
The reason for this was that if the Confederates lost at the end of the war, the Union would possibly deal out harsher punishments for those who had worked on submarines. The U.S. Navy personnel saw submarines as a cowardly invention that was not a proper form of naval combat, even referring to them as “infernal machines”. The ironic twist to this statement is that the Northern Navy was working on submarines behind the scenes of the war. However, to this day, the Official Records of the U.S. Navy record almost no involvement in submarine development research (Weaver 2). While in the process of designing submarines, the Union and Confederate forces had two very different approaches. The Union was looking for a vessel that would improve their chances on the defensive side of naval battles. They wanted submarines that had a small exit door, so that divers could get out of the sub and disarm explosives or salvage valuables on the seafloor. The Confederacy wanted a submarine that was an offensive weapon: One that could perform sneak attacks on an unsuspecting Union ship with a torpedo (Poore 2). Overall, there were over 20 submarines developed by both sides during the Civil…show more content…
William Cheeney was a Confederate scientist who worked out of Richmond, Virginia. The submarine that Cheeney created was tested in the James River, where it sunk its unmanned target, an old barge, for practice. Rumors of the test spread to the North, where the Union Navy quickly took action. On some Navy ships, they started to put weighted nets as a defensive strategy against Confederate submarines. This seemingly simplistic defensive mechanism proved effective for the U.S.S. Minnesota, where Cheeney’s submarine was tangled in the netting, and the crew was only barely able to escape. This was the very first submarine attack during the Civil War. On the Union side during the beginning of the war, the Alligator was being developed under the direction of the U.S. Navy (Weaver 3). The inventor of the design of the Alligator was Brutus de Villeroi of France. He made a comical appearance to show off his submarine design on May 16, 1861. He surfaced in one of his innovative submarines off the Philadelphia Navy Shipyard, where he was quickly arrested by harbor police for suspicion of sabotage. Once the Navy realized that De Villeroi was no threat to anyone’s safety, they ordered him to create a larger version of the submarine he surfaced in. The May 17, 1861 edition of the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin was the first occurrence of the phrase “infernal machine” to refer to submarines. Once the Alligator, as De

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