I am of the opinion that most of the United States is populated by good people, who are trying to lead decent and respectful lives. I’m sure there are those who would disagree, and when faced with evil doers, it is sometimes hard to see the good because of the bad, but I think we can agree that the people who agreed with the northern states during the Civil War, far outnumbered those who agreed with the southern states. the Union had a distinctive advantage over the Confederates. There were more states and more soldiers in the Union Army. So, the Confederate Army had to find a way to get ahead of their enemies. Confederates sometimes relied on technical innovation to aid their cause, in the face of such limited resources compared with the Union Army’s sheer numbers and resources. The Union had $234,000,000 in bank deposit and coined money while the Confederacy had $74,000,000 and the Border States had $29,000,000. The Union Army had 2,672,341 soldiers, as opposed to the Confederate Army, which had between 750,000 to 1,227,890 soldiers.

Given the obvious lop-sidedness, especially in the naval conflict, the Confederates could not hope to match the Union in sheer tonnage of ships produced. They didn’t have the funds or the resources to build as many ships as the Union. Many people would actually assume that either the Confederates would lose the war quickly, or it would be mostly fought on land. The Confederates, however, did come up with two famous Confederate naval innovations…the ironclad warship, CSS Virginia and the submarine, HL Hunley. The HL Hunley was built in 1863. Who would have thought there would be a submarine built that early on.

Of course, the Union wasn’t sitting around doing nothing while the Confederates dominated the water. They were busy too. The USS Monitor was built around the same time the Virginia was being retrofitted with iron plating, and those two ships actually clashed at the Battle of Hampton Roads. While the Confederates did get in the war ship game, the superior Northern industrial capacity allowed them to build more than 80 ironclads. The North also built a submarine, called the USS Alligator. It was designed by French engineer Brutus de Villeroi, who had, amazingly, been working on submersible craft for some 30 years. Contrary to what we might think, the concept of a submarine was not a new one. In fact, there was even a primitive one employed in the American War of Independence. The submarines were a far cry from the huge 20th-century submarines of today.

The Alligator was based on an 1859 prototype and was commissioned in 1861 as part of the same flurry of naval innovation that saw the creation of the ironclad Monitor. The Alligator featured an innovative air-purification system that used limewater to remove carbon dioxide and keep the air breathable for long periods. The Alligator was manned by a 16-member crew, which was later reduced to eight. Also unusual is the fact that USS Alligator had oars to maneuver with. I suppose that wouldn’t seem unusual in its day, but it certainly does today. Sent out on a mission to remove obstructions in Charleston Harbor in advance of an attack by a Union ironclad fleet, the Alligator ran into trouble in the form of a gale on April 2, 1863, while being towed to nearby Port Royal, South Carolina. It was in the storm, and its wreckage was never recovered…but the hunt is ongoing.

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