Hunley wallet being opened
Contents may tell a sailor's story
BY SCHUYLER KROPF
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Of the many artifacts found aboard the Confederate submarine
H.L. Hunley, archaeologists say a 3-by-5-inch leather wallet may hold the
most clues of a sailor's personal life.
"There are endless possibilities on what kind of information this
wallet may hold," said Paul Mardikian, senior conservator on the Hunley
project. "It is just too difficult to imagine that someone would carry a
wallet with nothing in it."
On Monday, archaeologists began opening the wallet that belonged to a
crewman on board. They said they expect to find anything from money to a
picture of a loved one or other reminders from home.
Monday's announcement coincided with the 139th anniversary of the
disappearance of the Hunley off Charleston in a battle that marked the
world's first successful submarine attack.
Mardikian has worked with wallets recovered from the Titanic that held
documents, currency and business cards with legible writing on them.
Leather is durable, even for extended periods under water, Mardikian
The wallet was found near a crewmember's shoulder bone, which means he
possibly carried it in his jacket pocket.
Any information the wallet holds will add to personal details being
collected about each member of the crew. "This is an incredible
opportunity to put facts into the identity of this man," said Hunley
Commission Chairman Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston.
One of the Hunley team's goals is to learn as much as possible about
each crew member's history before the men are laid to rest at Magnolia
Cemetery in Charleston, possibly later this year. They will be buried
alongside 13 other Hunley sailors who were killed during two test missions
in Charleston Harbor in 1863.
"It is timely to begin such important work on the week of the Hunley's
anniversary as we pause to remember the crewmen and the impact their
sacrifice had on naval history," added Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends
of the Hunley.
On the night of Feb. 17, 1864, the hand-cranked Hunley and her
eight-man crew left Sullivan's Island and rammed a black powder charge
into the Union blockade ship Housatonic. The ship sank in less than five
minutes, but the Hunley never returned. It was uncovered about four miles
offshore in May 1995 by a dive team funded by best-selling author Clive
In 2000, the vessel was raised and moved to a coldwater storage tank at
the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston.
Schuyler Kropf covers state and local politics. Contact him
at email@example.com or 937-5551.