February 25, 2002

(North Charleston-AP) -- The gold coin that once saved the life of the commander of the Confederate submarine Hunley will be on public display at the lab where the sub is being preserved. The 20-dollar gold coin is credited with saving the life of Lieutenant George Dixon at the Battle of Shiloh. It was recovered in the sediment on the submarine last year

CHARLESTON, SC – February 21, 2002 – The famed gold coin Lt. George Dixon carried with him when the H.L. Hunley sank 138 years ago will soon be reunited with the world’s first successful submarine at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, S.C. The Friends of the Hunley announced today that a decision has been made to add the coin as a permanent part of the Hunley exhibit.

"We are working out all the details with the Bureau of Protective Services (BPS)," said S.C. Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Hunley Commission, a group the state legislature created to oversee the recovery and conservation of the first submarine in history to sink an enemy vessel. McConnell said security measures are important because the coin is estimated to be worth $8-10 million dollars. "But it’s really priceless," he said, "because it is absolutely irreplaceable."

Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley, a private group raising funds to support the Hunley conservation project, said he is not yet prepared to give an exact date on when the coin will be available for viewing by the public. "All I can say now is that we are working feverishly to make it happen. I hope we will be able to unveil the coin within the next several weeks. As soon as dates are finalized, we’ll make a public announcement," Lasch said.

 

For over a century, scholars wondered whether the gold coin actually existed. According to legend, Lt. George E. Dixon, who commanded the Hunley on its historic mission, had a sweetheart named Queenie Bennett from Mobile, Alabama. When he went off to war, she gave Dixon a gold coin, as a good luck charm.

During the Battle of Shiloh, Dixon was shot, and the bullet struck the gold coin in his trousers pocket. The impact was said to have left the coin bent, with the bullet embedded in it. The gold coin had saved his life.

For 137 years, until last year, no one knew whether the story was true or merely a romantic tale from long ago. During the excavation, a $20 dollar gold piece minted in 1860 was discovered next to the remains of Lt. Dixon. It was deeply indented from the impact of a bullet and inscribed with the following words:

Shiloh

April 6, 1862

My life Preserver

G. E. D.

"Have you ever seen a scientist cry?" Lasch asked. "I can tell you this: when the gold coin was found, there wasn’t a dry eye in the room."

An international team of scientists is now at work conserving the Hunley at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where the historic submarine is also available for public viewing. This announcement means the public will also be able to see the gold coin at the same site in the near future.

"This is such a rich piece of our nation’s history," Lasch said. "It is very important to give everyone an opportunity to see this powerfully romantic artifact and to share in the excitement."

The major issue to be considered in preparing the coin for display is security. BPS will be managing all security issues. Once the security plan is approved, Friends of the Hunley will formally announce the date the coin will be available for display.


 


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