Secrets of a Civil War Submarine

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: 
Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hanley

About the Book

His­to­ry holds many awe­some sto­ries. The tale of the civ­il war sub­ma­rine, the H.L. Hun­ley, is one of the best. In 1864, after sink­ing the U.S.S. Housaton­ic, she assured a place in his­to­ry as the first sub­ma­rine to sink an ene­my ship in bat­tle. But imme­di­ate­ly after doing so, the Hun­ley van­ished. In the years that fol­lowed, the miss­ing sub­ma­rine acquired leg­endary sta­tus. Her dis­cov­ery on the sea floor, in 1995, rocked the world of Amer­i­can history—even more so when archae­ol­o­gists real­ized that her hull was com­plete­ly intact.

View­ing the Hun­ley, in Charleston, South Car­oli­na, and speak­ing with her new crew—a team of top-notch scientists—was the begin­ning of an adven­ture that led me to Wash­ing­ton D.C. There, I vis­it­ed the Nation­al Archives, the Smith­son­ian Insti­tu­tion, and the Naval His­tor­i­cal Cen­ter. In each place I learned fas­ci­nat­ing bits and pieces of infor­ma­tion, every one adding anoth­er lay­er to an already incred­i­ble tale. By the time I fin­ished my research, the Hun­ley’s sto­ry includ­ed inno­v­a­tive thinkers, an amaz­ing inven­tion, three trag­ic sink­ings, a sunken war­ship, eight skele­tons, a mys­te­ri­ous iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tag, a funer­al pro­ces­sion, and gold. When it comes to mate­r­i­al for sto­ry-telling, who could ask for any­thing more? I hope read­ers will find the jour­ney as extra­or­di­nary as I did.

Awards and Recognition

  • Robert F. Sib­ert Medal 2006
  • ALA Notable Book 2006
  • Bank Street Col­lege Best Chil­dren’s Books of the Year
  • BCCB 2006 Blue Rib­bon Book
  • Ben­jamin Franklin Award Final­ist 2006
  • Book Links Last­ing Con­nec­tions 2005
  • Book­list Top 10 Sci-Tech Books 2005
  • Capi­tol Choic­es Children’s Book 2006
  • Ken­tucky Blue Grass Award Mas­ter List 2007 
  • New Mex­i­co Bat­tle of the Books 2007
  • New York Pub­lic Library Books for the Teenage 2006
  • Orbis Pic­tus Rec­om­mend­ed Book 2006
  • Rebec­ca Caudill Award Mas­ter List 2007 
  • Soci­ety of Mid­land Authors Chil­dren’s Non­fic­tion Award 2006 
  • TAYSHAS Read­ing List 2006–2007
  • VOYA Non­fic­tion Hon­or list 2006


 “This is a fine­ly craft­ed account of the Hun­ley from its incep­tion to the mod­ern archae­o­log­i­cal quest to exhume her from the water. It is divid­ed into chrono­log­i­cal chap­ters com­plete with pic­tures, maps, and pri­ma­ry sources. Half of the book dis­cuss­es the con­struc­tion and design of the sub­ma­rine, in addi­tion to its prac­tice runs and its first and only mis­sion. The sec­ond half con­sists of the process of locat­ing and exca­vat­ing the Hun­ley, as well as piec­ing togeth­er the puz­zle of exact­ly what hap­pened on that fate­ful night in 1864. The archae­o­log­i­cal process is well doc­u­ment­ed in both words and pic­tures, and the con­clu­sions are inter­est­ing and even sur­pris­ing. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for school and pub­lic libraries.” (School Library Jour­nal, starred review)

 “Thor­ough­ly researched, nice­ly designed, and well illus­trat­ed with clear, col­or pho­tos, the book will serve as an infor­ma­tive guide to any­one inter­est­ed in the hun­ley or intrigued by archae­ol­o­gy.” (Book­list, starred review)

“Walk­er has tak­en a tough sto­ry to tell—and paint­ed it with grace, dig­ni­ty, and respect for all involved. She put flesh and blood to names that had been buried in history—and brought those names to life mag­nif­i­cent­ly. She objec­tive­ly presents a sto­ry through facts, fig­ures, and events/actions that will cre­ate deep emo­tion­al impres­sions upon read­ers. This is a mag­nif­i­cent book, one that adds an incred­i­bly impor­tant lay­er to the his­to­ry of this con­flict.” (Jef­frey Copeland, Uni­ver­si­ty of North­ern Iowa)

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine

writ­ten by Sal­ly M. Walk­er
Car­ol­rho­da Books, Jan 2005
hard­cov­er: 978–1575058306
paper­back: 978–0545068321
112 pages, ages 9 and up

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