Every year it happens, we receive
invitations to fundraisers for our pet causes and each year we say
"Next year I'm going to do this." Well this year was my year to take
in the annual "Friends of the Hunley" barbecue and oyster
roast in Charleston, South Carolina. What an experience it was!
It was a ten hour drive down I-77
to Columbia S.C., which is well worth taking in if one is a Civil
War Buff. The next day it was onto Charleston, which is a fantastic
tourist town for anyone interested in any aspect of American
History. The day of the members’ tour arrived and I drove to the
Warren Lasch Conservation and Research Center in North Charleston, a
huge hall named after Mr. Warren Lasch a former Clevelander now
affiliated with Clemson University and where the Hunley
Inside we were shown the ongoing
recovery efforts by a group of conservators, and the slow
painstaking work it takes to bring this Civil War submarine back
from the dead. We were shown how each article was desalinated by
leaching out salt water and replacing it with a polyethylene
solution that will keep the submarine and artifacts from
deteriorating. Much of this is groundbreaking work and many of these
methods have never before been used. The vessel itself is submerged
in a huge tank of desalinization solution which must be drained each
time research is done. A very moving sight and one I will remember
for a long time to come.
A sketch of the H.L. Hunley
At 7:00 that evening I met some
friends and we took in a good old southern oyster roast. Held in the
bus barn where tourists meet their tour busses, we were treated to
all the pulled pork, coleslaw, baked beans and rolls we could eat.
Then came the oysters. Huge baskets about the size of a stretcher
were thrown onto tables made of plywood. As I stood there wondering
what to do, the crowd dove in and began shucking and devouring
oysters at an amazing rate. I acquired an oyster knife and my friend
Mary Ellen showed a Yankee how to shuck and eat oysters. In the
middle of the table was a huge hole under which was a fifty gallon
drum, and as one eats the oyster one throw the shell into the
barrel. Needless to say, that combined with a good glass of beer,
this whole affair put me in a food lover’s "seventh heaven".
There were easily three hundred in attendance and a live band played
country music. After about two hours, I managed to make it back to
the car and back to the hotel room. This event is definitely on my
calendar for many years to come.
There was a very touching story
told by the one of the staff regarding the Hunley and how it
affects people even today. The ship was lost in February 1864, after
sinking the U.S.S. Housatonic. She signaled the crew on shore
that she had accomplished her mission and was coming in. She never
did. The Hunley vanished and was never seen again for one
hundred and thirty one years. There were no survivors. The ship was
captained by George Dixon, and his fiancé, although she lived on
until 1933, never spoke of Dixon or the War. Upon her death, the
family members were going through her effects and came upon an old
scrapbook which contained pictures of the people who had made up her
life. One page held a photo of a young man who no one in the family
could identify. In 2014, as the descendants were going through the
Conservation Center, they were shown the facial reconstructions of
the crew members. The face of the Hunley's Captain George
Dixon bore a striking resemblance to the photo in the old scrapbook.
Mysteries of the Hunley
What actually happened to the
Hunley? To this very day no on knows why the ship never
resurfaced after the attack on the Housatonic Many theories
continue to be put forth, however none have been proven.
What happened to the crew members?
There was no evidence of panic. The skeletal remains were found at
each man's duty station.
Why was part of the propeller guard
The Life and Death of H.L. Hunley
By Greg Pizzuto
Friends of the Hunley Oyster Roast, October 23, 2009
By John Harkness
S. Navy and the Naval Battles of Charleston, 1863
By Syd Overall