Deep River People, David Bushnell
David Bushnell (1740–1824), was an American inventor during the Revolutionary War. He is credited with creating the first submarine ever used in combat, while studying at Yale University in 1775. He called it the Turtle because of its look in the water. His idea of using water as ballast for submerging and raising his submarine is still in use today, as is the screw propeller, which was first used in the Turtle.
While at Yale, he proved that gunpowder exploded under water. David Bushnell also made the first time bomb. He combined his ideas in an attempt to attack British ships which were blockading New York Harbor in the summer of 1776 by boring through their hulls and implanting time bombs, but failed every time due to a metal lining in the ships hull to protect against parasites in their previous station, the Caribbean. David Bushnell then created the Turtle. The Turtle eventually sank when it was being smuggled away from the British aboard a sloop, and a British frigate spotted the sloop and sank it.
In 1777 Bushnell attempted to use a floating mine to blow up the HMS Cerberus in Niantic Bay; the mine struck a small boat near the Cerberus and detonated, destroying the vessel, but not the intended target. In 1778 he launched what became lauded as the Battle of the Kegs, in which a series of mines was floated down the Delaware River to attack British ships anchored there. The effort was largely ineffectual.
In 1778, General Washington proposed the formation of a new military unit to be known as the "Corps of Sappers and Miners" and in the summer of the next year it was organized and on 8 June 1781, David Bushnell was appointed Captain and was at the Battle of Yorktown in the following Sept. and October, the only time the unit had had the opportunity to render special service. He served until the end of the war and before the unit was discharged, commanded the Corps and had become a member of the Connecticut Society of the Cincinnati, an organization formed during the war by officers of the rank of Captain and higher.
On 6 May 1779, he was taken prisoner in Middlesex Parish, now Darien, Conn.
After peace was declared he returned to Connecticut then later traveled to France and then settled in Warrenton, Georgia where he taught at the Warrenton Academy and practiced medicine. He died in 1824, but before he died David was honored with a medal by George Washington. David Bushnell's Submarine Model is on display at the U.S. Navy Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut.
In 1915, the U.S. Navy named the submarine tender USS Bushnell (AS-2) after him and it was launched in Bremerton, Washington. On 14 September 1942, another submarine tender of the same name (USS Bushnell (AS-15)) was launched.