Virginian linked to
Confederate Navy records place man aboard submarine
Thursday, March 7, 2002
BY BRIAN HICKS
Of The Post and Courier Staff
The Hunley's final duty roster may have included a Confederate Navy man from Virginia named James Hayes.
Hunley Commission Chairman Glenn McConnell said that evidence suggesting Hayes was aboard the Confederate sub on Feb. 17, 1864, only adds another layer to the mystery of the final crew that scientists and genealogists are trying to unravel.
"Rather than being an answer, it just raises another question," McConnell said Wednesday.
Hayes' possible role in the final mission of the fish-boat was uncovered by two journalists from The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk - Phyllis Speidell and John H. Sheally II - who found a
notation about Hayes' fate in the Confederate Navy card file in Richmond.
The file, which lists the military service of Confederate veterans, recorded that Hayes was "From the state of Virginia, Seaman on the 'Huntley' (submarine). Lost in Charleston Harbour, sinking
blockader Housatonic, Feb. 17, 1864."
Michael Wade, who served in a Confederate Navy squadron that built torpedoes, provided the information to the file in 1924, 60 years after the Hunley sank, The Pilot reported Tuesday.
McConnell said that if Hayes was aboard the Hunley, he could have been a spy for the Confederate government assigned to the sub to
make sure the crew didn't defect and turn the secret weapon over to the Union Navy. Or he could have had a natural interest if he served with Wade in the torpedo squadron. No one has found the connection between the two men.
Genealogists are working with data collected by scientists to identify each of the eight men who died on the Hunley in February 1864. Most everyone agrees the names that have floated around for
years - and were carved on a monument on the Charleston Battery - may not be right.
Lt. George E. Dixon, the sub's commander, has been identified by his most famous calling card, the warped gold coin that saved his life on the battlefield at Shiloh. The coin was found in the pocket of the man sitting at the helm of the sub, just where scientists expected to find Dixon.
Hunley historians, genealogists and The Post and Courier have uncovered documents that appear to back up historical accounts that James A. Wicks, C.F. Carlson and Fred Collins were also crewmen. And letters written by William Alexander, an engineer who directed construction of the sub, corroborate other names traditionally listed
as Hunley crewman.
However, some of the names on the list - particularly Miller and White, surnames with no first names attached - have always been suspect, and McConnell said the discovery of a possible crewman named James Hayes only makes it more likely that those two names were wrong.
"On the face of it, this name has a degree of credibility to it," McConnell said. "Maybe this will lead us to something else, or it might just be another one of these unanswered questions."