Bushnell's Submarine: The Best Kept Secret of the American Revolution

Bushnell's Submarine: The Best Kept Secret of the American Revolution

by Arthur S. Lefkowitz
     
 

This is the true story of how Yankee tinkerer, David Bushnell, built the world's first submarine in an attempt to sink the flagship of the British fleet--the HMS Eagle!

This is both the story of how the world's first submarine was built and how it was employed in the Continental Army's desperate attempt to hold on to New York in 1776.

We also read about the

Overview

This is the true story of how Yankee tinkerer, David Bushnell, built the world's first submarine in an attempt to sink the flagship of the British fleet--the HMS Eagle!

This is both the story of how the world's first submarine was built and how it was employed in the Continental Army's desperate attempt to hold on to New York in 1776.

We also read about the nearly forgotten genius, David Bushnell, whose submarine was as amazing a feat for the 18th century as space travel was for the 20th. The innovation of this one individual, along with the encouragement of such luminaries as Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin, epitomized the ingenuity and potential of the new nation.

Editorial Reviews

VOYA
A little-known fact of the American Revolution is that the colonists used a submarine to attack the HMS Eagle, a British "ship of the line" anchored in New York Harbor. Written in easy-flowing narrative prose, the short chapters of this historical account, written for middle-level students, are peppered with sidebars that include expanded information about various topics introduced in the story, copies of primary source documents, and artwork and poetry. David Bushnell was a Yale graduate who spent his time finding solutions to problems, in this case, how to create an underwater mine and a method for delivering it to its intended victim undetected. The result was The American Turtle, a man-powered submarine propelled by a single operator with a gunpowder mine that could be attached to the underside of a ship. Detailed drawings and text allow readers to experience what it must have been like to navigate the small vessel into enemy territory. Bushnell's invention was the forerunner of the modern submarine. Lefkowitz's interesting and detailed account of the creation and its creator add a new dimension to the familiar battles of the American Revolution, with a postscript asking, "What if?" and allowing readers to imagine how the face of history might have been altered by the efforts of a farm boy from Connecticut. VOYA CODES: 4Q 2P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2006, Scholastic, 144p.; Glossary. Index. Illus. Photos. Maps. Further Reading., Ages 11 to 15.
—Michele Winship
Children's Literature
The advent of the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution heralded a rise in critical thinking and allowed man, for the first time, the opportunity to experiment and create things never before dreamt possible. Bushnell was an intellectual and a Patriot who sought to aid the cause of the American Revolution by inventing a submersible that could target British ships blockading American harbors. Building on the research of British scientists, Bushnell was able to construct a one-man submarine that could attach a keg of gunpowder to the keel of British ships with the intention of destroying the ship. Numerous tests were successfully conducted and historical documents indicate that high ranking officials in the Continental Congress and high-ranking Army officers were eager to see Bushnell's submarine put into action. Unfortunately, events conspired against Bushnell and his submarine never successfully destroyed a British ship, though it came close at least twice. Lefkowitz gives a very interesting account of this little known first foray into the use of submarines in warfare. The author quotes historical documents that support his thesis and also provides reproductions of maps used at the time, as well as summaries of naval vessels and other weapons used during the war. Several drawings of the submarine and other naval vessels are fascinating inclusions in this account of the first successful development of a submarine. 2006, Scholastic Inc, Ages 10 to 15.
—Danielle Williams
F. Todd Goodson
Few people realize the first submarine to appear in the history of warfare was the "American Turtle," developed by David Bushnell during the Revolutionary War. Bushnell's Submarine is a brief account of Bushnell and his craft. Although the tone of the book is somewhat pedantic, Lefkowitz includes a number of fascinating details about the construction of the Turtle, and chapters are interspersed with frequent discussions of related events or issues (e.g., the destruction of most university libraries during the Revolutionary War) provided as asides in boxed format. Bushnell's Submarine attempts to balance the historical details with personal details of Bushnell and other figures surrounding the development and deployment (such as it was) of the first submarine. Bushnell's Submarine should be appealing to middle school students interested in military history, construction, or engineering; however, the book might also be considered for inclusion in interdisciplinary or thematic studies.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-David Bushnell invented a working submarine dubbed the American Turtle, which attacked a British warship during the Revolutionary War. That 1776 attempt was unsuccessful, but the events surrounding it make for an interesting tale. The man emerges as a creative inventor who solved the many mechanical challenges of the vessel, including propulsion, oxygen supply, and illumination. These efforts are described clearly, sometimes with Bushnell's own comments included. The solo operator of the submarine had to be strong and daring, and the whole operation was supposed to be a military secret, so there is intrigue and suspense as events unfold. As work on the vehicle continues, the author provides historical context, weaving in military, political, and technological background without straying from Bushnell's story. Many details related to the submarine are still unknown, including its final fate, and these mysteries become part of the story. For example, some believe that Benjamin Franklin visited Bushnell, and the author offers bits of evidence for and against that view, providing insight into the work of the historian. Much of the illustrated matter consists of drawings and diagrams from the 18th and 19th centuries, and firsthand accounts include quotes from a variety of Bushnell's contemporaries. Written for an older audience than June Swanson's David Bushnell and His Turtle (S & S, 1991), this makes a fine tie-in to such recent titles as Thomas B. Allen's George Washington, Spymaster (National Geographic, 2004) and Sally M. Walker's Secrets of a Civil War Submarine (Carolrhoda, 2005).-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
On the evening of September 6, 1776, the American Turtle was towed into New York harbor by two whaleboats. Its target: the HMS Eagle. This strange-looking underwater machine was made of brass, with glass portholes on all sides and two brass tubes pointing out. With a novelist's flair for the dramatic and a historian's passion for detail, Lefkowitz tells the tale of Yankee tinkerer David Bushnell and his journey from research in the Yale College library to his creation of the world's first submarine. Though the American Turtle never succeeded in its mission-the CSS H.L. Hunley, during the Civil War, was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship-it's a fascinating tale of perseverance and inventive genius. Maps, sidebars and excellent diagrams support the lively text. An excellent companion to Sally M. Walker's Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mystery of the H.L. Hunley (2005). (postscript, acknowledgments, art credits, index) (Nonfiction. 9-12)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780439743525
Publisher:
Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date:
03/01/2006
Pages:
144
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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