Hunley Captain George Dixon: Preservation and Personality
Everyone knows science and archaeology can be tools to learn and preserve history. It can also give us glimpses into the personalities of important historical figures. For example, scientific work has helped us understand more about George Dixon, the man who led the Hunley and her crew into world history. Found among the remnants of his cotton and wool clothing were silver suspender clasps. During the conservation process, scientists uncovered what appear to be his initials engraved on the suspender buckle. Silver suspender clasps, imprinted with personal marks make this suspender clasp a high-end accessory for the time. This alone starts to paint a portrait of a man of at least some financial means with an eye toward how he presented himself.
The other items Dixon carried with him into the submarine that night in 1864 support this image and speak volumes about his personality, though his precise origins remain unknown. Archaeologists excavating the crew compartment found gold and diamond jewelry in his pockets and a gold pocket watch, with its fob inscribed with his initials. Most famously, Dixon carried a $20 gold coin. It had miraculously saved his life in battle by absorbing the impact of a bullet. Given his penchant for inscribing his possessions, it is not surprising that he also engraved his lucky gold piece with the following words:
April 6th 1862
My life Preserver
G. E. D.
Nearing the end of the Civil War, this amount of gold would have had tremendous worth. They also no doubt carried great sentimental value to him. These artifacts show a life of adventure for a young man who was proud of his name. Though he died somewhere in his early- to mid-twenties, it is clear Captain Dixon was a memorable man to encounter during his brief but remarkable life.