Was there a civilian aboard the Hunley Crew? Is it Chamberlin?
BY SCHUYLER KROPF
Of The Post and Courier Staff
The hunt to identify the eight crewmen of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley has taken another odd twist: One of the men might have been wearing civilian clothes.
He's the same man who was found wearing the dog tags of a Union soldier around his neck.
The revelation comes as scientists are stepping up their work to put names and faces with the sub's final crew.
So far the archaeological team studying the sub knows that the youngest sailor was 17 to 20 years old when he died, while the oldest was in his 40s.
As far as identities go, the two men who sat immediately behind sub commander Lt. George Dixon appear to be sailors, or at least wore Navy clothing.
Archaeologists are unclear about the dress of the fourth crew member, while the fifth appears to be a veteran of a Confederate artillery unit, possibly Cpl. C.F. Carlson, who replaced Hunley builder William Alexander just weeks before the sub sank.
Of the next two men, one also appears to be a seaman while the origin of the other's clothing isn't known.
The eighth man, the one wearing the identity medal of Ezra Chamberlin, a Union soldier from Connecticut, is the crewman who might be dressed in civilian clothes.
Project Manager Bob Neyland said none of the buttons on the man's dress appear to be of military origin, which could mean he came from civilian ranks, although Neyland stressed it is too early to be certain.
"He could be wearing more 'home-spun' clothing," Neyland said Friday. "Maybe he just couldn't afford to dress in a uniform, or he just took his jacket off."
The neck medal the man was found wearing last year is among the most perplexing discoveries in the sub. Chamberlin reportedly died on Morris Island in July 1863, a month before the Hunley arrived in Charleston from its homeport of Mobile, Ala. Speculation has gone in at least two directions: Either the crewman picked up the medallion as a souvenir, or Chamberlin somehow became a member of the crew.
Meanwhile, the shoes of each crewman are being examined for small bits of pollen and sediment so geologists can figure out the burial conditions of the sub after the sinking. The bones inside the shoes are also being CAT scanned, photographed and sketched.
The bone examination is expected to be a big part of the work now. Beginning in February, Dr. Doug Owsley, head physical anthropologist for the project, will start laying out the skeletal remains of the crew for closer examination.
The Hunley became the world's first successful attack submarine when it rammed its black powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic on the night of Feb. 17, 1864. It disappeared shortly afterward.
It was raised in August 2000 from its resting spot 4 miles off Charleston and is undergoing restoration at the Warren Lasch Conservation Lab on the former Charleston Navy Base.
MORE ON CHAMBERLIN