pay tribute to Hunley crew
February 18, 2001
EDWARD C. FENNELL
Special to The Post and Courier
SULLIVAN'S ISLAND - As the name of each lost H.L.
Hunley crewman was read aloud, one woman from a row of mourners in black hoop
skirts and veils stepped forward and tossed a red rose into the sea.
Confederate re-enactors then marched to the water's
edge and together fired a series of rifle shots. As the echoes of the gunshots
faded, about 300 onlookers joined those conducting the memorial service for the
crew of the Hunley in prayer and the singing of "Dixie."
Many of those who attended the first memorial service
to be held at Breach Inlet - the site from where the Hunley last went to sea in
1864 - are involved in the current project to unseal the Confederate submarine
that was recovered last year.
On Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley became the first submarine
to sink another vessel in combat. The super-secret submarine didn't return and
was found in recent years four miles off Sullivan's Island.
Researchers have begun to open the sub now housed in a
tank at the former Charleston Navy Base and expect to learn a lot about the sub
and its nine-man crew in the coming months.
The lives lost when the Union blockade vessel
Housatonic was sunk by an explosive device also were remembered in Saturday's
In a crowded church prior to the seaside ceremonies,
the Hunley crew was lauded for its courage.
Stephen P. Fletcher, commander of the Charleston
Squadron of the U.S. Submarine Veterans Association, said the crew was well
trained for its mission. Fletcher noted that the Hunley carried out its mission
eight years before author Jules Verne wrote about a fictional submarine named
Pastor Lynn Bailey of St. Johannes Lutheran Church
asked in prayer that the sacrifices made by both the Hunley and Housatonic crews
"set our hearts afire for the causes of liberty, justice and
Earlier Saturday, reenactors and others marched from
the Old Village in Mount Pleasant to Breach Inlet to retrace the steps the crew
took prior to their historic voyage.
The Hunley crew barracked in the Old Village and
marched the 7 miles to Breach Inlet each day while training and on the day of
the mission, said Sgt. Keith Rhoden of the Hampton Legion Gist Rifles unit.
"They did that every day and we are honoring them
by what we are doing today," Rhoden said.
Rhoden's son, Landon Rhoden, 7, joined the troops as a
little soldier. He marched with a rifle longer than he is tall.
"I like it, and my Dad does it," the boy
The boy is too young to take part in battle
re-enactments, his father said. "We let him do parades but he can't do
battles. You can't do battles til you are 16."
Had Landon been around during the Civil War, "he
might have been a drummer boy," the sergeant said.
Garrett Academy students Rae Houke, 19, and Webster
Ammons, 16, both are re-enactors who marched. They said they hope to form a new
unit, the 3rd S.C., to be made up of teen-agers like the original Civil War
"They had all 16-year-olds," Ammons said.
Three brothers also joined the march. Thomas Chapman
Balliet Jr., 35, a member of Sons of the Confederacy, was accompanied by Jamie
Balliet, 34, and Trevor Balliet, 11.
The recovery of the Hunley, plus their reading about a
great-great-grandfather who fought in the war, sparked their interest in
Saturday's events, they said.
Thomas said he grew up on James Island and always had
an interest in the Hunley. "I've been to Fort Sumter about 20 times,"
Among those who just came to watch were Molly Johnson,
a visitor from Alexandria, Va., and her parents. Johnson said she has visited
some of the Civil War battlefields and that while in Charleston could not resist
coming out to see part of the Hunley memorial events.
Her father, Bob Johnson of Seabrook Island, said he has
"a whole lot of interest in the Hunley."
with permission of The Post and Courier and Charleston.Net