Today In History Spotlights Feb. 17, 1864, HL Hunley becomes the First Submarine to Sink a Ship

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Today’s History Spotlight

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The HL Hunley becomes the first submarine to sink a ship. Developed by Horace L. Hunley, this was a Confederate submarine, operated by a hand-cranked propeller. The American Civil War is often considered to be the dawn of modern warfare, as it introduced many new concepts not seen before on the battlefield. These included the submarine, ironclad ship, repeating rifle, Gatling gun, and others.

After finding its target, the USS Housatonic, in Charleston Harbor, the Hunley attacked, intending to break through the Union blockade. Although it sank the Housatonic, the Hunley was too close to the blast radius, sinking itself in the process and killing all eight crewmen, resulting in a Pyrrhic victory for Confederate forces.

What Happened On This Day – February 17

  • 2008 Kosovo declares its independence. The region’s secession from Serbia followed an armed conflict referred to as the Kosovo War.
  • 1992 Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is jailed for life. Dahmer was convicted of murdering and dismembering at least 17 young men and boys.
  • 1913 The “Armory Show” opens in New York. The art exhibition featured works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh and marked the advent of artistic modernism in the United States.
  • 1904 “Madama Butterfly” is premiered. Giacomo Puccini’s opera, one of the world’s most performed works of musical theater, was poorly received in its first performance.
  • 1863 A precursor of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is founded. The “Committee for Relief to the Wounded” was created by a group of citizens in Geneva, Switzerland.

Births On This Day – February 17

  • 1981 Paris Hilton – American model, actress, singer
  • 1963 Michael Jordan – American basketball player, actor
  • 1949 Fred Frith – English guitarist, composer
  • 1904 Hans Morgenthau – German philosopher
  • 624 Wu Zetian – Chinese empress

Deaths On This Day – February 17

  • 1998 Ernst Jünger – German author
  • 1986 Jiddu Krishnamurti – Indian/American philosopher, author
  • 1982 Thelonious Monk – American pianist, composer
  • 1856 Heinrich Heine – German poet
  • 1673 Molière – French playwright, actor

The sections “What Happened On This Day,” “Births On This Day,” and “Deaths On This Day” originally appeared at and is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

Garrett Smith
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