USS Housatonic (1861)
Overview
 

The first USS Housatonic was a screw
Screw sloop
A screw sloop is a propeller-driven sloop-of-war. In the 19th century, during the introduction of the steam engine, ships driven by propellers were differentiated from those driven by paddle-wheels by referring to the ship's screws...

 sloop-of-war
Sloop-of-war
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

 of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, named for the Housatonic River
Housatonic River
The Housatonic River is a river, approximately long, in western Massachusetts and western Connecticut in the United States. It flows south to southeast, and drains about of southwestern New England into Long Island Sound...

 of New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 which rises in Berkshire County
Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Berkshire County is a non-governmental county located on the western edge of the U.S. state of Massachusetts. As of the 2010 census, the population was 131,219. Its largest city and traditional county seat is Pittsfield...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, and flows southward into Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 before emptying into Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the United States between Connecticut to the north and Long Island, New York to the south. The mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, empties into the sound. On its western end the sound is bounded by the Bronx...

 a little east of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bridgeport is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Connecticut. Located in Fairfield County, the city had an estimated population of 144,229 at the 2010 United States Census and is the core of the Greater Bridgeport area...

, Connecticut. The USS
Housatonic was the first ship in history to be sunk by a submarine.

Housatonic was launched
Ship naming and launching
The ceremonies involved in naming and launching naval ships are based in traditions thousands of years old.-Methods of launch:There are three principal methods of conveying a new ship from building site to water, only two of which are called "launching." The oldest, most familiar, and most widely...

 on November 20, 1861, by the Boston Navy Yard
Boston Navy Yard
The Boston Navy Yard, originally called the Charlestown Navy Yard and later Boston Naval Shipyard, was one of the oldest shipbuilding facilities in the United States Navy. Established in 1801, it was officially closed as an active naval installation on July 1, 1974, and the property was...

 at Charlestown, Massachusetts, sponsored by Miss Jane Coffin Colby and Miss Susan Paters Hudson; and commissioned
Ship commissioning
Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service, and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military...

 there on August 29, 1862, with Commander William Rogers Taylor
William Rogers Taylor
William Rogers Taylor was a rear admiral of the United States Navy who served during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War.-Biography:...

 in command.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia

The first USS Housatonic was a screw
Screw sloop
A screw sloop is a propeller-driven sloop-of-war. In the 19th century, during the introduction of the steam engine, ships driven by propellers were differentiated from those driven by paddle-wheels by referring to the ship's screws...

 sloop-of-war
Sloop-of-war
In the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, a sloop-of-war was a warship with a single gun deck that carried up to eighteen guns. As the rating system covered all vessels with 20 guns and above, this meant that the term sloop-of-war actually encompassed all the unrated combat vessels including the...

 of the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...

, named for the Housatonic River
Housatonic River
The Housatonic River is a river, approximately long, in western Massachusetts and western Connecticut in the United States. It flows south to southeast, and drains about of southwestern New England into Long Island Sound...

 of New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 which rises in Berkshire County
Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Berkshire County is a non-governmental county located on the western edge of the U.S. state of Massachusetts. As of the 2010 census, the population was 131,219. Its largest city and traditional county seat is Pittsfield...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, and flows southward into Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 before emptying into Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound
Long Island Sound is an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean, located in the United States between Connecticut to the north and Long Island, New York to the south. The mouth of the Connecticut River at Old Saybrook, Connecticut, empties into the sound. On its western end the sound is bounded by the Bronx...

 a little east of Bridgeport
Bridgeport, Connecticut
Bridgeport is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Connecticut. Located in Fairfield County, the city had an estimated population of 144,229 at the 2010 United States Census and is the core of the Greater Bridgeport area...

, Connecticut. The USS
Housatonic was the first ship in history to be sunk by a submarine.

Housatonic was launched
Ship naming and launching
The ceremonies involved in naming and launching naval ships are based in traditions thousands of years old.-Methods of launch:There are three principal methods of conveying a new ship from building site to water, only two of which are called "launching." The oldest, most familiar, and most widely...

 on November 20, 1861, by the Boston Navy Yard
Boston Navy Yard
The Boston Navy Yard, originally called the Charlestown Navy Yard and later Boston Naval Shipyard, was one of the oldest shipbuilding facilities in the United States Navy. Established in 1801, it was officially closed as an active naval installation on July 1, 1974, and the property was...

 at Charlestown, Massachusetts, sponsored by Miss Jane Coffin Colby and Miss Susan Paters Hudson; and commissioned
Ship commissioning
Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service, and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military...

 there on August 29, 1862, with Commander William Rogers Taylor
William Rogers Taylor
William Rogers Taylor was a rear admiral of the United States Navy who served during the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War.-Biography:...

 in command.
Housatonic was one of four sister ships which included , , and .

Blockading Charleston

Housatonic departed Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 on September 11 and arrived at Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston is the second largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. It was made the county seat of Charleston County in 1901 when Charleston County was founded. The city's original name was Charles Towne in 1670, and it moved to its present location from a location on the west bank of the...

 on September 19 to join the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. She took station outside the bar.

Capture of the Princess Royal

On January 29, 1863, her boats, aided by those of , , and USS America
America (yacht)
The America was a 19th century racing yacht that was the first to win the eponymous international sailing trophy now known as the America's Cup; in 1851 the trophy was known as the Royal Yacht Squadron's "One Hundred Guinea Cup", but was later renamed after the original winning yacht...

, boarded and refloated the iron steamer . The gunboat had driven the blockade runner
Blockade runner
A blockade runner is usually a lighter weight ship used for evading a naval blockade of a port or strait, as opposed to confronting the blockaders to break the blockade. Very often blockade running is done in order to transport cargo, for example to bring food or arms to a blockaded city...

 ashore as she attempted to slip into Charleston from England with a cargo consisting of two marine engines destined for Confederate
Confederate States of America
The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

 ironclads and a large quantity of ordnance and ammunition. These imports were of such great potential value to the South that they have been called "the war's most important single cargo of contraband."

Confederate counter-attack

It was possibly in the hope of recovering this invaluable prize that the Confederate ironclad rams and slipped out of the main ship channel of Charleston Harbor to attack the Union blockading fleet in the early morning fog two days later. They rammed , forcing her to strike her colors
Striking the colors
Striking the colors is the universally recognized indication of surrender, particularly for ships at sea. Surrender is dated from the time the ensign is struck.-In international law:# "Colors. A national flag . The colors . ....

 "in a sinking and perfectly defenseless condition", and moved on to cripple . Gunfire from the rams also damaged and before the Confederate ships withdrew under fire from Housatonic to the protection of shore batteries.

Capture of the Georgiana

On March 19, 1863, Housatonic and responding to signal flares sent up by America chased the 407 ton, iron hulled, blockade runner ashore on Long Island, South Carolina
Isle of Palms, South Carolina
Isle of Palms is a city in Charleston County, South Carolina, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population on the island was 4,133. Isle of Palms is a barrier island on the South Carolina coast. As defined by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and used by the U.S...

. The
Georgiana's cargo of munitions, medicine and merchandise was then valued at over $1,000,000. The Georgiana was described in contemporary dispatches and newspaper accounts as more powerful than the Confederate cruisers , , and . This was a serious and very important blow to the Confederacy. The wreck of the Georgiana was discovered by pioneer underwater archaeologist Lee Spence in 1965.

Further captures, and attacks on Charleston

Housatonic captured the sloop Neptune on April 19 as she attempted to run out of Charleston with a cargo of cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 and turpentine
Turpentine
Turpentine is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene...

. She was credited with assisting in the capture of the steamer
Seesh on May 15. Howitzer
Howitzer
A howitzer is a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent...

s mounted in
Housatonics boats joined in the attack on Fort Wagner on July 10, which began the continuing bombardment of the Southern works at Charleston. In ensuing months her crew repeatedly manned boats which shelled the shoreline, patrolled close ashore gathering valuable information, and landed troops for raids against the outer defenses of Charleston.

Sunk in the first submarine attack

Meanwhile Housatonic, commanded by Charles Pickering
Charles Pickering
Charles Pickering may refer to:* Charles Pickering , physician and naturalist* Charles W. Pickering , Appeals Court judge* Chip Pickering , U.S. Representative from Mississippi; son of Charles W. Pickering...

, vigilantly maintained her station in the blockade outside the bar until just before 9pm, February 17, 1864. Her officer of the deck sighted an object in the water 100 yards off, approaching the ship. "It had the appearance of a plank moving in the water," he later reported. Although the chain was slipped, the engine backed, and all hands were called to quarters, it was too late. Within two minutes of the first sighting, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley
H. L. Hunley (submarine)
H. L. Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States of America that played a small part in the American Civil War, but a large role in the history of naval warfare. The Hunley demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare...

rammed her spar torpedo
Spar torpedo
A spar torpedo is a weapon consisting of a bomb placed at the end of a long pole, or spar, and attached to a boat. The weapon is used by running the end of the spar into the enemy ship. Spar torpedoes were often equipped with a barbed spear at the end, so it would stick to wooden hulls...

 into
Housatonics starboard side, forward of the mizzenmast, in history's first successful submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

attack on a warship. Before the rapidly sinking ship went down, the crew managed to lower two boats which took all the men they could hold; most others saved themselves by climbing into the rigging which remained above water after the stricken ship settled on the bottom. Two officers and three men in
Housatonic died. The Confederate submarine escaped but was lost with all hands not long after this action.

The wreck of
Housatonic was largely scrapped in the 1870s-1890s and her location was eventually removed from coastal navigation charts and lost to history.
The anchor of
Housatonic can be found at the office of Wild Dunes on the Isle of Palms.
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