Monthly Archives: June 2014

Back to the H.L. Hunley

A 1900 drawing of the submarine H.L. Hunley

A 1900 drawing of the submarine H.L. Hunley

I have been silent on the subject of the H.L. Hunley for almost two years (since the four-part series I did in August 2012). Today I want to talk about a “new” theory on why the H.L. Hunley sank.

January 28, 2013, the AP ran a story by Bruce Smith (well written article I might add). In the ongoing conservation efforts on the H.L. Hunley the conservation team turned their attention to the spar that the Hunley used to attach its torpedo to the intended victim. Parts of the copper casing from the explosive were found on the spar. This means that the Hunley was within twenty feet when the charged detonated.

In the past year this has been discussed quite a bit, the general consensus among the experts is this. The Hunley was within twenty feet of the Housatonic when the charge detonated. This explosion knocked the crew unconscious, this prevented the crew from surfacing the submarine, and they suffocated. They then add, in case you missed their implication the first time, this explains why the submarine never resurfaced after the attack on the Housatonic.

Ok, I have just a couple of problems with this. Before we go to the problems though, I want to say that I agree completely with the Hunley, based on the spar evidence, being within twenty feet of the Housatonic when the charge detonated.

That said, the Hunley did surface, AND made the pre-arranged signal for a guard on the beach to light the bonfires they would use to guide their way back to the pier. Lieutenant Dixon could not have made the signal with the Hunley submerged. The signal was a blue light (visit this page for a good article on the Hunley blue light The Hunley blue light was a signal flare, which for obvious reasons; Lt Dixon would not ignite inside the cramped confines of the Hunley.

Before the public announcement that the Hunley had been found, there was an ongoing debate about whether the Hunley sunk itself with the Housatonic, the Housatonic sank on top of the Hunley, or if the Hunley survived the attack and sank afterwards. For more than one hundred years the majority of experts believed one of the two former scenarios. This opinion caused many of the people looking for the Hunley to look in the wrong location. A small group of people believed the latter.

The guard on the beach reported seeing the blue light and lit the bonfires. Men on the Housatonic reported seeing the blue light. The experts said that it was impossible for a blue lantern to be seen on the beach from the location of the Housatonic. The confusion over lantern and flare hindered some of the people who searched for the Hunley as well. Knowing that an oil lantern could only be seen for about a mile they search between the Housatonic’s location and the shore. In the twentieth and twenty-first century a blue light is – well – a light. But, in the nineteenth century a blue light was a blue signal flare.

Need another example of the difference in word definitions over the last 150 years?

August 5, 1864. At the Battle of Mobile Bay Admiral Farragut gave an order that is still remembered to this day.

“Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Now, when you and I talk about torpedoes we are talking about the weapon used most often by submarines. The torpedoes we are talking about have a small propeller that propels the torpedo towards its target. In the early twentieth century this was called a “self-propelled torpedo.” That is because what we call mines were called torpedoes over one hundred years ago. The Civil War happened before the invention of the self-propelled torpedo. If Admiral Farragut had been a twenty-first century sailor he would have said, “Damn the mines, full speed ahead!” (I think the phrase sounds better with torpedo instead of mine, but I digress).

However, the majority of people thought the blue light signal from the Hunley was an oil lantern with a blue lens on it. Often those who insisted the Hunley survived the attack were derided as Southern Apologists or some other phrase. As if the only reason we were saying the Hunley survived was because we were Southerners.

As the navy always does when a ship is lost, a board of inquiry was formed after the Housatonic sank. The testimony of the Union sailors at the inquiry support the opinion that the Hunley survived the blast and backed away from the Housatonic (the transcripts from the board of inquiry were discover in an archive over one hundred years after the Hunley and Housatonic sank). But, the sailors from the Housatonic freely discussed what they saw that night, and these accounts were readily available to researchers and the public before the inquiry transcripts were found.

So, armed with testimony of Southerners and Northerners, and based on the fact that the area around the Housatonic was thoroughly searched before and after the wreck of the Housatonic was removed; the Hunley must have survived the explosion. Based on the testimony of Southerners and Northerners, the Hunley must have surfaced to light the blue signal flare.

It is still not known what happened to the Hunley. But, it may have been run over (with its hatches open) by one of the Union Navy steamships racing to aid the sailors of the Housatonic. It seems most likely that the Hunley sank as a result of actions immediately after the Housatonic sank, and not directly due to the explosion that sank the Housatonic.

From the position of the wreck of the Housatonic, the position where the wreck of the Hunley was discovered, from the reported eyewitnesses accounts, and the sworn testimony at the United States Navy Board of Inquiry the following seems the most likely series of events that happened that night:

  • The Hunley approached the Housatonic and attached the explosive device on the Hunley’s spar to the hull of the Housatonic.
  • The Hunley detonated the explosive device, or it was accidently detonated, while the Hunley was still within twenty feet of the Housatonic.
  • The Hunley then backed away from the Housatonic and used the pre-arranged “blue light” signal.
  • Then the Hunley sank from unknown causes, most likely a collision with a Union steamship.

I do not know why it seems so important to some, for the Hunley to have sunk as a direct result of its attack on the Housatonic. However, I think this is one of those issues that will always be in dispute.

I would like to take a moment to applaud the ongoing efforts of the conservators of the Hunley. Their painstaking efforts have shown us that the Hunley was a much more complicated machine than anyone could have imagined. Some of the features on the Hunley were well ahead of their time, and can be found today on modern submarines. Due to the tireless efforts of these men and women, the Hunley will be around for a long time to come. Who knows what new information they will discover about this little submarine as their work continues. Thank you, job well done.

I would also like to take a moment to thank all the men and women, who over the years have searched for, and raised the Hunley. Not everyone who looked for the Hunley found it, but by discovering where the Hunley was not, their efforts made it possible for those who followed them, to find the Hunley.

Several of you have asked for my opinion on who found the Hunley. I have not taken a position on this subject one way or the other. My opinion will not resolve the ongoing controversy of who found the Hunley, so I have stayed out of the argument. I will however, bow to your requests. I am currently working on an article that states my opinion as to who should be credited with finding the Hunley (I have not decided on a publish date yet). I am sure there will be enough to upset both sides of this heated debate.

Take care, and have a great week.


Oil on panel painting entitled "Submarine Torpedo Boat H.L. Hunley, Dec. 6, 1863" by Conrad Wise Chapman. Painted in 1864, on display in the American Civil War Museum

Oil on panel painting entitled “Submarine Torpedo Boat H.L. Hunley, Dec. 6, 1863” by Conrad Wise Chapman. Painted in 1864, on display in the American Civil War Museum

Our Other Hunley Articles:

The Submarine H.L. Hunley

Clive Cussler’s Hunley

The Hunley Blue Signal Light

Dr. E. Lee Spence’s Hunley

Spence VS Cussler: Who Found the Hunley


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Sneak Peek at the New Video

We are working on a Welcome video for our site. We’ve finished the film part and are still working on the narrative (haven’t decided if we will use background music).

We thought we would give you a sneak peek at it, and get you a chance to tell us what you think.

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For Your Information

In my articles I always try to give you the best information I can. When I find a good book or article that gives you additional information on a topic I have written about, I post links or at least give you the information so you can check it out for yourself.

Recently we joined the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, so now when I recommend a book to you, if you follow the link from my site and buy the book, Amazon will pay me a small fee for the service. I won’t be moving to the Hamptons any time soon. But, this will help me spend more time on research and writing (every little bit helps). I put a statement about this on my “About” page, but I wanted to make sure you knew this. I always want to be open with you and above board. I enjoy our Sunday mornings and enjoy reading your comments and e-mails. Even though I do not always get the chance to answer, I do read everything.

Thank You!


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Parenting – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

I was doing a lot of thinking about dads this week. There is also a new web site start by an Ohio congressman that I like and want everyone to know about First let me say I have never been an alcoholic or even touched illegal drugs. My doctor has an almost impossible time getting me to even take prescriptions he gives me. But there are two types of dads I am going to talk about today. The dads that struggle with alcohol, drugs, or other problems, and the dads who actually want to be more involved in their children’s lives but are being blocked. Then at the end I will tell you move about Raising Fathers.

If you are a dad who is homeless, alcoholic, addicted to drugs, or maybe have other problems that cause to stay away from your kids – don’t. No, I have not been in your shoes, but I have had and do have other issues I am dealing with. But, the one thing I do know, is that your kids need to know you love them. If you think you are not a good role-model for your kids, I understand. If you are not able to contribute to your kids, I understand.

But, I want you to understand something. Your kids need to know you love them. Even if you cannot be in their lives right now – YOUR KIDS NEED TO KNOW YOU LOVE THEM. If you do not tell your kids you love them, and you are not involved in their lives. They will make up their own reasons for why they do not see dad. Many of those reasons they make up with be their own fault. I know I have seen this amongst children before. They will think they were bad and that is why dad left, or a whole host of other reasons your children will imagine. If you are having problems right now – tell your kids that. You do not need to go into detail. Depending on their age they might not even understand. But, you NEED to make them understand that the reason you are not in their lives has nothing to do with them AND that you love them. The same goes for moms who are not in their kids lives.

For a kid, just knowing that they have a mom and dad who love them is enough to make a huge difference in their lives. PLEASE, if nothing else send them a postcard (yup the Post Office still sells and delivers them), “I love you, Dad.” It really can make the difference in some kids between excelling at life or dropping out.

I understand that their are men and women who have a hard time just making through one day. Believe me I understand. But, the most important thing your kids need from you, the one thing that can make more of a difference in their lives than anything else – is to know they are loved.

Kids are pretty tough. They can accept a lot of things as long as they know you love them.

The next thing I want to discuss, is mom and dads who WANT to be more involved with their kids, but are blocked by their ex-spouse and a “justice” system that seems to care more about favoring one parent over the other than it does about kids. I worded that last sentence the way I did, because your status as the “preferred parent” depends on which state you live in and sometimes even the county within the state you live.

I know people across this country coast to coast. Often the stories are the same from state to state. The only thing that changes is which parent benefits from the system. The bias is there, we know, that you and I. Either you have gone through it, are going through it, or know someone who has. Our employees (government workers, judges and such) will deny it, but you can see it.

When I was being physically abused at the end of my second marriage, I wanted to know what my options are. I went to a Reynoldsburg police officer, a Gahanna police officer, and a Franklin county sheriff’s deputy. At first I got the “official line.” But, I told them I knew what the law said, I wanted to know what THEY saw in court. I also told them I would never quote them. Each officer told me that if I filed a domestic violence charge, I would go to jail. They said that once I was arrested and “downtown,” they details would be worked out and that the charges would probably be dropped, but I would have an arrest record for domestic violence that would stay with me. They said if it looked to the officer as if I had been abused, then we would both be arrested and my daughter put in protective services. I asked the deputy what was I supposed to do. He said I could leave or stay. But he said if I left with my daughter they would probably pick me up, even though we had not separated and there was no court orders regarding our child. He went on to say that if I left without my daughter then my wife’s lawyer would argue in court that I abandoned my daughter and I could lose all my parental rights while still paying child support. So, again I asked what do I do. His answer?

“Suck it up and wait for your wife to leave.”

In Ohio, particularly in Franklin and Delaware counties the bias favors the mother, but there are other places where the bias favors the father. You know the funny thing is, I have yet to find a state where the bias favors the children over mom & dad.

My divorce decree says I get one phone call a day, each day I am not with our daughter and my ex-wife gets one phone call a day each day she is not with our daughter. I get half the holidays and we alternate holidays each year. The divorce decree also says I claim our daughter for taxes on odd years and my ex-wife claims her for even years. Not a bad arrangement, but it is never enforced. Then the IRS says I have to have my ex signed a form for the IRS before I can take my daughter off my taxes. Of course, none of that happens. I get my daughter for three holidays. Father’s Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. I like to stay home for New Year’s and my ex likes to party for New Year’s, so I don’t mind that part. Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor day, Memorial Day and all the rest my daughter is with her mother.

I am also supposed to get my daughter every other weekend. But, when I actually get to see my daughter is when mom needs a babysitter or she needs our daughter driven from one place to another. Which I do, any chance I get to be with my daughter I take.

If my ex or I want to take our daughter out of state, we are supposed to get permission from the other parent in writing. This also does not happen. Oh if I tried to take our daughter out of state the deputy assured me they would issue a Code Adam on me. But, as you read this right now, my ex-wife is taking our daughter out of the country (I found out from my daughter and her mother admitted it). When my ex-wife took our daughter to Florida, she texted me from the airport to let me know they would be out of the state for a while.

When I call the Sheriff’s Department I am told that what my ex-wife is doing is illegal, but they can’t help me – I need to contact a lawyer. I don’t have money for a lawyer. But, wait what about Legal Aid? Every time I call them they won’t help (they also don’t say why they won’t help) and tell me to call the Ohio Bar.  The Ohio Bar? I explain to them that I do not have money for a lawyer and need help, and that Legal Aid and Capital University told me to call the Ohio Bar. The Ohio Bar keeps referring me to lawyers who want $2500 before talking with me. Which, if I had the $2500 I would not have gone to Legal Aid. Capital University, here in Columbus, has a program to provide legal aid to veterans. Ah, at last some help.  Well, no actually they can’t help because my divorce was actually final last year. What do they do? Refer me back to the Ohio Bar again. Yup, you guessed it, and the Ohio Bar once again refers me to a lawyer who wants money I don’t have before they will speak to me. I did go to the Franklin County Veteran’s Services once, but this post is already long enough, so I won’t go into the details. Besides, by now I think you have already figured out they didn’t help either.

So, in the end, my ex-wife does whatever she wants, apparently with the blessing of the court and legal systems here in Franklin County, regardless of what the Ohio Revised Code says.

By now you are probably shaking your head, and either you don’t believe it or you are saying “Wow, that guy needs help!” But, my case is not special. My case is just one of thousands across this country. Sometimes it is a dad who loses out, and sometimes it is a mom who loses out. But, the real losers in this are the kids.

It is because of the kids that we need to start standing up to this, moms and dads together. Our kids need us both. We need to stop using kids as weapons in the warfare of divorce. We need to protect our children’s rights to have a mom and dad in their lives. The government and lawyers won’t do it; the one is more concerned with money and the other is concerned with insuring the parent of the correct sex wins. I say the one that NEEDS to win is the kids. So, let’s do it. Stop being silent, speak up.

Do not go to the law enforcement officers, they are stuck in the middle, they can only do what they are told. Many judges seem to think that they ARE the law and THEY will decide (hmmm and in government class I learned they were supposed to interpret the law not ignore it and write their own). Don’t get me wrong – their are good judges. But in the case of the good judges their hands are tied by the law (yup the same law other judges are ignoring). The people we really need to start bugging about this are our senators and representatives in our state capitals who write the law. Do not contact the ones in Washington, contact the ones at your state house. These laws that allow one parent to be favored over another are state laws not federal laws.

Then, after we get the laws changed to put the kids first monitor what happens. If the lawyers and judges don’t follow the law – report them. Write it down: when, where, what time, who did what, who was there, what happened – do not rely on your memory, your written notes are given more credibility. Report them to the Bar of your state, and go back to the state reps again and show them what is happening. Our kids are the ones being hurt by the, and they deserve better.

Now on to Raising Fathers.

I could tell you a lot of this about this page and how much I appreciate Congressman’s Johnson’s lead on this issue. But, I’ll just give you a brief quote from the About page:

“Facts are facts.  Children who grow up with actively engaged and positive fathers lead happier and healthier lives than those who do not.  Fathers provide the love and understanding that boost their children’s self-esteem, emotional stability, and overall mental health.  

Fatherhood is by no means an easy task!  Unlike other jobs, fathers can’t take a vacation from their responsibilities; they definitely can’t call in sick; and there are no raises.  But even with all of the obstacles fathers must overcome, the gift of a child’s love and admiration is the greatest reward a man can receive.     

Just as a child needs a father’s guidance to reach their full potential, fathers sometimes need resources to guide them in their parental journey.  Congressman Bill Johnson’s Raising Fathers initiative is a resource designed to help America’s fathers make the most of the special role they play in their children’s lives.  Together, fathers can share their experiences – successes and failures – and help one another learn to parent with the heart of a father. 

Why is it important for fathers to step-up to the challenges of parenthood?  While families come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and makeups, one thing remains true of all of them:  Children who are brought up with the positive influence of a father are happier, healthier and more likely to succeed.”

Moms I want you to go their too. There is a page on the site where you can honor your father, so why are you still reading this?

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If you are one of those bloggers who likes to put non-specific comments on other bloggers sites, so people will click on your name and go to your web site, sorry to disappoint you. If I do put your comment up – I remove your web address first. In other words, I just wasted your time, just like you are wasting my time.

Have a nice day




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