Civil War-era Submarine
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.
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 the Louisiana State Museum Submarine by Historian Signey H. Schell
Courtesy National Archives
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.