Hunley exhibit to feature pieces of submarine, medallion artifact
Tuesday, October 1, 2002
This weekend, there will be a little bit more
of the Hunley to see.
A new exhibit featuring the Confederate sub's
rudder, snorkel tubes and aft cutwater will go on public display for the
first time Saturday, alongside one of the more significant artifacts
found among the crew's belongings.
Scientists at the Warren Lasch Conservation
Center said the Union identification tag stamped with the name of Ezra
Chamberlin will be on display. The coin-sized medallion will be housed
in an argon-filled display case designed to halt corrosion.
"It has not been treated yet, so we will
use the argon gas so it won't corrode," said Paul Mardikian
conservator on the Hunley project. "Because argon gas is heavier
than air, it pushes the oxygen away."
The medallion, about the size of a Sacagawea
dollar coin, is stamped with Chamberlin's name and his Connecticut
infantry group. The identification tag was privately printed - the U.S.
military didn't issue official dog tags until the 20th century.
When the tag was found around the neck of a
Hunley crewman in April 2001, some people believed the remains belonged
to Chamberlin, who had either defected or was taken prisoner.
But scientists and historians say that, most
likely, the medallion was just a battlefield souvenir. History records
that Chamberlin died on Morris Island in July 1863, a month before the
Hunley arrived in Charleston. Forensic tests show that the man found
wearing the tag was in his mid- to late-30s, while Chamberlin was only
24 at the time he supposedly died.
Only George Dixon's gold coin good-luck piece
is considered a more important artifact on this project. Mardikian said
that displaying Chamberlin's medallion is basically a trial run to
finally putting the gold coin on exhibit.
The pieces of the sub going on display vary in
significance. The aft cutwater is basically a triangular piece of metal
that was mounted in front of the rear conning tower to divert water
around the hatch. The snorkel tubes, pipes about four feet long, were
sometimes used to draw air into the crew compartment.
More important is the sub's square rudder,
which was found lying in the sand beneath the sub.
Some scientists say the detached rudder could
play a role in why the Hunley sank after downing the USS Housatonic on
Feb. 17, 1864.
BY BRIAN HICKS
Of The Post and Courier Staff
Used with permission of the Post
and Courier and Charleston. Net