The Bayou St. John Submarine (1861?)
Built: Bayou St. John, Louisiana
Commissioned: Never Commissioned
Service: Unknown; possibly New Orleans Defense Flotilla
Home Port: New Orleans, Louisiana
Dimensions: 20' Length, 3' Beam, 6' Draft
Engines: Handcranked Screw
Fate: Probably scuttled to avoid capture after the fall of New Orleans in 1862. Presently preserved at the Louisiana State Museum.
Aside from the fact of her existence, virtually nothing is known of the so-called "Bayou St. John Submarine." She was discovered during the dredging of the Bayou St. John in 1878 in near perfect condition, and initially identified as the submarine Pioneer . Only later twentieth century research showed that this was, in fact, not the case - her design is unique in a variety of respects compared to information known about Pioneer.
There are no period records for the Bayou St. John, and no accounts of her service. It has been theorized that she was constructed as a submarine privateer intended for the defense of New Orleans and, possibly, commerce raiding on some level. Upon discovery, the sub showed very little damage, and it has been theorized that she was scuttled quickly to avoid being captured by advancing Federal forces after the fall of New Orleans in April, 1862. Armament is unknown at present. Some have suggested that she was intended to drill holes in the bottom of enemy ships and use these as mounting points for explosive charges in the same manner as Bushnell's famous Turtle of Revolutionary War fame. Other reconstructions have proposed that she mounted a spar torpedo.
Although initially filled with concrete to "preserve" her, the concrete has since been removed and her condition greatly restored. It is hoped that further research might shed more light upon her design and function.