Submarine Sinks Myths About the Confederacy

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Pride of the South

Perhaps partly driven by a wish for such affirmation of their embattled heritage, Southerners are searching the hardest for sunken Civil War relics. The only college program aimed at locating and raising old wrecks is at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina. Duke University researchers found the Monitor in 1973.

In addition to being more streamlined, the Hunley is also smaller than imagined. The nine crew members were forced to crouch, praying and sweating in the lanternlight, up to 50 feet (15 meters) below the water's surface.

After losing all or parts of two crews, a third set of volunteers, led by Lt. George Dixon, slipped away from their moorings at Sullivans Island and cranked out to the Housatonic. Under fire from above, the Hunley's men were able to stab a torpedo into the ship's plated hull—and detonate it.

After sinking the Union vessel and signaling briefly to comrades, the Hunley was lost. In the sub's belly, senior archaeologist Maria Jacobsen sifted out an object that confirms a historical legend: The buckled coin that had taken a bullet for Lieutenant Dixon two years earlier at the Battle of Shiloh.

But no uncovered amulets have excited Southerners more than the Hunley's graceful and deadly shape. "Dixie has been given a shot of confidence with the raising of the Hunley," says Jerry Baxley, a founder of the nascent Southern Party in Richmond, Virginia. "This boat has laid to rest an awful lot of ugly comments about the South."

Excavation of the Hunley is being supported financially by the National Geographic Society.

Copyright 2001, The Christian Science Monitor

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