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Hunley had its beginnings in Port Lavaca

Aug. 7, 2010 at 3:07 a.m.
Updated Aug. 6, 2010 at 3:06 a.m.


The story of the Hunley actually begins in Port Lavaca.

In 1862, a small armada of Union ships sailed into Matagorda Bay and shelled the town, then known as La Vaca. One of the privates attached to Capt. Daniel Shea's company, who was there to defend the coastal town, was Edgar C. Singer. Singer, originally from Ohio, was the nephew of Isaac Merritt Singer of sewing machine fame and had even helped his uncle design the machines.

Setting his mind and skills to find a way to stop Union ships from ever sailing into harbors unimpeded, Singer began work on developing a mine that could sink enemy ships. He started by using small charges of gunpowder in a bucket of water, finding that gunpowder could still unleash destructive power while underwater.

Singer soon enlisted the help of his La Vaca Masonic lodge brothers: Dr. John Fretwell; jeweler James Jones; livery stable owner William Longnecker; John D. Braman and Robert W. Dunn, both merchants; carpenter and brother-in-law C.E. Frary; store owner B.A. "Gus" Whitney; and contractor David Bradbury, who headed up the torpedo facility in La Vaca and, later, all torpedo operations west of the Mississippi River. This group were the first in what became known as Singer's Submarine Corps.

The now Capt. Singer was then put in contact with fellow Mason Horace Hunley and two other investors. The group, Singer Secret Service Corps, decided to fund and build a submarine. The result was the Hunley.

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