Sinking of the U. S. S. Housatonic by the Confederate States submarine torpedo boat H. L. Hunley, off Charleston, S. C., February 17, 1864

Proceedings of a court of enquiry convened on board the U. S. S. Wabash, February 26, 1864.


            The testimony having been closed, the court was cleared for deliberation, and after maturely considering the evidence adduced, find the following facts established:

            First. That the U. S. S. Housatonic was blown up and sunk by a rebel torpedo craft on the night of February 17 last, about 9 o’clock p.m., while lying at an anchor in 27 feet of water off Charleston, S. C., bearing E. S. E., and distant from Fort Sumter about 5˝ miles. The weather at the time of the occurrence was clear, the night bright and moonlight, wind moderate from the northward and westward, sea smooth and tide half ebb, the ship’s head about W. N. W.

            Second. That between 8:45 and 9 o’clock p.m. on said night an object in the water was discovered almost simultaneously by the officer of the deck and the lookout stationed at the starboard cathead, on the starboard bow of the ship, about 75 or 100 yards distant, having the appearance of a log. That on further and closer observation it presented a suspicious appearance, moved apparently with a speed of 3 or 4 knots in the direction of the starboard quarter of the ship, exhibiting two protuberances above and making a slight ripple in the water.

            Third. That the strange object approached the ship with a rapidity precluding a gun of the battery being brought to bear upon it, and finally came in contact with the ship on her starboard quarter.

            Fourth. That about one and a half minutes after the first discovery of the strange object the crew were called to quarters, the cable slipped, and the engine backed.

            Fifth. That an explosion occurred about three minutes after the first discovery of the object, which blew up the after part of the ship, causing her to sink immediately after to the bottom, with her spar deck submerged.

            Sixth. That several shots from small arms were fired at the object while it was alongside or near the ship before the explosion occurred.

            Seventh. That the watch on deck, ship, and ship’s battery were in all respects prepared for a sudden offensive or defensive movement; that lookouts were properly stationed and vigilance observed, and that officers and crew promptly assembled at their quarters.

            Eighth. That order was preserved on board, and orders promptly obeyed by officers and crew up to the time of the sinking of the ship.

            In view of the above facts the court have to express the opinion that no further military proceedings are necessary.


Captain and President.


Second Lieutenant, U.S. Marines, Judge-Advocate.


Forwarded for the information of the Navy Department by,

      Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Captain, Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.


Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion; Series I - Volume 15: South Atlantic Blockading Squadron (October 1, 1863 - September 30, 1864), 1902, U.S. Government Printing Office

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