The Hunley - Civil War Submarine

The Hunley (1999) ~ VHS

The Hunley (1999) ~ VHS
Produced for Turner Network Television and originally broadcast in the summer of 1999, The Hunley is a straightforward, engrossing historical drama focusing on a little-known chapter of the Civil War: the introduction of the submarine into American naval warfare off the shore of war-torn Charleston, South Carolina, in 1864. Writer-director John Gray had previously helmed the 1998 TV movie The Day Lincoln Was Shot, and he has a knack for capturing the Civil War era with a heightened sense of authenticity, allowing for the dramatic license of mainstream television. Armand Assante plays Lieutenant Dixon, a traumatized soldier and grieving widower with just the right mixture of bravado and nihilism to skipper the C.S.S. Hunley--essentially an iron boiler cobbled into a hand-powered submersible weapon--with a volunteer crew of nine men who propel the crude sub in an effort to break the Union's coastal blockade. Donald Sutherland is superbly cast as Dixon's Confederate commander, General Beauregard, and the film's best scenes are those between Assante and Sutherland, playing two weary warriors with one final chance for victory. Otherwise, this is a very conventional film made with integrity but no particular flair, faithfully adhering to historical fact while establishing a solid supporting cast. Assante is guilty of moderate overacting, but he compensates with enough charisma to make his ill-fated command dramatically involving. Most effective is the sense of sheer bravery in the pioneering effort to prove the Hunley as a viable tool of war; the final scene within the sub is both haunting and dramatically intense. (Historical note: The C.S.S. Hunley--named after the drowned captain of a previous test vessel--was discovered intact off the coast of Charleston in 1995; efforts were later made to raise and restore this relic of naval history.) --Jeff Shannon



The CSS Hunley: The Greatest Undersea Adventure of the Civil War
by Richard Bak. Hardcover (June 1999)

Reviewer: Jeff from Colorado, USA
The story of the CSS Hunley's successful attack on the Union Sloop-of-War, the Husatonic is both riveting military and political history. There is enough detail for you die hard sub fans, the way the comparatively primitive technology wrestled with the problems of manned undersea operations of a warship. Students of history will love the gripping and tragic descriptions of the struggle of the besieged,blockaded, and bombarded southern cities endured, making the confedaracy desparate to enough to go ahead with a daring technological leap even though the first two crews died in the testing phase of this remarkable vessel. Highly recomended.

Union and Confederate Submarine Warfare in the Civil War by Mark K. Ragan

Most Civil War enthusiasts have heard about the Hunley, the Confederate submarine that sank the USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864. Less well known, however, is that the Hunley was not alone in the water. Both the Union and the Confederacy built submarines; many were operational and patrolled for enemy ships. In Union and Confederate Submarine Warfare in the Civil War, Mark K. Ragan brings this little-known history to the surface. Ragan, who served as consultant on the 1999 TNT movie Hunley, uses contemporary letters, newspaper accounts, factory records, and log books to recount the early history of submarine warfare--from Bushnell's Turtle to the Hunley, from the Alligator to the Intelligent Whale. Many observers were enthusiastic about the new technology, describing it as "as formidable as it is economical." Others were violently opposed, labeling submarines "unchivalrous" and "infernal machines." For better or worse, the submarine was here to stay.

The CSS H.L. Hunley : Confederate Submarine


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