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.
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Grade 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
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Gr. 7-10. This small, attractive book relates the story of America's first submarine, the Turtle. Constructed by David Bushnell in time to see action during the American Revolution, the barrel-shaped submersible housed a single man, who sat blindly in the dark, wet contraption with no power source and dwindling fresh air while operating a variety of levers, pumps, and other devices. The climax of the account is a dramatic attempt to attach a mine to a British warship anchored near New York. Lefkowitz vividly conveys the ingenuity of the inventor, the courage of the Turtle's operator, and the pleasure of discovering lost bits of history. Illustrations include period maps, portraits, paintings, and documents as well as line drawings showing the design of the Turtle. Instead of providing source notes and a bibliography, the book uses vague phrases such as "said one historian" without identifying the sources of the quotes. Still, this story of Bushnell and his submarine will interest students of engineering and American military history. Carolyn Phelan
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