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DIXON WILL GET A FACE NEXT WEEK
Glenn McConnell has
announced that they are now ready to put a face on the remains of Lt. George E.
Believed to be Dixon
at one time
Archaeologist determined the photo post-war: the man's
tie, the lapels on his coat, his boots - even the furniture and the draperies in
the room - all indicate the tintype photograph was taken after 1870 - six years
after the Hunley sank - and perhaps even as late as 1890 Sally Necessary in
Virginia, owns the original print.
During the summer of
2002, Diane France, described as one of the country’s most renowned forensic
anthropologist was hired to analyze the remains of the Hunley crewmen. Her
mission was to find clues about their lives and their deaths.
She spent two weeks
this summer studying the bones and making silicone-
based rubber molds,
which she has in Fort Collins. The rubber molds have been cast and scientist are
now ready to put a face on Lt. George E. Dixon this week.
Now a mystery may be
solved and another one created.
The mystery comes from a single picture, thought to be of
Lt. George Dixon. According to Senator Glenn McConnell, the photo shows a man in
his mid 20s, and was found tucked behind another picture in Queenie Bennett's
photo album. Bennett was the woman who gave Dixon the famous gold coin which
saved his life at the Battle of Shiloh.
According to Senator McConnell, Queenie Bennett's
descendants believed the photo is of Lt. Dixon because it matches his
description. However, some historians have questions.
Some say that the lapels of the jacket in the picture, and
the design of the cravat, or tie, suggest a later period than in the mid 1860s.
One historian has suggested the tie was fashionable in England at the time, and
perhaps Lt. Dixon was a little ahead of his time.
McConnell does say that Lt. Dixon was a fashionable man,
and had a reputation for being a dashing man. His remains show he had very
white teeth and his clothing found inside the sub had some metallic threads,
indicating his uniform is a cut above what was expected to be found inside the
But the first crewman’ Commander George E. Dixon will now
have a face. It is hopeful that the final touches will be made this week and the
face shown to the public next week. Diane France is one of a team that is ready
to make this happen.
Diane France is a renowned forensic anthropologists whose
job is to identify skeletal and badly decomposed human remains for both legal
reasons. She is director of the Human Identification Laboratory at
Colorado State University, and president of Colorado-based
NecroSearch International, a team of volunteer forensic scientists
who lend their expertise to local law enforcement.
And as part of the U.S. Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team,
which rushes to the scene of mass deaths, she spent two weeks sorting
through the debris of the World Trade Center, seeking and helping to
identify human remains, some painfully tiny. Dr. Doug Owsley, head
anthropologist at the Smithsonian, research assistant Rebecca Kardash and Dr.
Robert Mann, who is a hand and foot bone expert, were at the Warren Lasch
Conservation Center in February 2002 to study the human remains of the crew. All
are working with a common goal with each playing different parts.
Dr. Owsley said their goal " is to sort the bones by laying
them out anatomically in order to make a person,". With 206 bones for each
human, it is a complex and lengthy process. The forensic team's task has been
simplified somewhat by the fact that the remains were found where each
crewmember was stationed in the submarine.
"This process is the first step in identifying each crewmember. We have to
create a person before the formal analysis can begin. What is also helpful is
that we are dealing with people of various sizes and ages, which will assist us
in laying out the remains," Dr. Owsley said. The scientists on the Hunley
project will be assisting the forensic team in this process.
The study of the remains helps to unlock the mystery surrounding the crewmen.
Project Director Dr. Bob Neyland said, "We should be prepared for startling
discoveries about the personal life, background, age and health of the crew."
In the bones and skeletal faces of the Hunley's crew Dr. France sees tiny
clues, too. Her findings might help archaeologists, conservators,
anthropologists and historians
understand the life of Civil War sailors and the dawn of modern
One probably smoked a pipe on the left side of his mouth until an
abscessed tooth forced him to switch to the other side - where it
again wore a gap in his teeth. In another, she sees evidence of a
once-broken nose. And compared to modern mouths, their teeth show
(pipe found on The Hunley)
The dangerous mission's volunteers were not young men, but not old
either. Though probably not wealthy, they showed no obvious signs of
disease or violent lives, other than that they were Confederate
fighting men. "They seem like pretty regular guys," France says.
"When you know something about the remains you study, you start to
care about them as humans and develop a kind of relationship. I don't
know anything about these guys other than they got in a sub and blew
up a Union ship. They had to be really committed to their cause."
Little is known about them. Since the Hunley had close ties to the
Confederate Secret Service, many records were intentionally destroyed
at the end of the war to protect operatives. Their names and a few
details of their military service are known, but little else.
Working from polyurethane-plastic casts she personally made of
the Hunley crew's bones, she has found no clues to the cause of their
deaths on the bone-chilling night when the sub went down. Their bones
won't reveal if they suffocated or drowned in the Hunley's
"I've found nothing that will tell us what happened that night," she
"What interests me most is the preservation of the men," France
says. "You could clean up a cadaver today and it wouldn't be any
better preserved than these guys."
"Bearing the solemnity of this process in mind, it's fascinating and
fun to pick up clues the public can't readily see," France says. "I
think it's kind of disrespectful to want to totally isolate yourself
from these people."
France's casts of the Hunley crew's skulls will help artist Sharon
Long of Laramie reconstruct faces, to be displayed at the Hunley
museum in South Carolina. Hunley Commission have promised that the crew's
will eventually buried beside two previous Hunley crews. Glen McConnell states
that the funeral will probably be in November of 2003 or as late as April 2004.
He says that they want to make sure the bone studies are complete and matched up
to each crewman.
Sharon Long is a forensic artist who specializes in re-creating what people
looked like when they were alive by examining their skulls. Relying on a
scientific technique for measuring skin depth of various parts of a skull, Long
then forms a clay model of the head. She then places tissue markers of differing
lengths on 21 strategic points on his face. After connecting the points with
clay strips, she filled in the open areas. The final plaster version of the head
was made from a mold cast from the clay model and will be ready for display this
(sample of Sharon Longs work – Sgt Floyd)
France says. "As a scientist, I know that any knowledge is
valuable, preserving the skeletons of the Hunley crew, or Kennewick, or any
human skeleton is important because it gives us a greater understanding of the
ways that the skeleton records a person's life."
Excerpts from article “Civil War legends surface with sub
Fort Collins expert studies exhumed sailors”
By Ron Franscell
Denver Post Staff Writer.