Funeral For A Civil War Sub Crew

A reconstruction of the face of Hunley crewman J.F. Carlsen is shown in these photographs released by the Friends of the Hunley on Thursday, April 15, 2004. Carlsen was aboard the Hunley on Feb. 17, 1864, when it sank the Union blockade ship Housatonic, becoming the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship. Leading up to Saturday's funeral for the Hunley's crew, biographies and facial reconstructions of two crewmen were being released each day. AP

Rifles crackled and cannons rumbled across the marsh as the crew of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley was laid to rest, 140 years after the vessel became the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship.

Thousands of re-enactors in Confederate gray and Union blue marched in a funeral cortege a mile-and-a-half long as the crewmen, in coffins draped with Confederate flags and pulled on horse-drawn caissons, were taken to their resting place.

"These men taught us and they will teach future generations the meaning of words like honor," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, the chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission. "Their spirit will live beyond the horizon of time."

The coffins were laid in a common grave - placed in the order which the crew sat on the hand-cranked submarine - in a breezy, oak-shrouded plot along the Cooper River.

Then, after a bugler sounded Taps, the descendants of the crewmen or designated representatives filed past and threw a rose on each coffin.

In what has been called the last Confederate funeral, the coffins were first taken to Charleston's Battery and placed in a semicircle, a wreath set in front of each.

The sun was bright over the harbor and Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Randy Burbage, a member of the South Carolina Hunley Commission, said it was a testimony to the crew that so many people had come to pay tribute to "eight Americans who died for a cause they believed in so long ago."

"There are some who have scoffed at our efforts to pay tribute to these men saying that because they were Confederates, they don't deserve so high an honor," said Ronald Wilson, the commander in chief of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "It is our duty to respect and remember these individuals."

Then, the column of uniformed re-enactors stretching a mile and half took the crew to their final resting place in Magnolia Cemetery. It took the column more than an hour to file into the cemetery.

The hand-cranked Hunley made history on Feb. 17, 1864, when it rammed a spar with a black powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic off of Charleston.

The Housatonic sank, but the Hunley never returned from the mission. It was found off the South Carolina coast nine years ago. It was raised in 2000 and brought to a conservation lab at the old Charleston Naval Base.

Packed in silt, the sub's crew and contents were remarkedly well preserved, notes CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassman. Then, he says, history really came alive: Archeologists reconstructed faces from America's past, busts of the crew members.

"These eight men would change the world," said McConnell, noting their feat would not be repeated again for 50 years.

He said Charleston was being strangled by the Union blockade during the war and the men volunteered for the dangerous service, even though none were from the city or even from South Carolina.

For the Old South, Strassman points out, the great and terrible war finally came full circle Saturday, with this last burial in the city where the war's first shots were fired.

About 40 relatives of Hunley crew members were in Charleston for the funeral .

Emma Busbey Ditman of Silver Spring, Md., said she learned about 12 years ago that she had a relative aboard the Hunley. She is the great-grandniece of crewman Joseph Ridgaway, who was born on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

"It's been very emotional. My father died when I was a little girl and I knew almost nothing about father's family when I was a child," she said. "For me, it's finding my family."

The crew buried Saturday was the third crew to die aboard the submarine.

The first crew drowned in the fall of 1863 when waves from the wake of a passing ship flooded the sub at its mooring. A few weeks later a second crew, including designer H.L. Hunley, died during a test dive.

The members of the third crew were being buried next to the other crews in a plot shaded by oaks and palmettos.

Rebecca Farence of Harrisburg, Pa., said crewman Frank Collins was her great-grandfather's half cousin.

"These are just extraordinary men - brave and strong who did a marvelous thing," she said.
  • Brian Dakss

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