The first thing that struck me was how could the Hunley be within two or three feet of the ship, bow on when the spar is twenty feet long,the only explanation for this is that the spar was facing downwards towards the keel at about 35 degrees, given the rapid sinking of the Housatonic and the damage inflicted(the prop shaft was blown in half, the rudder was blown of its mountings, and according to many accounts, the magazine exploded and the ship sank by the stern in minutes)this would most likely seem correct,so this raises the question did the Hunley set sail on this attack with the spar facing downward by 35 degrees, I really have doubts about this,if the boat was to be bottomed the spar would be in danger of being buried in the mud with dire concsequences.
The Housatonic's commanding officer, Captain Charles W. Pickering, stated that:
On reaching the deck I gave the order to slip, and heard for the first time it was a torpedo, I think from the Officer of the Deck. I repeated the order to slip, and gave the order to go astern, and to open fire. I turned instantly, took my double barreled gun loaded with buck shot from Mr. Muzzey, my aide and clerk, and jumped up on the horse block on the starboard quarter which the first Lieutenant had just left having fired a musket at the torpedo.
I hastily examined the torpedo; it was shaped like a large whale boat, about two feet, more or less, under water; its position was at right angles to the ship, bow on, and the bow within two or three feet of the ship's side, about abreast of the mizzenmast, and I supposed it was then fixing the torpedo on. I saw two projections or knobs about one third of the way from the bows. I fired at these, jumped down from the horse block, and ran to the port side of the Quarter Deck as far as the mizzen mast, singing out "Go astern Faster" (Ragan 1995, 136).