The H. L. Hunley: The Secret Hope of the Confederacy

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Feb 16, 2010 - History - 352 pages

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.


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User Review  - 23points - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Shrike58 - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review


Canal Street
NEW ORLEANS Summer 1861Spring 1862
MOBILE Spring 1862Summer 1863
CHARLESTON Summer 1863Winter 1864
AMERICA 18652004
The Hunleys Three Crews and Deaths Aboard the USS Housatonic

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About the author (2010)

Tom Chaffin is a professor of history and the director/editor of the James K. Polk Correspondence Project at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His books include Sea of Gray (Hill and Wang, 2006) and Pathfinder (Hill and Wang, 2002). His work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper's Magazine, Time, and other publications. He lives in Knoxville.

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