by George W. Penington - Editor
September - November, 2004 ISSUE #52 PAGE 2of2
WELCOME TO THE HUNLEY NEWSLETTER >
2) IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Exhibit teaches about Hunley history
“Half the final crew members aboard the Hunley were not American-born “
3) QUESTION ABOUT CREWMAN JAMES WICKS
"De Villeroi lists his occupation as “natural genius.”
4) Hunt begins for Civil War sub - NEWS ABOUT THE USS ALLIGATOR
5) North vs. South, Submarine against Submarine
6) COMMERCIAL DIVING SCHOOL TO OPEN IN CHARLESTON
7) MODEL NEWS AND DISCUSSION Continued
8) DNA TEST SOLVES ONE MYSTERY - SEVEN MORE TO GO
10) SELECTED EMAIL AND GUESTBOOK COMMENTS
11) Group wants state to look at Hunley project
12) Students build submarine replica
13) Teen Suspended Over Civil War Weapon
14) Spence seeks to name McConnell as third party defendant in federal case
Welcome from the Hunley Store
SOLVES ONE MYSTERY - SEVEN MORE TO GO
Story last updated at
When they found him, wearing a medallion bearing the name of Yankee soldier Ezra Chamberlin, he became the great mystery of the Confederate submarine's crew.
Now, DNA tests have confirmed what scientists and genealogists have believed for months: Maryland sailor Joseph Ridgaway was the Hunley's first officer when the sub disappeared in 1864.
"It is a wonderful confirmation of our research," senior Hunley archaeologist Maria Jacobsen said. "One down and seven to go."
Just before the Hunley crew's burial in April, genealogist Linda Abrams, physical anthropologist Doug Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution and Hunley scientists announced the man in the back of the sub most likely was Ridgaway.
The DNA confirmation supports the identification of the crew that scientists made before the burial. There is little doubt about captain George E. Dixon's identity, as he was found in the driver's seat carrying a coin and watch with his name inscribed on them.
That leaves only two other American-born men on the sub, James A. Wicks and Frank Collins, and there is little doubt which is which. Wicks was in his 40s, Collins his 20s. The other four men were born in Europe.
Scientists hope to use DNA to identify all eight men. So far, that has proven difficult. Abrams is searching for living descendants of the remaining seven crewmen, or at least the graves of direct maternal descendants, the only family members who would have matching DNA.
To date, none has given her the same "gotcha" feeling she had with Ridgaway when she found his name on a monument in Talbot County, Maryland.
"It had that eerie feeling I get when I've really nailed something," Abrams said. "When we got the DNA from his sister, I knew it was going to work."
Uncovering the identity of an anonymous sailor wearing the I.D. of a Connecticut Yankee proved to be a mammoth bit of detective work. When Ridgaway's remains were found wearing Chamberlin's tag, speculation on his identity ran the gamut. Some believed he was a spy or a Union deserter who had switched sides.
Others believed he was a prisoner of war, forced to man the sub.
Initially, scientists believed the man might be J.F. Carlsen, a member of the Hunley's final crew who was on Morris Island when Chamberlin died there in the summer of 1863.
At first, no one suspected the man was Ridgaway. No one knew who Ridgaway was, or whether he was even on the sub.
In most historical accounts, Ridgaway's name is spelled "Ridgeway," a mistake Abrams found when she magnified the sailor's handwriting on contemporary documents. Using the right spelling, she tracked Joseph Ridgaway to Talbot County, Md., on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay.
Ridgaway, the son of a ship captain and wealthy landowner, joined the Confederate Navy early in the war, perhaps after one of his father's ships was taken by the Union. He was onboard the Confederate ship Indian Chief in Charleston Harbor when he joined the crew of the Hunley in the fall of 1863.
In the weeks before the Hunley sank the Housatonic on Feb. 17, 1864, the job of Hunley first officer fell to Ridgaway, 30. From his spot in the back of the sub, he operated the aft ballast pump and hatch, and he also manned the hand cranks that powered the sub's propeller.
With Ridgaway wrapped up, Abrams, a Massachusetts genealogist who works with the U.S. military, has turned her focus to Dixon and Arnold Becker, the youngest member of the crew. Becker, born in Europe, most likely entered the country in New Orleans, and Abrams wants to travel there for more research.
Ideally, she says that by next April, the anniversary of the crew's burial, she will have positively identified another Hunley crewman or two. That depends on some luck, enough time to devote to the search and historical records.
Based on the confirmation of Ridgaway's identity, it appears scientists already have a good idea of who was who on the Hunley when it disappeared on a cold February night in 1864.
Story last updated at
He was an old salt at 30, a veteran before the mast who had already spent more than half his years on the water.
"He was obviously a very important member of thecrew," says Maria Jacobsen, senior archaeologist on the Hunley project. "He had to synchronize the filling of the ballast tanks with Dixon. He had to operate the aft seacock and pump. He had to be mechanically inclined."
Ridgaway had to learn a new technology to operate the Hunley, but he had a decided advantage because he felt at home in the sub's natural environment.
He had grown up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the son of a sea captain who owned a small fleet of merchant sailing ships. Between the ships, the plantation and a few other business interests, the Ridgaways of Talbot County were a wealthy family. James and Elizabeth Ridgaway lived with their children on the banks of Chesapeake Bay and shopped across the water in Baltimore.
Joseph Ridgaway sailed his father's ships in the Bay and on the Atlantic. By age 16, in 1850, he had his Seaman's Protection Certificate, which marked him as an ocean-going merchant sailor, a document most mariners did not earn until their twenties.
When the Civil War began, Ridgaway decided to take a break from merchant sailing and join the Confederate States Navy. He had grown into a rugged young man, stout and, at 5' 10," tall for the times. He made a good sailor,
Evidence suggests the Ridgaway family was involved with the Confederacy from the early days of the conflict. A dispatch from the USS Daylight in August 1861 mentions the capture of a Baltimore-based schooner belonging in part to a "Mr. Ridgeway."
The ship was hauling goods up the Rappahannock River just off Chesapeake Bay, and the Union forces claimed that those supplies were meant for Southern forces in Virginia. The crew abandoned the ship rather than face capture.
For three months, Ridgaway was a volunteer hand, using muscle to power the fish-boat. He took a seat at one of the duty stations in the middle of the sub, cranking a handle to drive the sub's propeller. It was fairly mindless work, and did not make good use of his skills. Still, Ridgaway was committed to the project, and likely took an interest in how the sub operated.
He didn't realize how quickly that knowledge would take on new importance. In early February 1864, the Confederate Army ordered Alexander back to Mobile, something about building new guns at Fort Morgan. Dixon needed a new first officer, and he turned to his Maryland man.
With his promotion, Ridgaway found he had more to do than turn a simple crank, although he still had to do that, too. Ridgaway was placed in charge of coordinating ballast tank operations with Dixon. He had to fill and empty the aft tank on Dixon's command to keep the sub on an even keel.
Ridgaway also may have monitored the fly-wheel connected to the sub's propeller shaft; no doubt he would have had to fix the chain on the wheel if it broke. He also was responsible for the aft hatch.
Even to a casual observer, Ridgaway stood out among the Hunley crew. He dressed nice, wearing stylish civilian shoes that were more comfortable than the brogans most of the rest wore. He carried a pipe and a slouch hat and, on the evening of Feb. 17, 1864, wore a fancy Confederate shell jacket onboard the sub.
More than a century later, what he wore around his neck would surprise archaeologists most. The man scientists believe to be Joseph Ridgaway was found wearing the identification tag of a Union soldier named Ezra Chamberlin.
How Ridgaway came to possess the dog tag of a Connecticut Yankee remains a mystery, but historians have found a link between the man and the crew. Chamberlin died in July 1863 during the battle of Morris Island, where members of the Indian Chief crew -- possibly even Ridgaway -- occasionally served picket duty. Also, while anyone could have picked up the medallion as a souvenir, J.F. Carlsen, the last man to join the Hunley crew, fought on Morris the day Chamberlin died. Carlsen may have found the tag and sold it to Ridgaway -- even lost it to him in a card game.
The possibility of Carlsen's connection to the identification tag led scientists to speculate he was the first officer, but that's unlikely. The man in the back of the sub was American born, and Ridgaway is one of only four documented Americans onboard. Process of elimination narrows the field. Dixon was identified by his position and belongings; James A. Wicks was much older. That leaves Frank Collins and Ridgaway. The man who died at the first officer's station matches Ridgaway's age (not to mention Ridgaway had far more maritime experience than Collins, making him a more likely candidate).
Ridgaway also had more in common with Dixon than any of the other crewmen. Both were from families of some means: they both showed signs of quality dental care and good health. Socioeconomic similarities must have cemented the connection between captain and first officer.
The relationships that Ridgaway built during his final years not only led him to the Hunley but also had a major impact on his family. After the war, a friend of Ridgaway's stationed on the Indian Chief felt compelled to collect the sailor's belongings for the family.
James Joyner carried his lost friend's last remaining mementoes to his family in Maryland. There, Joyner found he liked the rest of the Ridgaway family as much as he had Joseph, so he decided to settle in the area.
Ultimately, he married one of Ridgaway's sisters.
10) SELECTED EMAIL AND GUESTBOOK COMMENTS
Sent: Monday, September 27, 2004 11:04 AMFrom: Evilmike2@aol.com Mike (the Torpedo Man) KochanSubject: solid shot drillWhile looking for torpedo stuff I found a C.W. naval drill for "The Defense of Solid Shot Fire"
Don Fisher and had a chance to set up the men in the positions at an event we did this weekend. We had to use some Soldiers, but you'll get the Idea using sailors.
NOTE: It appears to me that the Yankee with the rifle is going to use Mike's head as a cannonball. GWP
realname: Kris Kindleston
Remote Name: 18.104.22.168
Date: Sunday August 29, 2004
Time: 07:40:03 PM
This is a great website. I enjoy the newsletter very much. I am interested in learning more technical information about the design and inner workings of the Hunley. It is my new hobby while Im stuck in the desert. I have gotten five other guys from the 1st Infantry Division interested in your website. Thanks for your time
----- Original Message -----
From: "Hunley" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, September 28, 2004 10:03 AM
Subject: 2004 Hunley Members Only Tours
Dear Friends of the Hunley:
As a member of Friends of the Hunley, you are literally helping us navigate
the Hunley to her rightful place in history. In honor of this important role you provide to the Hunley
project, we will hold our annual Member Appreciation Tours on Friday, October 15th and Saturday, October
16th. Hunley staff archaeologists will give members a project update, tour of the Hunley, and an exclusive viewing of some Hunley artifacts. Every year we try to bring our valued members something new and exciting. This year, the facial reconstructions of the eight crewmembers who lost their lives on that fateful night will be
on display. This will be the first time they will be available for viewing since the week leading up to the
Hunley crew burial in April.
To make your reservations, call ETIX at 919.782.5010, between 9AM and 4 PM
(Monday - Friday). You can book your tour over a two-week period from
September 27th - October 13th.
The deadline to make your reservation is October 13th. Membership
Appreciation Tours will run every 20 minutes from 10AM - 5PM on both Friday
BRING ALONG A FRIEND
You can also have a maximum of 5 additional guests attend at five dollars
per person (50% off the normal price). When booking your tour, if you plan to bring additional guests,
please let the representative you are speaking with know how many individuals will be with you.
REMEMBER, as a Friend of the Hunley, you will receive 10% off all items in
the Hunley gift store and the proceeds go to support the Hunley project. Thank you, Friends, for all
you have done and continue to do in support of the Hunley conservation project! We look forward to seeing
realname: Carl E. Johnson
Remote Name: 22.214.171.124
Date: Tuesday November 09, 2004
Time: 01:29:32 PM
My son and I are attempting to ascertain the location of a monument/marker/ grave stone of a Confederate infantryman named CONRAD WISE CHAPMAN. He was also painter a painted or made a drawing of the CSS HUNDLEY. He died in 1910. MR. Chapman was wounded at Shiloh. Any assistance would be appreciated. Carl
Conrad Wise Chapman was not an infantry man..but was a trusted
artist allowed to paint the top secret Confederate fish boat named the
H L Hunley. There is alot of stuff about this. His famous painting
shows the little ship on a dock in Mt. Pleasant. S.C. This was after the
second sinking and they had to cut up the bloated bodies of the crew
into pieces small enough to get them out of the small portholes.
Pretty gruesome..hey. They buried the pieces over in
Charleston...while the city was being bombed by the "damn Yankees".. of
course they had to load the parts into boxes and then row boats and row
them across the Harbor...late at night..throw them stacked together in
to holes that they had to dig while bombs where blasting everywhere
around them. When we finally discover the bodies around 130 years
later...who could tell who was who. Thanks for writing and stay in
touch. George W. Penington II, Esquire Editor and Webmaster of
thehunley.com newsletter and website.
Group wants state to look at Hunley project
The Associated Press Friday, October 08, 2004 6:25 AM
CHARLESTON - The government watchdog group Common Cause is asking
S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster to look into the finances of
the H.L. Hunley project.
"There's something fishy about it," executive director John Crangle
Questions have been raised about spending, many by Charleston lawyer
Justin Kahn, the Democrat opposing state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-
Charleston, in next month's election.
McConnell is chairman of the S.C. Hunley Commission overseeing the
preservation of the Confederate submarine.
Common Cause wants to know if Friends of the Hunley, a group
supporting the effort, is subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
It also is asking whether income from the project should go to the
state general fund.
Although not required to do so, Friends of the Hunley provided
documents requested by The (Columbia) State.
The documents show the group paid more than $277,000 to Richard
Quinn and Associates of Columbia to market of the Hunley. Quinn also
does work for McConnell's re-election campaign.
McConnell said the marketing justified its costs.
NOTE: McConnell was re-elected
12) Students build submarine replica
Thursday, October 14, 2004 6:43 AM
Reproduction of Pioneer on display
By BOB ANDERSON of the advocate
Florida parishes bureau
HAMMOND -- Growing desperate in 1862 because of a naval blockade,
the Confederacy built its first submarine in hopes of sinking Yankee
ships and reopening sea routes.
Though sleek in a Jules Verne fashion, the vessel built at Leeds
Foundry on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans is primitive by
today's undersea standards.
Yet, for its own time, it was an "engineering marvel," said Roy
Bonnette, an industrial technology professor at Southeastern
The Pioneer proved during tests in Lake Pontchartrain that a
submarine could not only function, but could also sink other
vessels. However, the Confederacy had to scuttle the Pioneer to keep
it and its design out of enemy hands when New Orleans fell.
Now, 142 years later, SLU students have researched and recreated a
vessel that closely tracks the original design.
Working with faculty, private industry and the Lake Pontchartrain
Maritime Museum in Madisonville, they built a full-size replica of
That replica is on permanent display in the museum.
Recreating the cramped, four-man vessel proved not only an
engineering challenge, but a historical challenge as well.
Though the original Pioneer was salvaged after being scuttled, the
submarine's historical significance apparently was overlooked. It
sold for scrap in 1868.
"There was no documentation regarding how it was built," said SLU
faculty member Michael Beauvais, who coordinated work with the
"With no engineering drawings, we had to take almost an
archeological engineering approach," Beauvais said.
Shawn Fisher, one of 40 or 50 students who worked on the project,
did a lot of the initial research needed to recreate the design.
Perhaps the best historical information about the exterior of the
vessel came not from the confederates, but from a Union officer who
drew sketches of the submarine, which he saw at a distance.
However, there were inconsistencies in some of the sizes the officer
drew and what would actually work for a submersible craft.
Such problems gave students a "taste of the real world," where all
of the solutions aren't as clean as presented by problems in a
textbook, Beauvais said.
"They got to deal with the thorny issues of reality," he said.
For instance, SLU senior Sam Chapman did calculations based on the
known information, to suggest that the vessel was 30 feet long, a
point that came into question during research.
Given the other known dimensions and materials, a different length
would have produced problems in getting the vessel to sink and rise,
For James Stutts, an SLU graduate student when he helped do the
research, the challenge was recreating the submarine's internal
A key part of those workings was the propulsion system, driven by
the muscles of two men operating a hand crank in the 4-foot-high
Stutts' research of what was written about the Pioneer and of the
later work of one of its engineers, who later helped build the
better-known Hunley, led him to the conclusion that the mechanism
was fairly simple -- a hand crank with a fly wheel hooked to a drive
shaft and a propeller.
Stutts, who is now an instructor at SLU, also researched the
steering mechanism, ballast system and other workings.
Smiling about the technology of the day, he said a candle was used
to determine when the crew was running out of air.
Portholes provided visibility on or near the surface, but since the
pilot couldn't see where he was going when under water, a compass
was used for navigation. The pilot controlled the boat with hand
One crew member pumped water in and out of the ballast tanks at the
front and rear of the ship to make it sink or rise.
Studying how a submarine could have been built with the technology
of the time, including things such as using leather as seals to keep
water out, "really piqued my interest," said Stutts, who is from
"It was an amazing engineering feat for the time -- an engineering
marvel," said Bonnette, who was one of the industrial technology
professors who oversaw the work.
"We had quite a task just to replicate it," he said. "To originate
the design out of your head was really quite an accomplishment" for
the people who came up with the idea and made it work in the 1860s.
It involved a lot of physics and engineering, Bonnette said.
The whole project was a "good task for our students," he said. "They
got a real historical perspective and a good idea of the evolution
Hull, Annie Labruzzo and other students, made two and three
dimensional computer drawings from which the construction team could
Though students researched the technology available at the time,
they used current technology in creating the museum replica,
Nugent Steel of Port Allen rolled the metal, which may have been
bent into shape rather than rolled to construct the original
Pioneer, Bonnette said.
Raymond Zibilich heard about the project in class and immediately
knew he wanted to be a part of "recreating a piece of history."
Having worked in shipyards when he got out of high school and later
become a manufacturing welding engineer before returning to SLU,
Zibilich proved a perfect fit for the team, professors said.
Zibilich, who is now a senior in industrial technology, worked on
welding the vessel's midsection.
Aided by George Fairbanks of Gonzales Industrial X-Ray, they used
flux core arc welding in the construction. The model was later
touched up to make the metal look as if it had been riveted.
"It was an awesome project," Beauvais said, talking of how much the
students learned from and enjoyed the work.
Tony Blakeney, one of the faculty members who worked on the
construction, said that next, he wants to get involved in creating
an actual working replica of the Pioneer.
Some of those involved in the project said they'd like to create
that replica using only the technology of the 1860s.
Of course, such a working model might need testing by a crew as
daring as the one that submerged in the original Pioneer.
Though the Pioneer never did see battle, it did handle a number of
trial dives in Lake Pontchartrain.
Equipped to pull a tethered mine as it passed beneath a target, the
Pioneer sank several target vessels during those tests, making it a
major step forward in submarine warfare.
Not only was the Pioneer the first submarine built by the
Confederacy, it was possibly the first submarine working under its
own power ever to submerge and go through battle tests, Beauvais
Its builders escaped New Orleans before the city's capture and went
to Mobile, Ala., where they built two other Confederate submarines,
the Pioneer II and the Hunley.
The first spark of their genius is still visible with the aid of the
builders of the Pioneer replica and the museum that displays it.
NOTE: George Fairbanks did a tremendous job of researching this
vessel and it's history. See the past newsletters for more
Suspended Over Civil War Weapon
PINE BUSH, N.Y. (AP) - A teen-age Civil War buff has been suspended from school and faces serious charges after his replica musket was found in his car trunk at school in the Orange County community of Pine Bush.
Joshua Phelps had been at a re-enactment with his Civil War costume, including a musket last week. He threw the uniform and equipment into his truck and forgot about it. Yesterday a security guard at the Pine Bush High School saw it and called police.
Phelps was sitting in study hall when the security guard told him to go to the assistant principal. When he was told they saw the rifle he wasn't concerned - thinking they would understand it's part of his costume.
But it didn't happen that way. Town of Crawford Police were called and Phelps was cuffed and charged with a misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of a weapon.
His mother, Valerie Michaels, is outraged, saying the school has blown this thing way out of proportion. She says also in the trunk was a costume, shoes, leather belt, powder keg, and a leather cartridge box.
Phelps used the costume when taking part of the re-enactment of the Battle of Chancellorville which was staged by the 124th New York State Volunteers. The re-enactors say they are models of the unit that came from Orange County and fought in the Civil war. High School students were recruited to take part in the re-enactors club. Phelps' mother questions why give the students fake guns and then arrest them.
Pine Bush School Superintendent RoseMarie Stark called the incident a student discipline matter and declined to comment further.
14) Spence seeks to name McConnell as third party defendant in federal case
Back to page 1
Tours of the Hunley are still available on
weekends at the
Warren Lasch conservation lab where the sub is housed.