USS Alligator (1862)

Contemporary drawing of Alligator sneaking beneath a surface ship. Original believed to be in the public domain.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

The USS Alligator was the first submarine of the US Navy. Launched 1 May, 1862, Alligator was commissioned six weeks later on 13 June. Contemporary descriptions of her size vary, placing her between 30 and 47 feet (10-14m) long, with a beam between 4.5 and 8 feet, Alligator initially was propelled by sixteen hand-powered paddles, eight on a beam, but she was soon reconfigured to use an in-line propeller. Though still hand operated, this increased her speed from 2 knots to 4. Alligator gained her name in late June, while deployed to Hampton Roads as a counter to the CSS Virginia. Alligator spent most of the next year as a display piece for VIPs, including President Lincoln, after the Navy deemed her performance unsatisfactory. She was sent south for the attack on Charleston, South Carolina, on 31 March, 1863, under tow. She foundered in rough weather on 2 April, somewhere off Cape Hatteras.