Wednesday, August 1, 2001
KILLINGLY, CONN. - Archaeologists say they probably won't dig up the grave site of a Connecticut man whose identification tag was found aboard a Confederate submarine off South Carolina's coast.
State archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni made the announcement Monday, after research found that the body of Union soldier Ezra Chamberlin was never found - raising the possibility that Chamberlin was on the H.L. Hunley.
Killingly Town Historian Margaret Weaver said she found the information in an old newspaper obituary for Chamberlin's father from 1880.
"This is an important historical find," said Bellantoni. "It certainly means the body never made it back to Killingly."
Historians and archaeologists had been planning to dig up around the marker at Westfield Cemetery in Killingly to determine whether it is a gravestone or memorial marker.
But Bellantoni did not rule out excavating graves of Chamberlin's family to compare DNA with the body found on the sub.
Weaver said there is a chance that Chamberlin was aboard the Hunley, but said it was one of a number of possibilities.
Among them are theories that Chamberlin was a prisoner of war or a defector on the sub, or that a Confederate crewman picked up the ID tag as a souvenir at the Battle of Fort Wagner, where Chamberlin is believed to have died.
Another theory is that Chamberlin lost his tag in a card game with Confederate soldiers the night before the Fort Wagner battle.
Weaver said it was common for soldiers to sneak into opposing camps to trade food, supplies and even play cards.
The Hunley executed the Civil War's first successful sub attack. It sank off Sullivan's Island near Charleston Harbor in 1864 and was recovered from the ocean floor last August.
Used with permission of The Post and Courier and Charleston.Net.
Revised: 31 Jul 2006 18:40:22 -0400