The E-Sylum:  Volume 4, Number 22, May 27, 2001, Article 5


   Civil War history buffs have been following for some time 
   the story of the Hunley, the Confederate submarine which 
   sank in Charleston harbor on February 17, 1864 after 
   first sinking the Union ship Housatonic.   The Hunley made 
   history by becoming the first submarine to sink a ship in battle. 
   Unfortunately for her crew of eight men, they would share the 
   same fate as the five men aboard the Union ship. 

   "Since the Civil War, treasure seekers scoured the depths 
   around the Housatonic, hoping to discover the Hunley and her 
   crew.  $100,000  was even offered to the discoverer by the 
   great showman, P.T. Barnum. But the Hunley remained a 
   mystery until new technologies were developed." 

   "Best selling author Clive Cussler established the National 
   Underwater Marine Agency and spent fifteen years searching 
    for Hunley.  The world’s first sub to sink a ship in battle was 
    finally discovered on May 4th, 1995" 

   There is a numismatic connection:  Lt. George Dixon, the 
   sub's commander, carried with him a special $20 gold piece. 
   "Early in the war, in Mobile, Ala., Queenie Bennett (Dixon’s 
   fiancée) gave him a $20 gold piece.  While at Shiloh, a Union 
   bullet penetrated his trouser pocket and struck the coin.  The 
   impact left the gold piece shaped like a bell,  with the bullet 
   embedded in it. If it wasn’t for that coin, he probably would 
   have died on the battlefield–and the Hunley might never have 
   made history. He would carry that coin the rest of  his life..." 

   The above quotes are taken from 
   Other web pages of interest are listed below.  The final one 
   is an interview with a descendant of Queenie Bennett who 
   was present for the raising of the Hunley. 

   A May 25, 2001 article in The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer 
   reports that "Archaeologists digging mud and human remains 
   from the Confederate submarine Hunley have found the 
   commander's lucky gold coin, still sparkling from a century-old 
   love that will not tarnish. 

   Historians thought that Lt. George Dixon might have carried 
   the coin, a gift from his fiancee, on the night the Hunley became 
   the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship.  But not 
   until 9:30 Wednesday night, four months into the excavation 
   of the sub, did they confirm that the coin was on board. 

   The coin that senior archaeologist Maria Jacobsen pulled out 
   of the muck of the Hunley Wednesday bears the cursive 
   engraving: "Shiloh / April 6, 1862 / My life Preserver / G.E.D." 

   "Artifacts are very important, but as archaeologists we want to 
   know the story behind the artifacts,"  Jacobsen said Thursday 
   in Charleston, where she and other archaeologists are 
   painstakingly excavating the sub's interior.  "As soon as I 
   touched it through the mud I knew it was the coin....  That was 
   a rare, teary moment for me.  It was that message from the past 
   we're always looking for." 

   The message reached Queenie Bennett's great-granddaughter, 
   Sally Necessary of Midlothian, Va.,  on Thursday. 

   "I'm just so very happy they found it," said Necessary, who made 
   the trip to Charleston when scientists pulled the cigar-shaped sub 
   from the Atlantic last August. 

   "In my heart, I knew it was there," she said. "I knew that if my 
   great-grandmother had given him the coin, and he hadn't lost it, 
   then it would be there. People back then took these things 
   seriously.  If  someone gave you a token of love for safe 
   passage, you held on to it." 

   State Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, said finding the 
   coin was a milestone in the five-year recovery effort because 
   it helps  turn "fable into fact" about the legendary ship.  "The 
   discovery of the coin and its inscription is like discovering 
   Cinderella's glass slipper," he said." 

   [The Observer published photos of the coin, but these 
   are not available online ( 
   Perhaps some intrepid members of the numismatic press will 
   track them down for publication.  And perhaps among our 
   readers is a Civil War history buff who can tell us the source 
   for the original story of the coin - was it a contemporary 
   newspaper account?  How did historians know that Dixon 
   carried the coin?  -Editor] 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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