The story of the first attack submarine’s drastically brief career and, nearly a century and a half later, rediscovery.
Even though it was, as the author artlessly puts it, “well-designed and well-crafted in the American spirit of invention,” the H.L. Hunley sank repeatedly in tests and never came back from its first mission in 1864. Rather than go into details about how the submarine worked (sort of), Hawk opts to extend her simply written version of its exploits with tangentially related chapters on the battle of Shiloh, the end of the Civil War, and an undocumented (she admits) legend that romantically links a gold coin found in the wreck with the sub’s captain, George Dixon, and a Southern belle named Queenie Bennet. Likewise, Wyrick’s uncaptioned reconstructions of battle scenes and the submarine underwater (which are not always placed near the actions they describe) don’t serve quite as well as the more informative period views of the vessel and its interior that have been used to illustrate other treatments. The account switches to photos and does go into somewhat more detail when describing how the wreck was found in 1995, raised in 2000, and transported to a lab; in a final chapter, a conservator and an archaeologist describe their still-ongoing restoration work.
A patchwork production, far less seaworthy than, for instance, Sally Walker’s two titles on the subject. (map, resource lists) (Nonfiction. 7-10)