3 bones, part of shoe uncovered
Tuesday, April 3, 2001
BY SCHUYLER KROPF
Of The Post and Courier staff
Archaeologists digging out the Confederate submarine Hunley believe they have found a fourth crewman.
He was uncovered at the very rear of the tiny sub and was likely the second-in-command, responsible for working the aft ballast pumps that helped the Hunley surface and dive.
Scientists don't know who he is, but they do know for sure who he isn't.
William Alexander of Alabama was first officer for the third crew for most of its three-month tour of duty. But Alexander, an engineer by trade, was called back to Mobile on Feb. 5, 1864, to build a breech-loading gun for the Confederate Army, missing the Hunley's fateful Feb. 17 attack on the USS Housatonic by two weeks.
He was replaced by C.F. Carlson of the German Artillery, a local Charleston battery.
But Carlson, who made less than a half-dozen trips on the sub, most likely would not have been installed as first officer. A more likely scenario was that another member of the crew, who would have been more familiar with the sub's mechanics, was promoted.
Hunley project manager Bob Neyland said the remains were found at the back of the sub. They include a femur (thigh bone), humerus (upper arm) and a scapula (shoulder).
The toe section of a leather shoe or boot also was found. It was sticking up through the sediment. Scientists also found a piece of textile. "It's a fair-size piece," Neyland said, adding it's "maybe wool."
The Hunley held nine men - eight sailors who worked the hand-cranked propeller and a captain, Lt. George Dixon, also of Alabama, who would have sat at the front. So far the archaeologists have found four of the men, none of whom are believed to have been Dixon.
Most of the items uncovered have been crew bones detected in the middle layer of the fudge-like silt that is being removed centimeter by centimeter with tiny wooden and plastic tools.
Heavier objects, like some of the personal items the crew carried, are expected to be found at the bottom level as scientists work their way from top to bottom.
None of the fragile bones of any of the four men have been removed, although archaeologists Maria Jacobsen and Mike Scafuri spent Monday mapping and preparing to remove the rib cage of the first man discovered two weeks ago resting high in the sediment at the forward part of the sub.
All the remains will be taken to a special morgue at the Hunley's Warren Lasch Conservation lab on the grounds of the old Charleston Naval Base in North Charleston. Eventually the crew will be reinterred at Magnolia Cemetery, probably sometime next year after the remains are studied.
The excavation is expected to take several more weeks.