Confederate Steamer Sumter Discovered in Charleston   Harbor.



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Saturday, November 9, 2002
By George W. Penington - Editor

The renowned “Gold Coin” found on board the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley is now on public display. The good-luck piece belonging to sub Commander Lt. George E. Dixon is part of the regular tours at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center beginning Nov. 16.
The sub's snorkel tubes and rudder were added to the weekend tours, along with the Union soldier I.D. tag found around the neck of the sub's first officer.
The coin, which has been in an undisclosed location since it was found in May 2001. Only a select few have been allowed to see the coin in real life. 

The story of the coin was recorded in the letters by some of Dixon's comrades in the 21st Alabama that tell about the now famous soldier’s sweetheart, Queenie Bennett, and how she came to give Dixon a twenty dollar gold piece before he marched off to war in October 1861.
During the battle of Shiloh, Dixon was shot in the leg but the Minnie ball struck the gold coin. Forensic scientist state that Dixon was gravely injured and probably walked with a limp after being wounded on his left thigh bone and was lucky not to have died or lost his leg.
It was proven that Dixon carried the warped coin with him
everywhere after that when it was discovered in his pants pocket during the final excavation.
 Scientists also found that an inscription was added to the warped coin by Dixon. It reads:
     April 6th, 1862
     My life Preserver
The coin has come to symbolize a  love story that touches the heart of anyone who has the privilege enough to see it.
The Lasch Conservation Center is open for tours from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. A ticket must be purchased to see the Gold Coin and other artifacts on display. Tickets cost $10 and are available at 1-877-4HUNLEY or on the Internet at
Tickets can be purchased at the door where you can save the $3.00 additional surcharge dollars
 it cost to buy them online.   

3) Confederate Steamer Sumter Discovered in Charleston Harbor 
November 8, 2002 - Press Release

Shipwreck Expert E. Lee Spence to be Featured on Livin’ Large

Shipwreck expert E. Lee Spence of Summerville, South Carolina, announced today that he has discovered the wreck of the Confederate transport Sumter, which was lost near the entrance to Charleston in 1863. The discovery will be included in an episode of Dick Clark Productions nationally syndicated television program Livin’ Large. Livin’ Large decided to feature Spence due to his many successful ventures and the unusual nature of his work. The show is a contemporary version of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous." According to Spence, he has worked on "everything from a Great Lakes freighter with Scotch & Champagne to Spanish galleons with tons of silver." The episode aired in the Columbia area on WLTX at half past midnight on Friday, November 8, 2002, and in the Charleston area on WCBD at midnight on Saturday.

The Confederate troop transport and munitions carrier was sunk by "friendly fire" on the night of August 30, 1863, while returning from Morris Island, South Carolina. The steamer was carrying 600 to 740 men, who had just been relieved from duty on Morris Island, and was bound to Battery Gregg when she ran aground and was fired upon by mistake from a Confederate fortification near Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. At least one shot penetrated her hull, and she quickly filled with water. Very soon afterwards the steamer went to pieces. One account stated that the men were from the 12th or the 23rd regiments of the South Carolina volunteers. Another said they were from the 20th South Carolina and 23rd Georgia Regiments and "an artillery company."

Contemporary reports stated that the men on the Sumter lost "nearly all of their guns, accouterments and ammunition." If they are still down there, the artifacts could easily be worth over $1,000,000 on the collectors' market, but Spence says "their real value would be in the story they would tell about the brave men who lost them." Several men were killed, and others drowned, when they tried to escape by swimming. Estimates of the total dead and/or missing varied between eight and forty. The remainder of the troops were rescued by Colonel Rhett’s men from Fort Sumter and by boats sent down by the Confederate navy. Contemporary accounts described her as lost on the "east end of fort reef," "fifty to seventy yards inside of the Cumming’s Point buoy and about eight hundred to a thousand yards from Fort Sumter."

Comparing the historical record to a modern day chart, Spence noted a small shoal just off the tip of Morris Island. The same shoal was shown on a hand drawn chart made in 1865. Spence had a hunch that the shoal on both maps was "fort reef.". As an underwater archaeologist and President of the Sea Research Society, Spence decided that a simple "Look-See" expedition to the shoal was the best course of action. A "Look-See," which did not disturb the site, could be done quickly and quietly, without violating any State or federal laws. The big thing was that it could go forward without the need for special permits.

Using bearings determined from the chart, the 23’ Scout was anchored directly over the most promising location. Within seconds of going into the water, Spence realized his "research had been dead on." Spence observed brick ballast and other items from the wreck, but left them in place. He saw no sign of the vessel’s high-pressure steam plant and suspects it was raised for scrap after the war. Although there could easily be a fortune in artifacts at the site, Spence, says "My primary interest was in finding the wreck. I have no desire to spend years seeking official permission to work the site, only to see someone else credited with my discovery. Without a permit from the State Budget & Control Board, it is a felony to disturb a warship in South Carolina waters, which is believed to have human remains aboard. With over four decades of shipwreck diving experience, Spence does not believe there are any human remains at the site. But, due to South Carolina law, Spence did not pick up any of the artifacts he found, nor did he dig into or otherwise disturb the site. The limited visibility prevented any meaningful underwater photography during the expedition. The Sea Research Society expedition was aided with equipment provided by White’s Metal Detectors, Fisher Research Laboratories, Hummer dealer Doug McElveen and Dave Wallace of Scout Boats. Besides Spence, the primary participants in the project were Kelly McDaniel and Bill Hoolahan of the Sea Research Society and Nelson Jacobs and Alan Lang of Scout Boats in Summerville.

The exposed portions of the wreck were used as target practice by the Confederates in the weeks after it was sunk, so it is clear that the Confederates had abandoned it. Legally, that abandonment means that it was not Confederate government property when the Civil War ended. Therefore, the wreck would not have been a "prize of war." So, title to the vessel’s remains would never have transferred to the federal government. As the finder of abandoned property, Spence claims ownership and warns people to stay away from the wreck. Spence says "I expect to be donating any rights I have to the wreck to the American Military Museum in Charleston, and the museum’s officials can try to work something out with the State." Museum director and curator George Meagher says "any artifacts from the site would make a great addition to our collection."

Spence was the original discoverer of the wreck of the Confederate submarine Hunley and donated his title to the vessel to the State in September of 1995 at the request of the Hunley Commission. Attorney General Charles M. Condon signed the donation agreement. Shortly afterwards, Condon wrote Spence to say "Let me take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation and profound gratitude for your generous and historic donation to the State of your rights to the submarine H.L. Hunley." Two months later, South Carolina Governor David M. Beasley wrote Spence and stated "Your work in discovering the Hunley is of great significance. ...... South Carolina is indebted to you for the wonderful contribution you have made to archaeology." On November 15, 2000, Governor Beasley again wrote Spence and said "South Carolina is & should be proud of you."


 Thursday, November 14, 2002
By George W. Penington - Editor

It's February17, 1864, Lt. George E. Dixon and his crew are in their quarters located in an abandoned house near the end of Pitt Street, Mt. Pleasant, packing their things for the long hike to the end of Sullivan's Island. Their ship the H. L. Hunley is being prepared for a secret mission.  In his left pocket Dixon puts his lucky gold piece and in his right pocket wrapped in cloth he puts his pinky ring and a brooch for Queenie.  Dixon was carrying a pocket watch and  a personal log, diary or ledger. The Watch, the chain and a fob - a small piece of gold attached to the chain - were excavated earlier this year from a block of sediment removed from the sub. Last week, archaeologists excavating the sediment that was block lifted from the submarine discovered  jewelry hidden in the pluff mud that surrounded Dixon's body. The archaeologist discovered  a man's pinky ring with nine diamonds and a decorative fashion accessory like a brooch with 37 diamonds. Both were made of  gold and covered in brilliant diamonds.

      "The ring is ornate, and both sides of the ring are decorated in filigree".

      Dixon, in his 20s, appears to have liked the finery of the South even in the clothing he wore to work in the sub. "This man, George Dixon, was dressed for destiny," Hunley Commission Chairman Glenn McConnell said Wednesday at a news conference announcing the find. "It puts George Dixon in that category of one of the last cavaliers."

               "If that's a female pin, he expected to see her again," McConnell said referring to Queenie Bennett, Dixon's Southern Belle lady.
   The Smithsonian Institution  is researching19th-century jewelry practice to explore the possible origins of the pieces.  We know that the ring is made of gold probably 18 to 24 carat and has nine diamonds - roughly a 1/2 carat with eight small diamonds all of a high quality.
     A local jewelry expert describes the finds as follows;
     "The style is similar to today's ring known in the jewelry industry as a "Kentucky Colonel,"  meaning it is something meant to be flashy and ornate. The ring appears to be of English origin and likely was imported. It's about a size six, which means it's probably a pinky ring - if it is a man's ring. There is also a cut mark in the band, indicating that it was sized to fit.   The ring today would cost more than $1,500 retail, not including its historical value." " The gold brooch, which is about the size of a nickel, has 37 diamonds: one in the middle surrounded by six smaller ones, which are surrounded by 30 smaller diamonds. The brooch is about 2 carats and would cost about $3,000 today"
     A true scientific evaluation has not begun since discovery of the jewelry was just made about November 7, 2002 even though the excavation of the sub' interior has long been finished.
    " Dixon's remains had to be "block-lifted" out of the sub in tight muddy bricks along with about 40 other blocks containing personal items such as clothing and bone matter.  Although work seems to be progressing slowly we hope to be able to bury all eight Hunley crewmen sometime late in 2003."

Mr. Randy Burbage is one of our Hunley Commission members and would be the best contact person about the Funeral arrangements. He can be reached at 1/800/611-2823 or 1130 John Rutledge Avenue, Hanahan, South Carolina 29406-2018.

    "The jewelry pieces were found wrapped between two layers of cloth as if for "safekeeping." They were resting beneath Dixon's right thigh bone, which meant they probably were kept in a jacket or maybe a pants pocket when the sub sailed for the last time",  Archaeologist Maria Jacobsen said.
      The plan is to put the jewelry on display along with the other artifacts that have been removed from the Hunley.  Dixon's $20 Lady Liberty gold coin that stopped a bullet at the Battle of Shiloh and saved his life  went on display last weekend for the first time. Pictures of the jewelry have not been provided the public.

     The hand-propelled "fish boat" became the world's first successful attack sub on the night of Feb. 17, 1864, when it rammed a torpedo black powder charge into the Union Steamer blockade ship  USS Housatonic, about 4 miles from the entrance to Charleston Harbor. The  submarine sank close to the USS Housatonic and was later discovered by Dr. E. Lee Spence in 1970.

The Department of Public Safety is providing elite police officers to guard the Hunley seven days a week at a cost of $110,000 year as more and more access is provided to the public as pressure mounts for the Friends of the Hunley, Inc. to be more forthcoming with information.


----- Original Message -----
From: M F Navin
To: The
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2002 10:05 PM
Subject: Jewelry Theory
Date: November 15, 2002

I am a 10 year old Hunley fan from Bel Air, Maryland. I just read about the jewelry found with Lt. Dixon's belongings. Perhaps this jewelry belonged to his wife. After she died he may have found some of her jewelry. Then he decided to keep it with his gold coin. On that fateful night when he took his crew out he most likely brought the pieces along in case he never returned. That way he would have her with him forever. Melissa N.


-----Original Message-----
From: Charles  [mailto:scv-44inf@]
Sent: Friday, November 08, 2002 7:00 PM
To: The
Subject: Re: Hunley Newsletter # 21
If you don't like Senator McConnell and his belief and desire to preserve our heritage, why don't you run against him in the next general election? then again, who's going to elect a NAACP bigot with views such as yours. Sincerely, a son of many Confederate Veterans
I received this e-mail in response to the articles from the STATE Newspaper that ran in the last newsletter.  Charles, I don't make the news, it makes itself without my help, I just report it. Just for information, I like Glenn McConnell very much, he and I are Fraternity Brothers, went to the College of Charleston together. In fact I was President of the Sophomore Class when he was President of the Student Body.  I am all for preserving our heritage, but not at the cost of hurting or damaging others. It is people like you that give Confederate Veterans a bad name, not all of us are prejudiced, most of us believe in the Freedom of All.   Senator Glenn McConnell is even quoted as saying in the article  "The Hunley's sailors were patriots, fighting for freedom.. Americans in the pursuit of freedom as they perceive it are always willing to put aside the element of fear and answer the call of duty.  That's the story of America." So it is your views that are distorted.  One vote for George.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sam
Sent: Friday, November 08, 2002 10:59 AM
To: The
Subject: Re: Hunley Newsletter # 21

Dear George, You might want to view nov's issue of nat'l geographic in the forum section and read the first letter under the Hunley heading. Some people just don't get it. Sam

From the FORUM - National Geographic November Issue about the Hunley

The article's concluding paragraph really upset me.  General Beauregard was an enemy of the U.S.; his orders ("pay a proper tribute to the gallantry and patriotism" of the Hunley's crew) lay no onus upon us.  The causes of the Civil War were complex and many, but they were bound tightly with a vile and repulsive practice whose legacy still afflicts us terribly.  At least part of what the South was defending was the right to cruelly subjugate one's fellow man and to suppress entirely his rights.  The enormity of the evil of that practice throws over whatever nobler aims or ideals the Confederacy embraced.  The blow struck by the Hunley was a blow against the story of the expanding awareness of human rights and possibilities that is the central narrative of America.  Like all dead, the men of the Hunley deserve respect and compassion, not least because in supporting the cause they did, those men were so badly misled.  But bravery alone does not beget heroes, nor does death in arms alone signify patriots.  The men of the Hunley are neither.  Sanjay Krishnaswamy    Berkeley, California


(Section showing Crews temporary quarters in Mt. Pleasant and the Hunley Submarine Dock at Breach Inlet)

The map based around the Civil War in Charleston Harbor has expanded to include the Stono River area. I have taken the NOAA Chart 11521 and reduced it to a manageable size of 11 x 17. The Latitudes and Longitudes are scaled so that tracking can be accurately done. Each map graphically shows the ships around the harbor and their appropriate location on specified dates. I have plotted the locations of wrecks such as the Blockade runner "Ruby" off Folly Beach. The Housatonic and the Hunley are accurately charted according to records and research that are publicly available.

Using available Naval Records and History, reports, and documents I have been able to discern the locations of such ships as the Canandaigua, the probable course of The Hunley, and the location of various other blockading ships in relation to Hunley the night of February 17, 1864. I have kept the depth gages of the waters around Charleston and have included the locations of the first and second sinking of the Hunley. All the time and research in making this map has been extremely interesting and gives a great perspective of the battles in and around Charleston Harbor from 1861-1865. The Charleston Harbor Map is available threw


Date: 10 Nov 2002


Nice website. People should be cautious and not refer to the Hunley as the first submarine to sink an "enemy" ship. The Housatonic was a U.S. Navy ship so anyone referring it as an "enemy" vessel is in the same boat as Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin. It's more proper to refer to the Hunley as the first submarine to sink a ship or to sink a ship during war. We Southerners should be cautious because if we sling mud, others can sling mud and refer to the attack on Fort Sumter as similar to the attack on the World Trade Center. It's better to remember the war but not to keep fighting it. Those that were bitter moved to Brazil after the war and started a confederate outpost that still remains today for tourists. Sam

Date: 10 Nov 2002


I just watched the raising of the Hunley on National Geographic explorer this evening. It was awesome. I will be looking forward to more info. Joe Harris

Date: 13 Nov 2002


On a recent trip to Freedom, Oklahoma, with a population including rural areas at about 350, discussion of The Hunley was brought up by a relative born and raised in that state. They didn't know that Cussler did not find The Hunley until I related to them about meeting Lee Spence just after Hurricane Hugo. When I asked Mr. Spence what was the most significant ship that he has ever located he told me "The Hunley." My surprise resulted in my doubtfully asking "Where?" kind of like "yeah right." He told me along with some physical details then contrary to history but now confirmed by The Hunley being raised and studied. Remember how they had to cut off the iron spar, that would not of been necessary if they would of listened to Mr. Spence.......Floyd

Date: 13 Nov 2002


As they say, "You All did Good"! jesse27@

Date: 13 Nov 2002


Just came back from Charleston and viewing the Hunley in person was impressive...Love the web site..Keep up the good work. Can't wait to see the movie....

Date: 13 Nov 2002


Make the trip to Charleston and see the Hunley in person...its worth the trip!! Very informative web site..makes you hungry for all the information you can get!!.....AF&CH....Charlotte, N.C.

Date: 14 Nov 2002


Don't forget that these men were traitors to the United States...

Date: 14 Nov 2002


As we were to England.

Date: 15 Nov 2002


I find the information fascinating. Just think these men gave their lives fighting for something they believed in. They were true southern patriots. They fought for our choice to be a country of our own with our own minds and ways of life. Don't get me wrong, I am proud to be a part of the USA and grateful to be southern.

Date: 15 Nov 2002


I have been following the story of the Hunley ever since it was found. My family tree is Boston "yankees" but have a relative buried in Andersonville National Cemetery. History is great. Looking forward to the Hunley visit this November. The men of the Hunley gave their lives for a belief. They are true heroes as are mine.

Date: 16 Nov 2002


I will be traveling shortly to visit the Hunley. Can you recommend a hotel close by.

Date: 17 Nov 2002


Very good site I am a member of Friends of the Hunley. Is there anyway to purchase gifts off of your website? When I was there in Nov. I saw some articles that I would like to purchase as Christmas gifts. wrhunt@

Date: 18 Nov 2002


As I viewed your photographs and read your articles, I was overcome with how much these men gave in service to the Confederacy. What magnificent pioneers they were and their bravery beyond comprehension. I eagerly look forward to your updates. BeverMort@

Date: 19 Nov 2002


great site


Is to provide specialized information to those who are interested in the recovery efforts and history of the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley. It is available free to anyone who might benefit from the information it contains, for example, students and history buffs. Our mailing list will always be kept private and will never be sold.

Feel free to forward this newsletter to any friends or associates

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George W. Penington