CSS H.L Hunley If there is such a thing as a defining moment for the modern attack submarine, it came on the night of 17 February 1864. The CSS H.L Hunley slammed a crude but effective torpedo into the side of the Union warship, USS Housatonic off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. The Housatonic sank almost instantly killing 5 sailors. The brave men who carried out the first successful submarine attack (the next wouldn't occur until WWI) would not, however, live to celebrate their unique victory. The Hunley mysteriously sank before reaching it's home port and has remained a legend, full of speculation...until now. 

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Noted author Clive Cussler and his National Underwater Marine Agency discovered the Hunley in 30 feet of water in May 1995 after a 15 year search effort. It would take nearly 6 years to finally bring the sub, almost completely intact, to the surface on August 8, 2000. Until the raising of the Hunley, little was known about her design. Horace Lawson Hunley had researched and built two similar submarines in 1861 and much of what was assumed about the Hunley design was taken from those vessels. However, when the Hunley was raised, researchers realized it was far more sophisticated than was previously thought. The Hunley was designed for a 9-man crew...8 to crank the shaft that turned the propeller and 1 that controlled the ship, both steering and dive/surfacing. The crew was supplied oxygen through two "snorkels" located on top of the sub while surfaced. When the Hunley submerged, the snorkels were closed. The amount of time the sub could stay underwater depended on how long the air inside lasted. An air gauge told the captain roughly when the sub had to surface. This design was advanced for it's time and was effective in it's aim...STEALTH! It was said during the testing of Hunley that it could approach Union ships undetected so closely that the crew of the sub could hear Union soldiers singing. Model photos Copyright Brad Crisler 2002 Hunley photos and renderings courtesy Don Dowdy, except cwchun.it is noted on the jpeg.

The Kit
Cottage Industries
produces this 1/72 mixed media kit as well as a 1/32 version. The 1/32 version looks great but at $159 retail, it was a little much for a gift-project. I built it for my brother, he's a Civil War fanatic. 

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The kit consists of a solid fuselage casting, a resin "wafer" with the dive planes, propeller, rudder and snorkels, and brass and aluminum rods of various diameters. The fuselage was very detailed and was easy to remove from the pour rails. Light sanding of the hull was required to flatten the ballast tanks and I had to re-scribe some lines on the tanks as well. The small resin parts were a different story altogether. Some parts were poorly cast and the prop had a couple of large holes in it. The parts were also very brittle, even for resin, and I had to repair broken parts more than once. Plenty of rod length is provided and the extra can be useful in the scrap bin.

It is an interesting experience assembling a model of a submarine of which there are no known photographs. Until recently, even the majority of sketches, drawings and paintings of the Hunley were inaccurate because of the lack of real reference material. It seemed that every image I found on the web was different than the next making me guess at the location of certain items such as the torpedo rope and length of the lance at the end of the torpedo boom. This brings me to the instructions included with the kit. There were three pages including a brief history, an assembly order and a schematic/diagram page that illustrated where each part went. 

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If these were instructions to a Type V-IIc U-boat or the USS Alabama, I'm sure they would have been fine, but with a ship that has such a lack of reference material, it would have been nice if the function of some of the parts and assemblies were explained. Again, I found myself guessing.

I decided to build the model before mounting it to a base. This is not my usual tactic but given the length of the torpedo boom and the stress it would incur during the assembly, I decided to keep the model loose and mount it prior to painting. The majority of the rudder and tail section of the sub had to be scratch built using the brass rods. Some ends had to be flattened and I did this with a small hobby hammer. In most cases, the length needed was not mentioned, so I had to cut and test-fit frequently. 

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The dive planes were not a good cast and I tried my best to make them symmetrical. I'm still not pleased with the result but it isn't entirely distracting. Assembling the boom, torpedo and lance was pretty much straight forward once I decided what it should look like. The only tedious part was flattening the end that attaches to the sub and cutting a "Y" incision into it so that it mated with the front blade of the sub.

Once assembled, I primed with Poly S light gray primer using my airbrush. After filling any obvious gaps, I applied a coat of Testers Acrylic dark panzer gray. After drying, I began the task of making resin look like iron...I haven't tried to simulate iron much before in this scale so I kind of worked by trial and error. I applied a wash of 1 part Nato black, 10 parts water and 3 parts dark brown pastel shavings. I then lightened the wash by dry-brushing a lightened bit of the base coat. To simulate the metal surface, I dry-brushed Testers chrome-steel over the raised details. The water and rust stains were made using black and dark brown pastels flat brushed on. I then sealed it all with Testers dull coat. 

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The coin is a replica of the $20 gold piece found in the raised Hunley. It belonged to LT. George Dixon who, according to legend, carried the coin that was given to him by his fiancée in his pocket during the battle of Shiloh. He was shot in the chest and the Union Mini-Ball struck the coin in his pocket. The impact bent the coin but it saved his life. He had it inscribed, "Shiloh, April 6, 1862. My Life Preserver G.E.D." Apparently, Dixon was carrying the coin when the Hunley sank. The coin has been valued at $10 Million.