Junior History Press

The Charleston Museum and The Hunley

The Hunley played an important role in Charleston's history. Several years ago, a group of local citizens decided to build a replica of this historic submarine. The group included E. Milby Burton, then Director of the Charleston Museum, and representatives of the Citizens and Southern National Bank. In September of 1966, this group contacted Charleston Technical Education Center (now Trident Technical College) to see if they would build the replica.

The school director, Captain H. J. Hoffberg, accepted the project as a public service. The design of the boat was assigned to the Mechanical Engineering Technology Department. Gerald F. Teaster was the head of that department. The most difficult part of the job was finding out exactly what the original Hunley was like. Many accounts written during the Civil War mentioned the Hunley. Most of these were vague and often contradictory.

The most reliable source seemed to be a painting by the Confederate artist Conrad Wise Chapman. In recent times, this had been used by Mr. Floyd D. Houston to construct a small scale model of the Hunley for the Charleston Museum. This model was on a scale of 1/2 inch equals a foot. This model was the basis for the full size replica. The Mechanical Engineering Technology students measured this model very carefully. They converted the measurements into complete engineering drawings that could actually be used in construction. The finished boat had to have a realistic appearance and be readily manufactured in the school's shops. It was decided to use a completely welded structure with the caulking and rivets of the Civil War simulated to look like the real thing. Each feature of the replica was designed and drawn as close as possible to the original. When the Mechanical Engineering class was finished, they had a construction package containing 40 engineering drawings of assemblies and details.

The engineering students that produced the drawings were: James Bessent, Ted Bowers, Ken Bush, Joe Capitan, Troy Harvey, Carl Hilton, James (Mickey) Owens, J.C. Simmons,Wayne Thornley and Joe Wilson. Click on this link for a picture of the class taken with the replica.

This set of drawings was given to the TEC welding and machine shops where the actual construction was done under the direction of Mr. Clay Cabiness. Upon completion of sandblasting and painting, the submarine was ready to move. The project started in October 1, 1966 and was finished in June, 1967. A housemoving company was commissioned to do the moving and installation. Charlestonians were surprised to see an antique submarine going down its main streets. The submarine was taken first to the Charleston Navy Yard where pictures were made comparing it to present day submarines.

The first home of the Hunley replica was the basement of the Citizens and Southern National Bank on Church Street. However, after serving as a branch of the museum for several years the building was destined for other uses. The Hunley was moved to become a prominent display for the Charleston Museum on Meeting Street.

Recovery of the real Hunley has revealed that there are a number of differences between the replica and the actual sub. Click on this link to for more details.

In 1970, TEC students and instructors built a replica of another Confederate war ship. This was the steam torpedo boat David. The original David was built in nearby Berkeley County during the Civil War. It unsuccessfully attacked the Federal Ironclad USS New Ironsides out side Charleston harbor.Click on this link for more details.

To Books Available on the Hunley

Return to the home page of the Hunley and Charleston's Civil War History.