Submarines and Their Connection to the War of Independence

NATIONWIDE— Submarines have a rich and diverse history,
from its appearance in works of fiction like “20,000 Leagues
Under the Sea” and “The Hunt for Red October” to their use in
warfare to conduct attacks or reconnaissance with stealth.

Surprisingly the use of submarines in warfare traces back rather far in American history, all the way to the War of Independence when the United States of America was a group of colonies trying to get out from under the thumb of the king.

On Sept. 7, 1776, the world experienced its first submarine attack. The American submersible craft the Turtle, named after its turtle-like shape attempted to attach a time bomb to the hull of British Admiral Richard Howe’s flagship Eagle in New York Harbor.

The Turtle was a one-man submarine built by inventor David Bushnell in 1775 for use against the British, according to

The vessel was pear-shaped and made out of oak that was then reinforced with iron bands.

Water was pumped in and out of the skin of the boat to allow it to sink and rise and was powered by hand-cranked propellers, one
that would allow the vessel to move up and down and another that would allow it to move in horizontal lines, according to
Military History Matters.

The mission to sink the HMS Eagle failed when the pilot, Ezra Lee, was unable to attach a 150-pound keg of gunpowder to the hull of the ship.

Actually, every mission the Turtle went on failed.

The vessel made several attempts to sink British ships on the Hudson River and failed because of the pilot’s inexperience, according to

The vessel was lost in the Battle of Fort Lee when the American sloop transporting it was sunk by the British.

Despite the failures of the Turtle Bushnell received a commission as an Army engineer and built drifting mines that destroyed the British frigate Cerberus and wreaked other havoc on the Brit-
ish Navy.

After the war, Bushnell became a commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers stationed at West Point, and the submarine became a part of the military strategy.


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