Enon in Chesterfield County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
The United States Submarine Propeller Alligator
The green, 47-foot-long Alligator was the U.S. Navy's first submarine—a technological wonder of the Civil War era.
French engineer Brutus de Villeroi designed the Alligator. It was built in Philadelphia in 1862. This ingenious submarine was the first to be built with an air purifying system, a diver lockout chamber and oars for propulsion.
Shortly after its launch on May 1, 1862, the Alligator was towed to Hampton Roads, Virginia. This short trip marked the first time a submarine was deployed to a combat zone. The boat's primary target was the Confederate obstructions at Drewry's Bluff on the James River. The Alligator was sent to the Appomattox River in late June of 1862 in order to participate in the Appomattox River Raid. Because neither the James nor the Appomattox rivers were deep enough for the vessel to submerge, it was withdrawn and sent to the Washington Navy Yard for further testing.
While in Washington, D.C, the Alligator was refitted with a hand-cranked screw propeller. In early spring 1863,
Towed by the USS Sumpter, the unmanned Alligator left Washington, D.C. for Port Royal, South Carolina on March 31, 1863. On April 2, a fierce storm forced the crew of the endangered Sumpter to cut the submarine loose off the North Carolina coast in the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." It was never seen again.
Shipyard: Neafie & Levy, Philadelphia
Contractor: Martin Thomas
Launch Date: May 1, 1862
Length: 47 feet
Beam (hull): 4’8”
Height (hull): 5’6"
Propulsion: Oars; screw propeller
Crew Complement: 22 with oars; 8 with screw propeller
To learn more about the Alligator, visit www.sanctuaries.noaa.gov/alligator
Alligator blueprint courtesy of the Service Historique de la Marine.
The Alligator artwork was produced by Joe Hinds for the Hampton Roads Naval Museum and final design was provided by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum: www.hrnm.navy.mil
This sign was sponsored by members of The Blue and Gray Education Society in honor of George L. Fickett Jr. and Scott Williams
Erected 2016 by Chesterfield County and the Blue & Gray Education Society.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: War, US Civil • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln series list. A significant historical date for this entry is May 1, 1862.
Location. 37° 19.178′ N, 77° 20.309′ W. Marker is in Enon, Virginia, in Chesterfield County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of Enon Church Road (Virginia Route 746) and Point of Rocks Road, on the left when traveling west. The marker is located in Historic Point of Rocks Park (under development). Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1005 Enon Church Rd, Chester VA 23836, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Pontoon Bridge (here, next to this marker); The Appomattox River Raid, June 26-28, 1862 (here, next to this marker); The Strachan House (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The First Attacks on Petersburg (about 400 feet away); Nurses at Point of Rocks Hospital (about 500 feet away); Point of Rocks Hospital (about 500 feet away); Historic Point of Rocks (about 500 feet away); Crimean Ovens (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Enon.
Also see . . . The hunt for the Alligator - the U.S. Navy's first submarine. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (Submitted on October 30, 2017.)
Additional keywords. The United States Submarine Propeller Alligator
Credits. This page was last revised on June 20, 2023. It was originally submitted on October 30, 2017, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia. This page has been viewed 311 times since then and 44 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 30, 2017, by Bernard Fisher of Richmond, Virginia.