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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
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
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
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
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.
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Used with permission of The Post and
Courier and Charleston.Net