"Last Funeral of the Civil War" to Put Hunley Crew to Rest

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
April 16, 2004

They died in an age of horse-drawn simplicity. But the eight Confederate sailors whose remains will be buried Saturday in Charleston, South Carolina, rode to their fates in the H.L. Hunley, a technological marvel that changed the world.

They made history when the Hunley, a Civil War submarine, attached a torpedo to the hull of the U.S.S. Housatonic and detonated it. The Housatonic sank just off of Charleston, and the crew of the Hunley became the first submariners in history to sink an enemy ship. But for some reason, the Hunley also sank to the bottom and didn't come up.

See Hunley-crew facial reconstructions in our photo gallery.

The submarine and the remains of its crew were recovered in August 2000.

Some are calling the somber, elaborate ceremony planned for the crew of the Hunley the last funeral of the Civil War, which ended 139 years ago this month.

Tens of thousands of people from all over the world are assembling in Charleston for the services. The gathering will include author Clive Cussler, who directed the search for the Hunley, and descendants of some of the crewmembers who died on the submarine. Dignitaries from as far away as Australia and England will also attend.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Glenn McConnell, a South Carolina state senator from Charleston who is chairman of the Friends of the Hunley, a committee formed to help preserve and display the historic submarine.

McConnell said funeral officials have issued press credentials to more than 400 reporters from around the world—four times the number issued when the President of the United States visits Charleston.

Funeral Procession

The funeral procession will begin at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and will include about 6,000 reenactors dressed in Civil War uniforms and another 4,000 wearing civilian clothing from the mid-19th century. Color guards from all five branches of the U.S. armed forces—wearing modern uniforms—will also be in the procession.

The Cabbell-Breckinridge Civil War Band from the Virginia Military Institute will play funeral music, and a bagpipe band from the Citadel—South Carolina's state military college—will play a dirge when the procession reaches Magnolia Cemetery.

There, amid the dogwood blossoms and oaks draped with Spanish moss, the Hunley crew will be buried, joining thousands of other Civil War soldiers interred there.

Continued on Next Page >>


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