9. World’s First Submarine Used in Combat Was Sent to Attack a British Boat at Governors Island
A replica of The Turtle submarine from the American Revolutionary War as seen in the show TURN in AMC. Photo: Antony Platt/AMC
The Turtle was the first known submersible built for use in combat, constructed in Connecticut in 1775 by Yale freshman David Bushnell so that the Americans could attach explosives onto British ships, intended specifically for the protection of American troops in New York Harbor. On September 6, 1776, George Washington approved an attack on the HMS Eagle, which was moored off of Governors Island.
A sergeant Ezra Lee commanded the Turtle and made it all the way to the Eagle but was unable to attach the explosive. The Turtle was spotted by British soldiers on Governors Island, who rowed out into the harbor. Lee released the charge into the harbor which drifted into the East River and detonated “with tremendous violence,” according to Lee (although there have been no corroborating stories of this incident on the British side). A month later, after an attempt on anther British vessel, the Turtle was sunk on a transport vessel off Fort Lee, New Jersey.