Friday April 27 6:42 PM ET
CHARLESTON, S.C., Archeologists said on Friday they have discovered a Union medallion inside the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which went down off the South Carolina coast during the Civil War after becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in battle.
The medallion, made either of copper or bronze, bore the name of a Connecticut soldier who had enlisted with the Union army in a volunteer unit. He and was killed in July 1863 during an assault on Fort Wagner on Morris Island near Charleston, S.C, researchers told reporters.
Union soldiers in the Civil War were not issued dog tags, so many had medallions made to wear into battle so their remains could be identified if they were killed.
``This find creates more mysteries than answers,'' said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, who has spearheaded efforts to recover and preserve the Hunley, built by the Confederacy in a desperate attempt to break Union blockades of Southern ports.
The Hunley sank on Feb. 17, 1864 after plunging a 90-pound charge into the hull of the USS Housatonic, a Union ship enforcing a blockade of Charleston harbor. The ship sank minutes after the explosion ripped a hole in its hull, but the Hunley never returned from its historic mission.
The submarine was raised from the sea floor last year and brought to a custom-built laboratory in Charleston, where crews are working to excavate sediment that filled the 43-foot (13-meter) long vessel, solve the mystery of why it sank and restore the submarine so it can be put on display.
The medallion found inside the Hunley had a picture of George Washington, the first U.S. president, on one side. The other side had the name of the soldier, Ezra Chamberlin, his unit -- company K, regiment 7 of the Connecticut volunteers -- and Sept. 6, 1861, the day he entered military service.
Chamberlin was reported killed on July 11, 1863 at the Battle of Fort Wagner, the Union's first assault on Morris Island outside Charleston. There is a grave and headstone for Chamberlin in his hometown of Killingly, Connecticut.
Roughly the size of a half-dollar coin, the medallion was worn around the neck of the Hunley's first mate. It may have been a battlefield souvenir, or given to the Confederate sailor in a dying request by Chamberlin to notify his family in Connecticut.
Researchers also speculated Chamberlin could have been a turncoat who defected to the Confederacy, only to die on the Hunley, or was a Union spy trying to sabotage the submarine.
``It's possible that further excavation will lead to more answers,'' said Warren Lasch, chairman of the non-profit Friends of the Hunley, which is funding the restoration work.
Archeologists, working from the back of the submarine forward, have removed about three-quarters of the sediment that filled the vessel after it sank. They have recovered partial remains from eight of the nine crewmen.
Used with permission of The Post and Courier and Charleston.Net.