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The H. L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the…
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The H. L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy (2008)

by Tom Chaffin

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Showing 5 of 5
I should perhaps preface my review by saying I am not a civil war buff. My interest in war history is minimal, but I'm trying to expand my horizons for 2013 and picked this book up when my mom recommended it. I struggled in places where I needed some more background on the war and its players. As xenchu wrote, it's not a scholarly work, which I very much benefitted from. It is a quite factual book. Unfortunately, the facts around the Hunley and its submarine predecessors are few. Not being a (civil war) history buff, I found myself extremely frustrated by how often there were no source documents or accounts. I felt like I was reading a lot of "well this is what might have happened... or it could have been this." There were some lovely turns of phrase (porpoiselike aplomb!), I'd certainly recommend this to anyone who enjoys reading about the civil war or maritime history. ( )
  23points | Jan 7, 2013 |
In writing about the alternately raffish and tragic history of the H.L. Hunley, Chaffin makes his best play to tease out the character of the personalities behind this project and to detail the social environment that made the concept of a privateer submarine look plausible. An excellant popular history. ( )
  Shrike58 | Oct 8, 2010 |
This book is about the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley the first submarine to sink another ship. To call it the secret hope of the Confederacy is perhaps a bit strong and even misleading. It might be called the hope of Charleston S.C. and the men who built it.

Although it has a long bibliography and is well illustrated, it is not a scholarly book. It is written for a popular audience and it might be to be the first book out on the subject with accurate information about the submarine and it's crews.

The author makes no startling revelations or ambitious speculations. He reveals the facts as they are known at the time the book was written. If you want to know the facts about the Hunley as they were know when the book was written, read the book. If you want the latest information check the web or a scholarly journal. The farther from the publishing date the more reasonable it becomes to go to the web or a journal for information.
  xenchu | Feb 4, 2010 |
Interesting, and a lot more information than I had before about the Hunley, but somewhat uneven and not quite satisfying. I should admit right off that at least part of my dissatisfaction is that I am _not_ a Civil War buff, so the long passages where he tries to place the Hunley and its predecessors in the context of the war are of very little interest to me. I'm more interested in the technical aspects of the Hunley, and I do know a lot more about that now - including that and why relatively little is known about them. The excavation may answer a lot of the questions that remain, but it hasn't yet - or hadn't as of the writing of this book. One annoying thing in the writing was that he started off saying there was a lot of uncertainty in his information, and he would indicate that in his references to the uncertain data. So early on there is a paragraph, about the dimensions of the American Diver (the second sub Hunley was involved in building - the Hunley was third), which consisted of nothing but highly qualified phrases - 'allegedly' her length was, 'reportedly' her diameter was, etc. Then much later on, there's a section where the dates make very little sense - and aside from an occasional 'as early as' or 'as late as', he doesn't indicate any uncertainty about them at all. That's why I said 'uneven'. Interesting book, glad I read it, I will continue to seek out more information on the Hunley, but I don't think I will refer to this book again. ( )
  jjmcgaffey | May 4, 2009 |
A well written book telling of the short but heroic story of the submarine boar H. L. Hunley which sank in Charleston Harbor after sinking the USN Housatonic. Many myths are dispelled and a few are proven correct in this story, but you come away with a better idea of what happened that fateful day in February 1864. ( )
  koalamom | Feb 26, 2009 |
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I am anxious first and above all for a dead silence on our part, but the enemy may be lost in uncertainty and mystery which is more dreadful than any understood evil of even the greatest magnitude.    -Horace Lawson Hunley
France was a land, England was a people, people, but America, having about it still that quality of the idea, was harder to utter – it was the graves at Shiloh and the tired, drawn, nervous faces of its great men, and the country boys dying in the Argonne for a phrase that was empty before their bodies withered. It was a willingness of the heart.     -F. Scott Fitzgerald
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Once again, to Meta and Zoie
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0809095122, Hardcover)

On the evening of February 17, 1864, the Confederacy’s  H. L. Hunley sank the USS Housatonic and became the first submarine in world history to sink an enemy ship. Not until World War I—half a century later—would a submarine again accomplish such a feat. But also perishing that moonlit night, vanishing beneath the cold Atlantic waters off Charleston, South Carolina, was the Hunley and her entire crew of eight. For generations, searchers prowled Charleston’s harbor, looking for the Hunley. And as they hunted, the legends surrounding the boat and its demise continued to grow. Even after the submarine was definitively located in 1995 and recovered five years later, those legends—those barnacles of misinformation—have only multiplied.
 
Now, in a tour de force of document-sleuthing and insights gleaned from the excavation of this remarkable vessel, distinguished Civil War–era historian Tom Chaffin presents the most thorough telling of the Hunley’s story possible. Of panoramic breadth, this Civil War saga begins long before the submarine was even assembled and follows the tale into the boat’s final hours and through its recovery in 2000. Beyond his thorough survey of period documents relating to the submarine, Chaffin also conducted extensive interviews with Maria Jacobsen, senior archaeologist at Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where the Hunley is now being excavated, to complete his portrait of this technological wonder. What emerges is a narrative that casts compelling doubts on many long-held assumptions, particularly those concerning the boat’s final hours. Thoroughly engaging and utterly new, The H. L. Hunley provides the definitive account of a storied craft.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:10 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

An account of the legendary submarine and its legacy reconstructs the events of its successful 1864 attack on the USS Housatonic and subsequent sinking, the sub's recovery in 1995 after numerous attempts, and the myths attributed to its final hours.

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