Saturday, February 12, 2011
I am a great student of history. Some events just fascinate me by their very nature. I always have an interest in how people get into the messes that they do and how they manage to find ways to solve their problems. Such an event that I can't learn enough about is the US Civil War.
One part of the war that is of particular interest to me was the birth of the 'Ironclads' - warships made of metal and not wood. How must it have been to be a crew member of the 'Monitor' or the 'Merrimack'? This was a whole new kind of sea warfare.
At the same time, innovations were being made towards the development of the submarine. From the 'Turtle' to the 'Hunley', military engineers were learning how to fight battle both above and below the water.
In 1864, a Union blockade of the city of Charleston South Carolina was choking the city alive. Day and night the Union Navy shelled Fort Sumter and downtown Charleston. The city was dying and a solution desperately had to be found. That solution was called the 'Hunley'.
This made for TV film stars Armande Assante as Confederate Lt. George Dixon and Donald Sutherland as Gen. Pierre G.T. Beauregard.
"CSS Hunley tells the incredible true story of the crew of the manually propelled submarine CSS Hunley, during the siege of Charleston of 1864. It is a story of heroism in the face of adversity, the Hunley being the first submersible to sink an enemy boat in time of war. It also relates the human side of the story relating the uncommon and extraordinary temperament of the 9 men who led the Hunley into history and died valiantly accomplishing this feat." - IMDB
The movie begins after two crews were lost in the Hunley during the siege of Charleston. It was viewed as a joke by most naval men. It took real courage to volunteer to be a member of it's crew. Armande Assante plays George Dixon - a man who believed that the enemy blockade could be broken with his torpedo-like submersible. It was his courage and vision that kept the program viable.
With a life-sized model of the ship created for the film, you get a true sense of how horrible it must have been to be in the submarine while it was operational. Combat under the water was something totally unknown at the time. Everything was trial and error. A man had to rely on and trust the man next to him. The smallest mistake could send the boat to the bottom of the sea.
Assante is always a strong presence is these kinds of movies and the special effects are very well done. The crew is small enough that you get attached to each man and you care about the adventure that they are going through. The conflict feels real and as horrific as we have always been told. I for one watched the candles they used to light the boat for indications of oxygen lose. I got that involved in the tale.
I appreciated learning about this exciting chapter in Confederate history.
The boat still exists today and you can see it in Charleston S.C.
Posted by Kal at 12:21 PM