Burial announced to honor submarine crew
(May 16, 2003 – CHARLESTON, SC) “We will soon witness one of the great historical events of our lifetime.” That’s how one South Carolina State official described the forthcoming burial of the eight-member crew of the Hunley, the first successful combat submarine in world history.
The burial date for the members of the crew, who perished at sea nearly 140 years ago, has now been set for April 17, 2004 at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. The Hunley Commission and Friends of the Hunley announced today that the burial, with full military honors, will be preceded by a memorial period, during which personal information and facial reconstructions of the crew will be released.
“A team of scientists are now at work on facial reconstructions and genealogical research,” said S.C. Senator Glenn McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission. “During the days leading up to the burial, we will release a visual of each crewmember’s face along with all the information we have on his life and legacy,” McConnell said.
Warren Lasch, Chairman of Friends of the Hunley, the private group raising funds for the scientific study and conservation of the Confederate submarine, said the crew will now be able “to rest in peace, at last.” The crew will be buried next to other men who lost their lives on two previous Hunley missions. “These were men of great courage and achievement. Our plan is to honor them and tell their stories to the world,” Lasch said.
Hunley officials expect tens of thousands of people will come to Charleston to witness the historic event, which has been called the last Confederate burial. “Bravely they sacrificed. Gratefully we remember. Finally, they will be back in port together. Their long, long voyage home is over, and peace is theirs on American soil,” McConnell said.
Nearly 140 years ago, on February 17th, 1864, a volunteer crew of eight men entered the experimental vessel with the mission of sinking the USS Housatonic. After ramming a spar torpedo into the hull of Housatonic, exploding it and sinking the vessel in a matter of minutes, the Hunley began her journey home.
Lt. Dixon, the Hunley’s commander, opened the forward hatch and displayed a blue light to their compatriots on shore, the signal of a successful mission. Soon after, for reasons that are still unknown, the submarine and all hands onboard disappeared without a trace. The fate and location of the Hunley and her crew remained a mystery for over 130 years.
In 1995, Clive Cussler and his organization, NUMA, located the Hunley, and on August 8, 2000 she was raised from the ocean floor. The Hunley was essentially a time capsule, holding the remains and personal belongings of the crewmen, as well as many valuable artifacts. Since the Hunley was raised, a major goal has been to give the eight crewmembers what McConnell and Lasch have called “a proper burial.” That goal will be realized on April 17th, 2004.
“Our goal is to have as much information as possible about the crewmen available to the public before they are laid to rest. They will not be strangers, but men whose faces we recognize and whose personal histories we can honor,” Lasch said.
The funeral procession will start with a ceremony at 10:00 a.m.on April 17 at White Point Gardens, along the battery in downtown Charleston. The ceremony will be approximately an hour long, and will honor those who lost their lives on both the USS Housatonic and the Hunley. Immediately following the ceremony, the procession will start its 4.5-mile journey, as the crew is walked through downtown Charleston to Magnolia Cemetery. During the service, the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion’s 1861 prayer book will be used, as it was during the burial of the first crew. This prayer book belonged to Father Toomer Porter who was the chaplain to the Confederate troops in Charleston during the War and most likely would have been used in 1864 if the funeral had been held then.
Surrounding Saturday’s funeral, a series of speaking events will take place so that the public can learn more about the crew and their personal histories as well as the history of the Hunley. There will also be Hunley Lantern Walks at Magnolia Cemetery. Though the burial procession will be open to the public, other events and Lantern Walks will require tickets.
During the last two years, scientists have been excavating the submarine and her contents at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston. The discoveries included the remains of all eight crewmembers, including their Captain, Lt. George E. Dixon. The crewmembers will be laid to rest in the same plot next to their comrades who also lost their lives on two earlier efforts to launch the submarine.
Historians discovered the remains of the Hunley’s first crew in June of 1999, during an archaeological dig beneath the stands in The Citadel’s football stadium. On March 25, 2000, thousands of visitors came to Magnolia Cemetery to bury the five crewmembers with full military honors. They were buried alongside the Hunley’s second crew.
The second crew, manned by Captain Horace L. Hunley, also faced a tragic end. On October 15, 1863, the Hunley again sank while performing a routine diving exercise. All eight crewmembers, including Hunley, were killed.
On November 8, 1863 the Captain and namesake of the history-making submarine, Horace L. Hunley, was buried at Magnolia Cemetery. The next day, November 9, the other seven crewmembers were also buried at Magnolia, all with full military honors.
Hunley Commission member Randy Burbage predicted even greater interest in the burial of the final crew. “The Hunley crewmembers are the last who served the Confederacy to come home to be laid to rest. This is our final opportunity to show them the honor, respect and admiration war heroes of all generations deserve.”
If you are interested in participating in the burial contact Kay Long at (843) 556-1805 or email@example.com.
All media inquiries should contact Kellen Correia at (843) 722-2333 ext. 32 or Kellen@rqasc.com.
Further details about the burial will be made available as the date gets closer and will be posted on the Official Website of Friends of the Hunley, www.hunley.org, or you can call Friends of the Hunley at (843) 722-2333.
Hours of operation for public tours and the Hunley gift shop are from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p. m. on Saturdays and from noon to 5:00 p. m. on Sundays. All proceeds go to support the Hunley conservation and excavation project. To purchase tickets call toll free 1-877-4HUNLEY (1-877-448-6539) or log onto the Internet at www.etix.com.