Key point: The South's sub actually scored the first kill by a submarine in history. However, the submarine did not survive.
At the start of the American Civil War in April 1861, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed that he planned to blockade the Confederacy by stationing warships in waters off its shores. This entailed guarding 3,500 miles of coastline along the Atlantic seaboard and Gulf of Mexico. The primary targets of the blockade were the 12 largest ports.
The Confederate Navy endeavored to break the Union blockade, but it was seriously inferior to the vastly larger U.S. Navy. The Confederacy ruled out constructing a comparable fleet because of a shortage of funds. A partial answer to the blockade lay in the privateers’ use of steam-powered ships that could run the Union blockade. Yet the privateers met only a fraction of the Confederacy’s need in regard to getting sufficient exports of cotton to foreign markets and importing enough munitions and other war materials. The Union blockade quickly slowed the Confederacy’s exports and imports to a crawl.
Southern inventors sought to develop a weapon that could counter the blockade fleet. The Confederate government offered private contractors a bounty of 20 percent of the value of any warship sunk by a licensed privateer. Inventors put their minds to developing an underwater vessel that could attack the blockading ships.