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2014-15 through 2018-19

         

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History Identity The Pioneer Clues Conservation

The history of the Pioneer, however, may shed some light on the identity of the State Museum's submarine. At the beginning of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln ordered a blockade of all Southern ports. To augment his own Navy, Confederate President Jefferson Davis issued a proclamation inviting applications for letters of marque to encourage reprisal against Federal ships and property. Respondents were drawn to the Algiers dockyards and to vessels suitable for refitting as privateers.

Across the river at Leeds foundry, steam gauge manufacturers James McClintock and Baxter Watson constructed a submarine to use against Union gunboats patrolling Lake Pontchartrain. They would eventually partner with Horace L. Hunley, a wealthy lawyer and customs agent, to build a submarine with a menacing, streamlined appearance. After the war, McClintock described the vessel he and his partners christened the Pioneer.

  • "…she was made of iron ¼ inch thick. The boat was of a cigar shape 30 feet long and 4 feet in diameter. This boat demonstrated to us that we could construct a boat that would move at will in any direction desired, and at any distance from the surface. As we were unable to see objects passing under the water, the boat was steered by compass…"

In March of 1862, the Pioneer's owners were granted a letter of marque by the Confederate government. A month later, New Orleans fell to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron commanded by David Glasgow Farragut. In the ensuing turmoil, the Pioneer was scuttled in the New Basin Canal.

The ship was quickly discovered in its watery grave and brought to shore. A Federal team of experts was dispatched to examine the "infernal machine" and later submitted their measured drawings to Fleet Engineer William Shock, who completed and forwarded them to Washington, D.C. for further study.

Drawing of Submarine by Signey H. Schell
Drawing of the Louisiana State Museum Submarine by Historian Signey H. Schell
Courtesy National Archives

sketch of submarine
Courtesy of the Gilder Lehrman Collection

In 1865, three years later, Ensign David M. Stauffer of the Mississippi Squadron also make a sketch of the Pioneer. An engineer by trade, Stauffer documented the ships, forts, cannons, and buildings he encountered in the South. The first of two volumes he completed, "Louisiana Sketches," identifies the Pioneer resting on the bank of the New Basin Canal. The detailed rendering shows how the craft actually appeared (Shock's drawing was a mechanical one). Distinguishing characteristics depicted by Stauffer - iron plating, rivets, conning tower portholes - provide clear evidence of what the Pioneer looked like, and it is not the same vessel owned by the State Museum.





Louisiana State Museum submarine on bank of Bayou St. John at Spanish Fort, c 1900

Louisiana State Museum submarine, Spanish Fort Amusement Park, c 1895 (Photograph by George F Mugnier)

Louisiana State Museum submarine, Spanish Fort Amusement park, c 1895 (Photograph by George F Mugnier)

Louisiana State Museum submarine, Spanish Fort Amusement park, c 1895 (Photograph by George F Mugnier)

Louisiana State Museum submarine, Spanish Fort, c 1895 (Photograph by George F. Mugnier)

Louisiana State Museum submarine, Jackson Square, c 1945

Louisiana State Museum submarine under Presbytere arcade, c 1995

Louisiana State Museum submarine under Presbytere arcade, c 1995

Louisiana State Museum administrators inspecting submarine at Jackson Square, c 1952

Ironclad Ram Manassas under fire at Fort Jackson and St. Philip, April 24 1862

Drawing of the Louisiana State Museum Submarine by Historian Signey H. Schell

Rebel Submarine ram diagram

Moving the submarine into LSM

Moving the submarine into LSM