Daily Event for September 6

September 6, 1776: The first ever attack using a submerged vessel took place when the Turtle made an attempt to attach a bomb to the hull of the British flagship HMS Eagle. The Turtle, built by David Bushnell and Phineaus Pratt, was to be piloted by Bushnell's brother Ezra. Ezra had tested the Turtle extensively in the Connecticut River but, the night before the planned attack Ezra died.

This left the mission to an untrained pilot, Ezra Lee. Lee launched the attack on the evening of Sept. 6-7, 1776, he managed to approach the Eagle, a 64 gun frigate, that was moored in New York harbor (near what is now Ellis Island) undetected. However in the two attempts to attach the bomb to the hull of the Eagle failed. As he was leaving the Turtle was spotted and he was chased but managed to escape. In an effort to go faster he dropped the bomb he had been carrying. It went off an hour later. While unsuccessful at sinking a ship, it did cause the British to move their fleet.

A full scale working reproduction of the Turtle is on display at the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, CT. The vessel has been tested in both controlled and open water, unmanned and manned.

© 2005 Michael W. Pocock