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DIXON'S "Lucky Coin" Found in the Civil War Submarine H L HUNLEY


The researchers recovering artifacts from the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley have found  the most sought after object in this restoration project. A dented gold coin that the commander of the submarine was rumored to carry as a good-luck piece after it saved him from death by a Yankee bullet.

'H. L. Hunley' at rest in its truss

The Civil War submarine H. L. Hunley prior to excavation.

Photograph by Mark Christmas

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The coin was found inside the submarine in the decayed clothing of the recently recovered remains believed to be that of Lt. George Dixon. It was discovered in pieces of textile that may have been part of Dixon's clothing.

"Possibly he kept it in his pants pocket," said Robert Neyland, director of the project that has been recovering and analyzing the sediment  found inside the sunken submarine, which was raised last year from Charleston Harbor after being first discovered by Dr. E. Lee Spence in the early 1970's.

The Confederate submarine sank on February 17, 1864,  after an attack on the Union blockader U.S.S. Housatonic. The Hunley recovery project has been supported in part by the National Geographic Society.

The "Gold" coin is bent, which is consistent with reports that it saved Lt. Dixon from the loss of a leg or even his life by deflecting a bullet shot at him on April 6, 1862, during the Battle of Shiloh.

The story goes that, Dixon's sweetheart, Queenie Bennett, had given him a 20-dollar U.S. gold piece for luck, and he kept it in his pants pocket wherever he went.

"Some people may think this is a stroke of luck, but perhaps it's something else," said senior archaeologist Maria Jacobsen. "[It tells] me that Lt. Dixon was a lady's man. Perhaps he winked at us yesterday [when the coin was recovered] to remind us that he still is."

The discovery of the coin "absolutely confirms" the identity of Lt. George E. Dixon aboard the submarine, said Warren Lasch,  of Friends of the Hunley. "It removes all doubt, and also speaks of his character and faith," he said.

Commenting on the find, Senator Glenn McConnell, chair of the Hunley Commission, said: "Part of the Hunley's excavation was to separate fact from fable. The discovery of the coin and its inscription is like discovering Cinderella's glass slipper."

The coin was minted in 1860. One side—the side hit by the bullet—bears an image of Lady Liberty. The other side, which has a federal shield-and-eagle symbol, appears to have been sanded and inscribed. It bears four lines of cursive script that read: Shiloh/April 6, 1862/My life Preserver/G. E. D.  Lt. Dixon's initials.

The coin was removed from the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where artifacts from the Hunley have been studied, and is now in a secure location, according to the researchers

 

 

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Revised: 22 Jun 2011 04:10:33 -0400

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