Hunley Crew Burial
Lieutenant George E. Dixon
Corporal J. F. Carlsen
James A. Wicks
April 17th, 2004
The morning was warm, and the waters off Charleston Harbor were unusually calm. It was perhaps the same sort of sea Hunley commander Lt. Dixon was waiting for in 1864 when he and his crew launched the experimental vessel that began the age of modern day submarines.
But this day would not mark the beginning of the Hunley crew's mission, but rather the completion of their century long journey to a final burial. On April 17th, 2004, the submarine pioneers that manned the first successful combat submarine were buried.
The ceremony began at 9.15 am with a memorial service at White Points Garden. Immediately after the ceremony, horse drawn caissons followed by a 19th century period dressed procession led the crew to the their final resting place. The procession marched 4.5-miles through downtown Charleston, and ended at Magnolia Cemetery. The Hunley's eight-man crew was then laid to rest next to others who lost their life on Hunley test missions.
A Celebration of our Nation's History
The Hunley crew's burial required nearly a year of planning and volunteers gave thousands of hours of their time to ensure the crew's interment was a memorable and dignified event. The burial was attended by tens of thousands of people who came to honor the crew and witness this historic moment. Visitors came from around the world including Australia, Germany, France, and Great Britain.
Additionally, the Friends of Hunley research team was able to locate descendants of 3 of the crewmembers, and they participated in the burial of their ancestors. Family members of Frank Collins, James Wicks, and Joseph Ridgaway were in attendance as well as a descendant of Queenie Bennett, the woman historians believe gave Lt. Dixon his life saving gold coin. The attendance of crewmember descendents and the overwhelming amount visitors made the burial not just solemn and inspirational event, but a celebration of our nation's history.
Hundreds of journalists came to Charleston to cover what many have called the last Confederate burial. The Hunley crew's faces and biographies were on every news network and in every major paper in the U. S. as well as many overseas. Because of this, when the crew was buried, the world was not watching strangers being laid to rest, but rather people whose faces we now knew and personal histories we can remember.
The Hunley Crew's Final Journey
The crew's journey to this day began on February 17th, 1864, when they achieved a maritime first by sinking the USS Housatonic. After the Hunley successfully completed its mission, the sub's crew signaled to shore that they were on the way home and then mysteriously vanished. Since then, the fate of the Hunley and her crew became a part of American legend and intrigue.
When the Hunley was finally located in 1995, one of the main goals of the Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley was to bring these maritime pioneers home and lay them to rest with honor. Warren Lasch, Chairman of Friends of the Hunley, explained the importance of that goal in his burial remarks when he said, "All Americans have a responsibility to preserve our nation's history, and we all have an obligation to honor the achievements of the generations that came before us."
The Hunley crew's 140-year journey of maritime achievement, technology and intrigue finally has ended with the burial fate had for so long made impossible. Now, at last, they are at rest.
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