Hunley team hoping to find fabled coin
Thursday, May 24, 2001
BY BRIAN HICKS
Of The Post and Courier staff
Just because archaeologists have finally uncovered Hunley
commander Lt. George Dixon, it doesn't necessarily mean his fabled gold coin will soon
As the first phase of the Confederate submarine's excavation
comes to a close, scientists are keeping a close eye out for the dig's most coveted
artifact: Dixon's good luck charm.
But they have no illusions that it will just be lying loose
somewhere in the gray muck still in the sub.
"It might not turn up by the end of the week," project
manager Bob Neyland said Wednesday. "Something really small like that could be
concreted to something or it could have slipped down between something. But gold preserves
well, so it may turn up."
Legend has it that the $20 gold piece, a gift from his Mobile,
Ala., sweetheart, Queenie Bennett, was in Dixon's pocket
when the Hunley sank on Feb. 17, 1864. Historical accounts said that, by then, the coin
served as his good luck piece.
Dixon was carrying the coin when he stormed through the rolling
Tennessee pastureland of Shiloh early one misty morning in April 1862. Dixon was one of
the first Confederate soldiers shot in that landmark Civil War battle - downed by a Yankee
musket shot. But the bullet hit the gold coin in his pocket, wrapping it into the shape of
The coin from Bennett saved Dixon's leg, if not his life.
Scientists have found textiles close to Dixon's remains in the
submarine, presumably his uniform. While the textiles are in better shape than some of the
others found in the submarine, Neyland said it's not possible yet to tell if some of those
clothes still have intact pockets.
If the sediment supported the textiles, the gold coin could turn
up as archaeologists block-lift mounds of sediment that contain textiles and some of
But if the coin isn't there, it could be anywhere. It could even
be concreted to the forward bulkhead, which will not be excavated until the fall.
Sometime in the next week, work on the Hunley will stop for a
summer hiatus. At least two Hunley archaeologists have other commitments that will take
them away from the excavation, and Neyland said the rest of his team is exhausted by a dig
that has gone six or seven days a week since the first of March.
Everyone, he said, needs some time off before beginning the
tedious work of de-concreting around the controls of the submarine mounted to the
bulkheads. Also, scientists have yet to excavate underneath the bench the crew sat on.
They believe that under the bench there are storage boxes where they could find the crew's
Plans call for the archaeologists to reconvene at the Warren
Lasch Conservation Center late in the summer or early in the fall to do the detail work.
They will remove all human remains from the submarine before they stop excavation.
Archaeologists Tuesday evening and Wednesday removed two of the
three craniums remaining inside the submarine. One of those, Neyland said, may be Dixon's
- but they won't know until the final one is removed. That skull, at least what scientists
believe is the final skull, is heavily concreted.
Used with permission of The Post and
Courier and Charleston.Net