Raising the Hunley : The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine
The history of the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley is as astonishing as its disappearance. On February 17, 1864, after a legendary encounter with a Union battleship, the iron "fish boat" vanished without a trace somewhere off the coast of South Carolina. For more than a century the fate of the Hunley remained one of the great unsolved mysteries of the Civil War. Then, on August 8, 2000, with thousands of spectators crowding Charleston Harbor, the Hunley was raised from the bottom of the sea and towed ashore. Now, award-winning journalists Brian Hicks and Schuyler Kropf offer new insights into the Hunley's final hours and recount the amazing true story of its rescue.
The brainchild of wealthy New Orleans planter and lawyer Horace Lawson Hunley, the Hunley inspired tremendous hopes of breaking the Union's naval blockade of Charleston, only to drown two crews on disastrous test runs. But on the night of February 17, 1864, the Hunley finally made good on its promise. Under the command of the heroic Lieutenant George E. Dixon, the sub rammed a spar torpedo into the Union sloop Housatonic and sank the ship within minutes, accomplishing a feat of stealth technology that would not be repeated for half a century.
And then, shortly after its stunning success, the Hunley vanished.
This book is an extraordinary true story peopled with a fascinating cast of characters, including Horace Hunley himself, the Union officers and crew who went down with the Housatonic, P. T. Barnum, who offered $100,000 for its recovery, and novelist Clive Cussler, who spearheaded the mission that finally succeeded in finding the Hunley. The drama of salvaging the sub is only the prelude to a page-turning account of how scientists unsealed this archaeological treasure chest and discovered the inner-workings of a submarine more technologically advanced than anyone expected, as well as numerous, priceless artifacts.
Hicks and Kropf have crafted a spellbinding adventure story that spans over a century of American history. Dramatically told, filled with historical details and contemporary color, illustrated with breathtaking original photographs, Raising the Hunley is one of the most fascinating Civil War books to appear in years.
Civil War MiscellanyThe legendary Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was the first successful underwater warship that is, the first to sink an enemy ship. As chronicled in Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine, the sub disappeared without a trace in 1864, crippled by a Union ship, and finding it became something of an obsession for many Americans until the vessel was finally brought to shore in 2000. Based on interviews with scientists and historians who studied the Hunley's remains, Charleston, S.C., Post and Courier journalists Brian Hicks and Schuyler Kropf reconstruct the sub's final voyage in this dramatic slice of Civil War history.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
-- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 31, 2003
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Excerpt from Raising the Hunley by Brian Hicks
She was sleek, cigar-shaped, and black. When she broke the choppy surface of Lake Pontchartrain, water rippled over her pectoral fins, and her flank glistened in the warm sunlight of early Louisiana spring. She was 34 feet long and dove underwater and resurfaced gracefully, slowly, like a porpoise. She was, her builders thought, beautiful.
It was such a shame to sink her.
Pioneer had only just begun to live up to its potential. In trial runs on the lake, the little submarine had performed well, had even blown up an old wreck once in mock combat. There were a few minor annoyances: it had buoyancy problems, was slow to turn, and couldn't be trusted to keep an even keel. But those things could be improved. Most important, it had accomplished something few boats that came before it had: it could travel underwater and surface at will.
Still, there wasn't any choice--it had to be scuttled. It was April 25, 1862, and Farragut was closing in on New Orleans. Since Easter weekend the Union fleet had fought its way through Rebel fire-rafts and a barrage of cannon fire from the banks of the lower Mississippi. The Confederate Army had stood its ground for a week, but it couldn't hold forever. For the South in 1862, Good Friday did not live up to its name.
New Orleans was in a panic. Rear Adm. David Glasgow Farragut was not a man to be trifled with. The feisty, sixty-year-old naval genius credited with the phrases "full steam ahead" and "damn the torpedoes" was nothing short of an American legend. He had been a sailor since he was nine, when he served aboard the USS Essex during the War of 1812. Now Farragut was leading the Union's fleet in the Gulf of Mexico, and when he moved on New Orleans, it would only be a matter of time before it was his. A day earlier word had reached the city that the admiral's ships had just finished off Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip 75 miles downriver. Those forts had been the city's only defense from the open sea, and now they were gone, destroyed. If the largest and most important city in the South couldn't be guarded against invasion, what chance did the Confederacy stand? People burned belongings they couldn't carry and couldn't bear to see fall into Yankee hands. Soon the wrought-iron balconies of the French Quarter would resemble bones, the skeleton of the old city. Very few would stand their ground to fight. New Orleans was a lost cause.
Pioneer could not be allowed to fall into Union hands. It was the South's newest weapon, and surprise was one of its few advantages. The men knew it must be kept secret. As fires raged across the city, they watched workers open the submarine's hatch--it had no ballast tanks--and let the murky water seep into its hull. Slowly Pioneer sank into a deep bend in the New Basin Canal between downtown New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain. It had never even seen combat. Now it would never again resurface under its own power. But before Pioneer disappeared into the muck, the submarine did one very important thing for its builders: it proved they could do it--they could build a working submarine.
They would escape with that knowledge.
The strife that led to the Civil War had been building for decades, but when the fighting actually began, it felt sudden. No one was really ready. Eleven southern states had broken away from the rest of the country in the winter of 1861, as they believed was their right, ill will festering until war broke out a few months later. In many ways this was a conflict of agrarian versus industrial economies and lifestyles. For that reason the farmlands of the South may have been doomed from the start. In the world of the mid-nineteenth century, the South depended on the North to manufacture anything and everything it needed--from buggy parts and all-important farming implements right down to clothing. In some ways it was a one-sided relationship. Nowhere was that more apparent than on the water. The Confederate government had gone to war against the Union with a poor excuse for a navy. There simply wasn't time to assemble one and no economically feasible way to catch up. Hopelessly outnumbered, the Confederacy had only one hope to break U.S. president Abraham Lincoln's massive blockade of the entire southern coast: Confederate president Jefferson Davis called on privateer ships to do the work. Privateers were ships owned by regular, although usually wealthy, citizens with permission from the government to attack enemy vessels on its behalf. Their pay was on commission. For the Southern government, it was the only fiscally prudent way to handle things: it didn't have to ante up until a Yankee ship fell.