The Aligator, the Navy’s first submarine.

Naval historian Chuck Veit will give an illustrated lecture on the Alligator, the Navy’s first submarine, on Thursday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Titusville.

The story of the Alligator is told against the history of underwater vessels in the first half of the 19th century. This free lecture is sponsored by the Delaware River Greenway Partnership. It will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Route 546 in Titusville.

In the late 1850s — on the Delaware River at Philadelphia and on Rancocas Creek in New Jersey — an immigrant French engineer named Brutus de Villeroi built a submarine. It was to be used for hunting sunken treasure, but when war broke out, the inventor offered it to the Navy of his adopted country.

Although not interested in submarine warfare, the U.S. Navy was willing to gamble on anything that might be able to sink the rebel Merrimack. De Villeroi’s credentials were impeccable: he had a lengthy record of inventions and discoveries, and had built his first submarine in 1832. What could go wrong?

Veit is the author of a number of original research books on Civil War naval topics. Copies of his most recent book, Natural Genius, which tells the story of Brutus de Villeroi and Alligator, will be available for sale.

Veit is a frequent speaker on 19th century naval topics at area historical societies, Civil War roundtables and conferences. He is president of the Navy & Marine Living History Association, an organization dedicated to sharing America’s naval history through the medium of in-the-field events.

This talk is one in a series sponsored by DRGP on different aspects of the cultural and natural heritage of the Delaware River and is open to the public free of charge. For additional information, visit or