On evening of February 17, 1864 the confederate submarine CSS Hunley squared off with The USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor. The result was the sinking of the Housatonic in the world’s first submarine attack and the beginning of a new era of naval combat.
Visually lost for over 150 years, the Housatonic and the Hunley have been brought back to life by model builder Bill Schultz of Callawassie Island. Over the last 4 1/2 years, Schultz painstakingly spent over 1500 hours crafting a model of the Housatonic as well as a model of the Hunley. And now both ships stand together commemorating their historic encounter, emphasizing, among other things, the disparate sizes of the two ships.
Schultz first became interested in the Housatonic from an historical perspective. Much has been recorded about the Hunley but little is known about the Housatonic. He could find reference to only two other models that were constructed. Schultz believes one was built by C.P Coker of Charleston. The Housatonic was one of four nearly identical ships contracted by the US Navy for blockade service as the Civil War broke out. These four steam sloops were the Housatonic, Juniata, Ossippe, and Adirondak. The Housatonic was built in Boston and launched in about 90 days in November 1861. The ship was 205 feet long, 1240 tons, and crewed by 160 officers and men. It was armed with two large guns mounted on rails–one a 100 pound Parrott rifle and the other an 11” Dahlgren gun purported to send a 150 pound a projectile approximately three miles.
As Schultz progressed on the model of the Housatonic, he was struck by the size differences between it and the Hunley. As Schultz reports, “It was a lot of work to make the Housatonic model due to both its size and its detail. Copper plates, deck planking, guns, ship’s boats et al. were hand crafted. Built at the scale of 1:64 (3/16” = 1’) the model of the Housatonic is 58” long, 33 inches high and 18” wide. The Hunley at the same scale is significantly smaller, and its metal construction allowed for its parts to be 3D printed and assembled. “
The models of the Housatonic and the Hunley follow Schultz’s completion of a model of the US South Carolina “L’Indien” circa 1777 of the Revolutionary War era. As far as he knows that model, now greeting visitors to the Callawassie Island River Club, may be one of two in the world of that ship.
The Housatonic can be seen at the Hunley Museum in North Charleston, SC.