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Charleston Post & Courier photo The buttons found inside the Hunley this week may have come off a coat worn by Cpl. C.F. Carlson, the last man to join the Confederate submarine's final crew. The two buttons, which sport an ornate "A" on their faces, come from the Montgomery, Ala., company of Halfman & Taylor and were designed for artillery unit jackets. Of the nine men on board the Hunley when it sank the Union Sloop Housatonic and disappeared Feb. 17, 1864, two came from artillery outfits.

Early speculation is that the buttons could have come from James A. Wicks or Carlson, Hunley Commission Chairman Glenn McConnell said Friday. Post and Courier research on the Hunley crew indicates Carlson may be the best candidate. Carlson joined the crew less than two weeks before its final voyage, replacing former first officer Lt. William Alexander. (On Feb. 5, 1864, Alexander was called back to his outfit, the 21st Alabama, in Mobile.) From Post & Courier Report

Buttons recovered from Hunley came from artilleryman's coat
By BRUCE SMITH  Associated Press Writer

CHARLESTON (AP) — Two buttons found inside the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley came from an artilleryman's coat that researchers think a crewman might have sat on as the nine-man sub headed out to sink a Union blockade ship 137 years ago.

Reporters got a chance Friday to see one of the buttons that are among the first crew artifacts recovered from the interior of the silt-filed submarine that was the first in history to sink an enemy warship.

The front of the button has the letter "A" signifying artillery. The inscription on the back read "Haltmann & Taylor" and "Montgomery," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, examining it as he wore latex gloves.

Two members of the Hunley crew were attached to artillery units but it is impossible to say whose coat the button may have come from, said McConnell, chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission.

"The earlier war jackets would have the British and militia-type buttons. But as the war went on they started issuing the depot jackets and that could have been one issued by the Confederate government," he said.

Scientists have excavated about halfway into the silt in three sections of the crew compartment, which is about 4 feet in diameter. The buttons were found on a well-preserved plank that researchers think was where the crew sat and cranked the submarine by hand.

Why the buttons were found on the plank is a mystery, although it was possible the crewmen sat on their coats because they became too warm from cranking, said Paul Mardikian, the senior conservator. Material that looked like fibers was attached to one of the buttons, although researchers had not yet had a chance to analyze it, he said.

The section of the bench found during the excavation was in good condition and showed no damage from worms, another indication the crew's remains crew and other artifacts will be found well-preserved as researchers excavate deeper, Mardikian said.

The Hunley rammed an explosive charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic on the night of Feb. 17, 1864.

However, it never returned to port and was lost with its crew. It was raised from off the coast of Sullivans Island last summer and brought to a conservation lab at the old Charleston Navy Base where the recovery work is being done.

Scientists have yet to uncover the crank used to turn the submarine's propeller.

Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley, said he wonders whether the crewmen all sat on the same side of the sub, instead of facing each other as in some historical depictions, including a recent television movie on the Hunley.

"Because we found extra ballast in the water ballast tanks, that could have been used to offset the weight of the crew on one side," Lasch said.

The crank handle may have rotated to the bottom of the sub after it sank, explaining when scientists have not yet found it, he said.

 


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


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