Bayou St. John Confederate Submarine – Baton Rouge, Louisiana - Atlas Obscura

Bayou St. John Confederate Submarine

Louisiana State Museum

A mysterious find dredged from Louisiana waters. 


In 1878, workers dredging the Bayou St. John made a very strange discovery: a submarine, right out of a Jules Verne story.

Thought to have been built around 1862, the so-called Confederate Submarine measures 20 feet long, and is made of riveted iron and powered by a hand-cranked propeller. For years, the strange craft was left on the shores, and then later displayed at the Spanish Fort amusement park where it was identified incorrectly as the other famous Civil War submarine, the Pioneer, which was in reality scuttled for scrap after the war.

Little is known about the actual story of this odd piece of technology, but it has found a new home and a better state of preservation at the Louisiana State Museum. During the Civil War, both the Confederacy and the Union made use of submarines—though the Confederacy relied on them more. After seceding from the United States and establishing their own government that would continue to permit slavery, the Confederate States of America used submarines to try to sink Union ships.

Another, more famous early submarine (and a sibling to the Pioneer mentioned above), the H. L. Hunley Submarine, was discovered in 1995. It is currently being conserved and studied in Charleston, South Carolina.

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