Charleston Firsts: America’s 1st Public Golf Course

From the book Charleston Firsts. 

In 1743 David Deas received the first documented shipment of golf equipment to arrive in the American colonies – 432 balls and 96 clubs sent from the Scottish port Leith to Charleston. The sheer number of clubs and balls is intriguing. During this time in Europe most golfers only carried 5-8 clubs with them, so this would have been enough to outfit more than a dozen local players, which would lead to the logical assumption the equipment was for more than just Deas’ use. That would support the idea that there was some sort of organized golfing culture in the lowcountry.

Fifteen years later, Charleston merchant Andrew Johnston returned from trip to Scotland in 1759 with golfing equipment for use on his planation. When he died five years later the inventory of his estate listed “twelve goof [golf] sticks and balls.”


Golfer and caddy, 18th century

On May 28, 1788, an advertisement in the Charleston City Gazette requested that members of the South Carolina Golf Club meet on “Harleston’s Green, this day, the 28th.” After which they adjourned to “Williams’ Coffee House.” Also in 1788 there was an announcement of the formation of the South Carolina Golf Club was also listed in The Southern States Emphemris: The North and South Carolina and Georgia Almanac.

Harleston’s Green was a parcel of undeveloped pastureland on the Charleston peninsula, between Calhoun and Beaufain Streets, stretching from Rutledge Ave to the Ashley River. The Green was often used by locals as a public “pleasure ground” – a park.

In 1795 a newspaper notice announced that “The anniversary of the GOLF CLUB will be held on Saturday next at the Club house on Harleston’s Green.” The last known announcement of a meeting of the South Carolina Golf Club appeared on October 19, 1799.

Some historians suggest that early golf games were played without a set number of holes, no greens and no designated teeing areas. The players dug crude holes in the ground and, since they were not marked, they sent “finders” (in Charleston they were usually slaves) to stand next to the hole to mark its location and to alert others of an approaching shot by hollering “Be forewarned!” After completion of a hole, the player would “tee off at a distance of two club-lengths away from that hole.”

The equipment used by these earlier golfers was rudimentary, to say the least. Wooden clubs were hand-made, some crude and some more refined – many looking like modern day hockey sticks. The golf balls of the 1700s would have been a round piece of cowhide stuffed with goose feathers. Called a “Feathery” they were manufactured while the leather and feathers were wet, so, as the leather shrunk during drying, the feathers expanded to create a hard, compact ball. The Feathery was often painted and sold for as much as 5 shillings – the equivalent of $20 dollars in current currency. At most a Feathery would have lasted two rounds of golf before having to be replaced.

Charleston legend also states, that part of Harleston Green’s membership fee requirement was used to “maintain the Green,” now called “green fees.”

harleston green - 1788 map

Ichnography of Charleston, South-Carolina: at the request of Adam Tunno, Esq., for the use of the Phoenix Fire-Company of London, taken from actual survey, 2d August 1788 / by Edmund Petrie. “Harleston Green” highlight added by the author. Courtesy Library of Congress

Today In Charleston History: July 31

1736 – Religion 

John and Charles Wesley arrived in Charlestown from Savannah where they had been serving as missionaries. Charles was returning to England due to ill health.

wesley brothers

John Wesley; Charles Wesley

1776 – Deaths. Charleston First.

Francis Salvador, part of the Ninety-Six militia, fell in battle against the Cherokee, and an Indian took his scalp. He died “within three-quarters of an hour” at the age of 29. He was the first Jew to die in the cause of America liberty. 

1852 –Crime.Prostitution
11 Fulton Street, commonly called "The Big Brick" by Charleston locals. Owned and operated by the infamous Grace Piexotto.

11 Fulton Street, commonly called “The Big Brick” by Charleston locals. Owned and operated by the infamous Grace Piexotto.

Grace Piexotto, a “mother of crime” appeared before the city council and asked them to pave the lot in front of her brick house (Gentleman’s Club – House of Negotiated Affection – Brothel) at 11 Beresford Street.

Read more about Grace in the book Wicked Charleston, Vol. II: Prostitutes, Politics & Prohibition. 

Grounds of the Expo

Grounds of the Expo

A public auction was held for the Exposition property. Eighty-nine bidders showed up, including “three small boys and one decrepit old negro.” Entire buildings were sold for as little as $7 to $115. Most of the bidders were building contractors who purchased for the materials. In less than a week, most of the buildings were being dismantled and were gone by the end of the year. In an article titled “Going! Going! Gone!” the News and Courier wrote:

So the work of demolition will be prosecuted now with all possible speed. In a few days the beautiful Ivory City will be a heap of lumber and debris and every vestige of its splendor will be blotted from the things that be.

1937-Deaths.Jenkins Orphanage

Rev. Daniel Jenkins’ obituary ran in the News and Courier. In part it read:


Negro Institution Founder Sent Brass Bands to Europe Three Times

The Rev. D.J. Jenkins, founder of the Jenkins Orphanage, whose brass bands have toured the United States and crossed the ocean three times to Europe, died last night after a long illness. He was seventy-four years old.

Jenkins founded the orphanage December 16, 1891, and built it into an institution which has taken care of 5000 Negro boys and girls in the intervening forty-five years.  The orphanage has its main building in Franklin Street, maintains two farms and publishes a newspaper (The Messenger). Boys learn printing, carpentry, shoe making, chair caning and automobile mechanics. Girls are taught to do housework.

In Charleston the orphanage is known best for its bands. There are two now, frequently there have been four, which play at street corners to the energetic directions of a diminutive conductor. These bands have been familiar sights in cities all over the United States, going as far west as Los Angeles. Charlestonians have reported seeking them in many out-of-the-way places. Their silver donations go to the orphanage fund.

In 1914, the Rev. Jenkins took the band to England to represent the negro race at the Anglo-American exposition in London celebrating a century of peace between the nations. The band played before the Queen of England.

The war broke out and Jenkins was able to assist several prominent Charlestonians stranded by the money confusion. They were unable to cash checks but he was paid in gold and loaned money for them to get out of the country.

The Jenkins band marched in the inaugural parade when President Taft was inaugurated and at the St. Louis Exposition. Seventy children in the three groups, now are on the road, playing and singing in Boston, Saratoga (for the races) and New York city.

Jenkins had a flow of language both oral and written calculated to wring the hearts of prospective donors, and he received contributions from some of the most eminent people in the United States. His letters to the newspapers asked alms for his “Little Black Lambs” were powerful pleas that were read by generations of Charlestonians.

Besides being president of the orphan society, Jenkins was pastor of the Fourth Baptist church for forty-six years. 

Today In Charleston History: June 17 … Charleston First.


The boiler of the Best Friend exploded while picking up lumber cars at the “forks in the road”, where Dorchester and State Roads merged, near the Eight Mile House. Engineer Nicholas Darrell wrote:

When I ran the Best Friend, I had a Negro fireman to fire, clean and grease the engine. This Negro, annoyed at the noise occasioned by the blowing off the steam, fastened the valve-lever down and sat upon it which caused the explosion, badly injuring him.

This nameless Negro fireman was killed by his injuries, and was the first fatality on an America railroad. This explosion ended all train service on the C&HRR for a month.

Best Friend of Charleston

Best Friend of Charleston

1862-Civil War    

Mr. Frederick Paturzo finished removing seven of St. Michael’s bells, as well as the bells of St. Philip’s and First Scots. The eighth bell in St. Michael’s remained to be as the Municipal Alarm and became known as “Great Michael.” The bells of St. Philip’s and First Scots were donated to the Confederate cause. The bells of St. Michael’s were ultimately taken to Columbia for safe keeping.

2015 – Emanuel A.M.E. Massacre

At approximately 8 p.m. Dylan Roof entered Emanual A.M.E. Church on Calhoun Street in Charleston, S.C. and was invited to participate in a Bible study with a small group of thirteen people, being conducted by the pastor, Clementa C. Pinckney. When the group began to pray, Roof, pulled out a Glock 41 .45 caliber pistol, and began shooting. 

At 9.05 p.m. the Charleston Police Department began receiving 911 calls of a shooting at the church.  The dead included six women and three men,  Eight died at the scene; the ninth, Daniel Simmons, died at MUSC Medical Center. They were all killed by multiple gunshots fired at close range.

  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54) – Bible study member and manager for the Charleston County Public Library system.
  • Susie Jackson (87) – a Bible study and church choir member.
  • Ethel Lee Lance (70) – the church’s sexton
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49) – a pastor who was also employed as a school administrator.
  • Clementa C. Pinckney (41) – the church’s pastor and a South Carolina state senator.
  • Tywanza Sanders (26) – a Bible study member; grandnephew of Susie Jackson.
  • Daniel Simmons (74) – a pastor who also served at Greater Zion AME Church in Awendaw.
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45) – a pastor; also a speech therapist and track coach at Goose Creek High School; mother of MLB prospect Chris Singleton.
  • Myra Thompson (59) – a Bible study teacher.

The victims were later collectively known as “The Charleston Nine”.

Today In Charleston History: May 31 – Charleston First

On May 31, 1801, the first Supreme Council of the Thirty-third Degree, the Mother Council of the World organized in Charleston, with the motto “Ordo ab Chao” (Order from Chaos). Although it is the “Mother Council” for Scottish Rite, it was not the first Masonic activity in Charles Town.

The first Masonic Lodge in Charles Town was established on October 28, 1736. The South Carolina Gazette announced:

Last night a Lodge of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, was held, for the first time, at Mr. Charles Shepheard’s, in Broad Street, when John Hammerton, Esq., Secretary and Receiver General for this Province, was unanimously chosen Master, who was pleased to appoint Mr. Thomas Denne, Senior Warden, Mr. Tho. Harbin, Junior Warden, and Mr. James Gordon, Secretary.

sheapheard's tavern2

Shepheard’s Tavern, corner of Broad and Church Streets

By 1765 there were four active Lodges in Charlestown, under the jurisdiction of the Provincial Grand Lodge, and through it, the Grand Lodge of England. They were: Solomon’s Lodge, Union Lodge, Master’s Lodge and Marine Lodge.

The Scottish Rite is one of the two branches of Freemasonry in which a Master Mason may proceed after he had completed the three degrees of Blue Lodge Masonry – the other branch being the York Rite, which includes the Royal Arch and Knights Templar. The Scottish Rite included degrees from 4 to 32.

scottish rite

The word “Scottish” has led many to believe the Rite originated in Scotland, which is not true. During the late 1600s many Scots fled to France during the English Civil Wars. The Scots in France who practiced their Masonic interests were referred as “Ecossais,” which translates to “Scottish Master.”

In 1732 the first “Ecossais” or Scottish Lodge was established in Bordeaux, which included Scottish and English members. In 1763, a Masonic patent was given to Stephen Morin to carry their advanced degrees to America. Morin established his degrees in Jamaica.

In 1801, the Supreme Council was established in Charleston to unify competing groups of “Ecossais.” Their membership consisted of eleven Grand Inspectors General:

  • John Mitchell
  • Frederick Dalcho
  • Abraham Alexander
  • Emanuel De La Motta
  • Thomas Bartholomew Bowen
  • Israel De Lieben
  • Issac Auld
  • Le Comte Alexandre Francois
  • Auguste de Grasse
  • Jean Baptiste Marie Delahogue
  • Moses Clava Levy
  • James Moultrie

They announced control of high-degree Masonry in America by introducing a new system that incorporated all 25 of the Order of the Royal Secret, and added eight more, including that of 33 degree – Sovereign Grand Inspector General.

It was a diverse group of men, with only Auld and Moultrie being native-born South Carolinians. Four of the founders were Jews, five were Protestants and two were Catholics. Under the leadership of Grand Commander Albert Pike, in 1859 the Supreme Council expanded its membership to the mystical number of thirty-three members.

Pike also wrote the Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, published by the Supreme Council, Thirty-third Degree, a collection of thirty-two essays which provide a philosophical rationale for the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. The lectures provided a backdrop for each degree with lessons in comparative religion, history and philosophy.


Albert Pike

Pike served as a general for the Confederacy during the War and his writings have influenced Masonic practices for 150 years. He is the only Confederate soldier to have a statue in Washington, D.C., at Judiciary Square.

 From this beginning in Charleston, the Scottish Rite has spread throughout the world. Currently there are approximately 170,000 Scottish Rite Masons, with about 4000 of them attaining the Thirty-third degree. All regular Supreme Councils of the world today descend from the Charleston Lodge.

Today In Charleston History: May 28


Gov. Glen asked London for three companies of British regulars who “would give heart to our … people [and] prove usefull in preventing or suppressing any Insurrections of our Negroes.” Many citizens were growing concerned over the “great numbers of Negroes … playing Dice and other Games.”

1788-First Golf Club

On May 28, 1788, an advertisement in the Charleston City Gazette requested that members of the South Carolina Golf Club meet on “Harleston’s Green, this day, the 28th.” After which they adjourned to “Williams’ Coffee House.” Also in 1788 there was an announcement of the formation of the South Carolina Golf Club was also listed in The Southern States Emphemris: The North and South Carolina and Georgia Almanac. Read the entire story here …    


Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was born at the “Contreras” sugar-cane plantation in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, about 20 miles outside New Orleans.

Rev. Richard Furman

Rev. Richard Furman

Motivated by the Denmark Vesey rebellion, Rev. Dr. Richard Furman of Charleston’s First Baptist Church published his “Exposition of the Views of the Baptists Relative to the Coloured Population in the United States” – a biblical defense of slavery that southerners would use to defend slavery until the 13th US constitutional amendment (1865) finally put an end to slavery in the United States. In the “Exposition” Furman claimed that:

the holding of slaves is justifiable by the doctrine and example contained in Holy writ; and is; therefore consistent with Christian uprightness, both in sentiment and conduct … That slavery, when tempered with humanity and justice, is a state of tolerable happiness; equal, if not superior, to that which many poor enjoy in countries reputed free. That a master has a scriptural right to govern his slaves so as to keep it in subjection; to demand and receive from them a reasonable service; and to correct them for the neglect of duty, for their vices and transgressions; but that to impose on them unreasonable, rigorous services, or to inflict on them cruel punishment, he has neither a scriptural nor a moral right. At the same time it must be remembered, that, while he is receiving from them their uniform and best services, he is required by the Divine Law, to afford them protection, and such necessaries and conveniencies of life as are proper to their condition as servants … That it is the positive duty of servants to reverence their master, to be obedient, industrious, faithful to him, and careful of his interests; and without being so, they can neither be the faithful servants of God, nor be held as regular members of the Christian Church. 


Robert Smalls met Abraham Lincoln and gave the President his personal account of the events of his escape to freedom.  

Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls

Today In History: May 1 – Charleston First – First Memorial Day

A number of towns around the nation claim holding the first Memorial Day. The distinction generally goes to the town of Waterloo New York. Not so fast.

On May 1, 1865, more than 10,000 people gathered for a parade, to hear speeches and dedicate the graves of Union dead in what is now Hampton Park in Charleston. The group consisted of several thousand black freedmen, northern missionaries and teachers who had arrived in Charleston to teach in freedmen schools post-War.

memorial day - club house

Club House of the Planters Race Course where Union soldiers were imprisoned.

Hampton Park was originally the Planters Race Course and, during the final months of the Civil War, it was a hellish open-air Confederate prison. A total of 257 Union troops died at the camp, some of whom had been transferred from the infamously horrific Andersonville in Georgia before it was liberated.

The dead were originally buried in an unmarked, hastily-dug mass grave by the Confederates. After the war in April 1865, twenty-eight members of local black churches buried the soldiers in individual graves at the site of the camp. They built a fence around the cemetery and an arch over the entrance which read “The Martyrs of the Race Course.”

On May Day, 1865 the large assembly marched to the burial site. Nearly everyone brought flowers to place on the burial field. A New York Tribune correspondent witnessed the event, described as “a procession of friends and mourners as South Carolina and the United States never saw before.”

David Blight, a history professor at Yale, wrote about the event:

The symbolic power of the low-country planter aristocracy’s horse track (where they had displayed their wealth, leisure, and influence) was not lost on the freed people.

The procession began at 9:00 a.m., led by 3000 black children carrying roses and singing “John Brown’s Body.” They were followed by several hundred black women with baskets of flowers and crosses. Black men marched in cadence next, followed Union soldiers which included the famous 54th Massachusetts (made famous in the movie Glory) and the 34th and 104th U.S. Colored Troops. 

Inside the cemetery a children’s choir sang several spirituals, “We’ll Rally Around the Flag” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” Several black ministers read from Bible scriptures. After the service, the crowd gathered for a picnic, watched the soldiers drill and listened to speeches.

Burial site of soldiers on the race course.

Burial site of soldiers on the race course.

They called it Decoration Day, an annual ritual of remembrance. David Blight wrote:

This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.

In 1876 former confederate general Wade Hampton declared that it was time for white Southerners to “dedicate themselves to the redemption of the South.” Hampton was elected South Carolina governor that year in one of the most volatile elections in the state’s history, filled with riots, murders, intimidations and blatant voter fraud.

Hampton, running on his white-supremacy program, narrowly defeated Republican governor Daniel Chamberlain, despite the presence of Federal troops under General William T. Sherman in an attempt to stop violent mob action at the polls. On election night, the voter count in Laurens and Edgefield counties exceeded the total population – with most of the votes going to Hampton and the Democrats.


Gen. Wade Hampton

Hampton won the election by less than 1200 votes and each side claimed victory, accusing the other of fraud. To make matters worse, the Democrats won control of the South Carolina House and the Republicans won the Senate. Both parties moved into the State House and refused to leave, sleeping on the floor of their chambers and attempting to conduct legislative business. Outside, supporters of each side gathered as police and militia tried to keep the crowds from turning into mobs

After the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Republicans Chamberlain, with the support of Federal troops, was inaugurated as the governor on December 6, 1876. Hampton claimed that “the people of South Carolina have elected me Governor, and by the Eternal God, I will be the Governor!”

For the next four months South Carolina had rival houses and governors, each claiming to be the legitimate government. White citizens refused to pay their taxes to the Republican administration, but voluntarily contributed 10 percent of their money to the Democrat government. If a state agency wanted money to operate, they had to ask Hampton for funds. Soon there were defections from the Republican administration and Chamberlain’s power base faltered.

When Rutherford B. Hayes was inaugurated as the President of the United States both governors appeared before him. Hayes announced that “the whole army of United States would be inadequate to enforce the authority of Governor Chamberlain.” He ordered the evacuation of the Federal troops from South Carolina and in the first week of April 1877, Chamberlain and the Republicans vacated their offices.

Despite the chaos, the election accomplished Hampton’s goal; it wrenched control from post-War Republicans, many from the North, and back into the hands of the white Democrats. They began to institute a series of laws and reforms which removed tens of thousands of blacks from voter’s rolls. They also established a Confederate Memorial Day designed to help smother the memory of the annual Decoration Day for fallen Union soldiers.

David Blight wrote about the loss of Decoration Day:

As the Lost Cause tradition set in — the Confederate version of the meaning and memory of the war — no one in white Charleston or the state was interested in remembering the war through this event. 

hampton park locBy this time the race course cemetery was suffering from neglect, and the soldiers were reinterred at the Beaufort and Florence National Cemeteries. In 1902 the site of the race course and former cemetery became part of the fair grounds for the South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition. At the conclusion of the Expo, the city of Charleston acquired the land for a park, which they ironically named in honor of General (and governor) Wade Hampton.

Through the years Memorial Day was generally celebrated May 30. Beginning in 1971, the federal holiday was designated as the last Monday in May.

memorial day marker

Marker honoring the first Memorial Day and Union cemetery.

Today In Charleston History: April 13 – Charleston First

1832 – Passenger Train Wreck – Charleston First

The first passenger train wreck in the United States occurred on the C&HRR. Pulled by the West Point, the axle of the lead car snapped and was destroyed, tossing passengers out of the open car into a “low swampy place filled with mud and water.” Five of the passengers were seriously injured, but recovered.

west point

Today In Charleston History: February 18 – Charleston Firsts

1735 – Charleston Firsts

The first public presentation of an opera in the colonies is performed at Broad and Church – Shepherd’s Tavern. The opera was titled Flora or Hob In The Well.  Local musicians provided the musical accompaniment on organ and fiddle.

1820 – Execution

 John and Lavinia Fisher were executed. Contrary to what everyone seems to believe (due to lazy tour guides and myth-perpetuating web pages)  they were NOT convicted of murder. Their crime was highway robbery. And also contrary to what everyone seems to believe, she was NOT hanged in her wedding dress. Also, contrary to what everyone seems to believe, she was NOT the first female serial killer. Enough said, let’s move on. 

For more accurate info, refer to my book, Wicked Charleston: The Dark Side of the Holy City (pg. 77-84), or James Caskey’s Charleston Ghosts: Hauntings in the Holy City, (pg. 37-44) or Six Miles From Charleston by Bruce Orr.  


James Petigru’s wife, Adele, attempted suicide by chloroform.

1865 – Civil War

Early in the morning, the Northeastern Railroad Depot accidently blew up, killing and wounding hundreds of evacuating civilians.The Confederates had stored a large quantity of gunpowder there prior to abandoning the city. Children playing with a candle ignited the powder, and over 150 people died in the explosion. Fires started by the rain of flaming debris destroyed more buildings.

railroad depot

Ruins of the depot

Later that morning Union Lt. Col. Augustus Bennett landed at Mills Wharf (East Bay and Broad Streets) with a small party of twenty-two men. They raised a regimental flag over the post office (Old Exchange Building) – the first U.S. flag to fly over Charleston since 1860 on the same pole on which the first secession flag was raised on December 1860.

At 10 o’clock, Bennett’s troops were supplemented by the Fifty-second Pennsylvania and the Third Rhode Island artillery. They moved through the city and established headquarters at the Citadel building on Marion Square. He immediately dispatched troops “with instructions to impress negroes whereever found and to make them work the fire apparatus until all fires were extinguished.”

Bennett secured the arsenal and guarded the largest stores of cotton, tobacco, rice and other foodstuffs in the city.  Later that day Gen. Gillmore wired Army chief of staff Halleck in Washington, D.C.:

The city of Charleston and its defenses came into our possession this morning, with over 200 pieces of good artillery and a supply of fine ammunition. The enemy commenced evacuating all the works last night, and Mayor MacBeth surrendered the city to the troops of Gen. Schimmelfenneg at 9 o’clock this morning, at which time it was occupied by our forces … Nearly all the inhabitants remaining in the city belong to the poorer classes.

Today In Charleston History: February 17 – Charleston Firsts

At 8:45 p.m. on February 17, 1864, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley attacked and sank the USS Housatonic just outside Charleston harbor. It was the first successful military submarine attack in history. Unfortunately, the Hunley never returned from its mission. Her crew of eight were all lost.

The story of the Hunley is one of most amazing episodes in American history, spanning over 150 years from her construction, tragic test runs, historic mission and her amazing discovery and recovery at the turn of the 21st century. It’s the type of story that creates legends.  


Horace L. Hunley was a wealthy, prominent lawyer and planter, who served in the Louisiana State legislature. Southern patriotism inspired him to support the Confederate War effort and he poured much of his personal wealth into the cause. In June 1861 he led a blockade-running mission to Cuba for munitions and arms for the Southern cause.

Then he met an ingenious young engineer named James McClintock. As a youth McClintock joined the crew of a Mississippi river boat and by the time of the Civil War he was known as “the youngest steamboat captain on the river.” He also developed his skills as an engineer and inventor. When he found himself stuck in New Orleans due to the War, he started a business constructing steam gauges in a machine shop just off the French Quarter.

By the fall of 1861 Hunley and McClintock decided to attempt the construction of a “fish-boat,” a submersible boat that might help combat the superior power of the Union Navy. With Hunley and other southern patriots bankrolling the effort, McClintock used an old iron boiler – 34 feet long, 4 feet wide and 4 feet tall – to construct the hull. A crew of three would sit inside the boat, two facing each other while cranking a screw propeller and the third would stand in a conning tower to steer with ropes attached to a rudder and simple diving fins that moved up and down. The boat would tug a mine with a contact trigger at the end of a long rope. The named it Pioneer.

They tested the Pioneer on Lake Pontchartrain. It was slow, making 2 knots, nowhere close to the speed needed if they were going to attack much faster Union vessels. There was also no way to transport the 4-ton boat over land. Despite its severe limitations, the Confederate government, intrigued by the possibilities, issued a privateering license to Hunley and McClintock. 

When New Orleans surrendered to the Union in May 1862, the fate of Pioneer was sealed. They sank the boat in a deep channel and fled to Mobile, Alabama where they walked into the machine shop of Thomas Park and Thomas Lyons, who were making weapons for the Confederacy. As Hunley and McClintock explained their plans to construct a second, improved “fish-boat”, a young man working in the shop immediately became interested, and excited – George E.  Dixon.

Dixon was a recently promoted second lieutenant in the Confederate Army. His mechanical talents, and injuries sustained on the battlefield, had landed him a job at the machine shop. In a story of unbelievable luck, and which would take on mythic proportions in later years, Dixon had been shot in the thigh during the battle of Shiloh. The bullet, however, had hit a $20 gold coin in Dixon’s pants pocket. Instead of blowing off his leg, it merely wounded him to the point where he walked with a limp the rest of his life.  

The fortuitous coin was a gift from Dixon’s girlfriend, Queenie Bennett. She gave it to him the day he left with the Twenty-first Alabama on their way to Tennessee. On April 6, 1862, during the battle of Shiloh, under the command of General Beauregard, the bullet impacted Dixon’s thigh with such force he felt as if his leg was on fire. When he awoke he realized his amazing stroke of luck – the coin had taken the impact, placing a permanent dent in the gold piece. It had saved his leg, and his life. From that day forward, Dixon was never without the coin. He grew into the habit of rubbing it with his fingers, his personal good luck charm. He actually had the coin inscribed: “Shiloh, April 6, 1862. My life preserver. G.E.D.”

During the summer of 1862, the men worked on the construction of the new boat, which was named American Diver. With the ever cautious McClintock in charge, the Diver performed well during trial runs in Mobile Bay, with Dixon as part of the test crew. However, their attempt to attack and sink a Union ship failed. As the Diver was being towed to its destination near Sand Island, a violent storm suddenly appeared and Hunley, McClintock and the crew watched the Diver sink in the waters of Mobile Bay.

Determined that their concept was sound, McClintock and Hunley immediately began designing a third boat. Using their past experience, and failures, the new boat was engineered with a much improved design.

The main hull was a railroad boiler – four feet wide and twenty-five feet long – cut in half lengthwise and then two 12-inch iron strips were added on either side. They also added two tapered iron plates fore and aft which enabled the boat to move more easily through the water. A hand crank was installed for propulsion, and a tiller similar to the previous models. To increase its speed, the boat was designed for seven people to man the cranks.

Tanks at each end of the vessel could be opened manually and flooded to allow the boat to submerge. Hand-operated pumps could be used to expel water to allow her to surface. The finished boat was 60 inches wide, about thirty feet long, and five feet tall. They christened it the H.L. Hunley.

The South had already constructed a small fleet of semi-submersible torpedo boats called “Davids” which sat very low in the water and attacked Union ships with varying success.

The David was built from a design by St. Julien Ravenel of Charleston as a private venture. The operation of a semi-submersible was simple: water was taken into ballast tanks so that it would ride low in the water making it difficult to see. At night it would appear to be nothing more than a piece of floating debris. Eventually more than twenty torpedo boats were constructed. The boats carried an explosive charge of 134 pounds gunpowder at the end of a spar that projected forward from the bow.


CSS David – one of the semi-submersible torpedo boats utilized by the Confederacy. Pictured here run abandoned in Charleston.  Courtesy Library of Congress

By this time, Gen. Beauregard was back in command of Charleston’s forces and was attempting to clear the city of the Union naval blockade using the Davids. Beauregard was desperate. Charleston had been strangled by the blockade for almost two year by more than a dozen Federal ships. The city – indeed the entire South – was feeling the economic pinch. There was virtually no foreign trade and the Confederacy realized no matter how many battles Rebel soldiers won, on the economic front, the South was losing badly.

Charleston, in particular, was a passionate target, not only for Union forces, but for the civilian population in the North. As the main aggressor for secession and firing the first shot of the War, hatred toward Charleston was fierce. They wanted Charleston to suffer severe punishment.

The Hunley was ordered to Charleston to assist in the defense of Charleston. She was cut in half, loaded on railcars and camouflaged for the overland journey, with scaffolding build over it to hide its shape and covered.  Dixon, however, was left behind in Mobile. A new crew would be assembled in Charleston to operate the boat, with McClintock in charge of training them.


The Hunley arrived on August 12, 1863. McClintock was offered $100,000 ($1.6. million in current currency) to sink either the New Ironsides or the Wabash, two of the Federal ships in the blockade. With a crew of volunteers, the McClintock conducted a week of safe tests in the harbor between Ft. Johnson and Fort Moultrie, away from the eyes of the Federal blockade. Beauregard quickly became frustrated by McClintock’s caution. He asked that a Confederate Navy man sail on the submarine. When McClintock refused, Beauregard ordered the submarine seized by the Confederate Navy and a crew of volunteers take over its operation.

McClintock was so disgusted he left Charleston.


Sketch of the Hunley at the direction of William Alexander, depicting the interior design, for his 1902 article, “Hunley.” Courtesy Naval Historical Center

On August 29, a crew of eight Confederal Navy volunteers, commanded by Lt. John A. Payne, boarded the Hunley. As they let were releasing the lines the Confederate ship, Etiwan, came steaming by. The wake from the rebel ship washed over the Hunley and water poured through its open hatches. Four crew members, including Payne, escaped but the other five drowned inside the submerged vessel.

Three days later Beauregard gave orders to “adopt immediate measures to have it raised at once.”


Horace Hunley arrived in Charleston that day and was stunned to discover that for the third time in two years, his submarine had sunk. When he discovered the particulars of the accident he was enraged. He blamed the accident on government ineptitude. He wrote a curt note to Beauregard:

Sir – I am part owner of the torpedo boat the Hunley. I have been interested in building this description of boat since the beginning of the war … I feel therefore, a deep interest in its success. I propose if you will place the boat in my hands to furnish a crew (in whole or in part) from Mobile who are well acquainted with tis management and make the attempt to destroy a vessel of the enemy as early as practicable.

    Very respectfully, Your Obedient Servant,

H.L. Hunley

Within a week, Hunley was in charge of his boat which had been salvaged from 42-feet of water in Charleston harbor. The first order of business was the removal of the bodies of the five drowned crew members. Their bodies were so bloated they had to be chopped into pieces to be removed. It was horrific and grisly work. They spent more days with soap and brushes cleaning the inside of the boat, removing the silt, mud and stench of decaying flesh. Many of the soldiers began to call Hunley the “iron coffin.”

Hunley telegraphed the machine shop in Mobile, asking that they send workers familiar with the boat to Charleston. Within a few days, six men from Mobile arrived. Much to his dismay, George Dixon was not one the men chosen. For more than a month, Hunley drilled the crew in the operation of the submarine, until the operation of the vessel was smooth.  

On October 15, 1863, Horace Hunley and seven crew members boarded the submarine at Adgers Wharf. There was a small crowd assembled on the dock to watch a demonstration of the Hunley’s capabilities, a dress rehearsal for an actual attack. They were to take the submarine out into the harbor, submerge beneath the Confederate ship Indian Chief and surface on the other side.

The crowd watched the Hunley cruise away from the dock, submerge and … it never came back up. The next day, the Charleston Daily Courier posted this notice:

Melancholy Occurrence – On Thursday morning an accident occurred to a small boat in Cooper River, containing eight persons, all of whom drowned.

When word reached the machine shop in Mobile, all the men were shocked. The lives of George Dixon and William Alexander, two of the original test crew, had been saved by the luck of not being chosen to go to Charleston. However, they knew the boat would be raised for the recovery of the bodies, and they were both confident that the Hunley could be used successfully. They left for Charleston the next day.

Beauregard ordered that the submarine be raised and then grounded. It had killed thirteen Confederate men, and not a single Yankee. “It is more dangerous to those who use it than the enemy” he said.

Due to weather conditions in Charleston harbor, it took more than a month for the recovery to take place. It was 60-feet below the surface, nose buried in silt. On Saturday, November 7, several divers, including Angus Smith who had lifted the Hunley the first time, managed to wrap enough chains around the vessel to raise it to the surface. When the Hunley was finally on the dock at Mt. Pleasant, Dixon and Alexander were present for the grim task of removing the eight corpses.

Beauregard wrote, “It was indescribably ghastly. The unfortunate men were contorted into all kinds of horrible attitudes.”


Dixon and Alexander, however, were not ready to give up on the submarine. They managed to set up a meeting with Beauregard who was living at 192 Ashley Avenue. Dixon had served under Beauregard at Shiloh and the general knew Dixon to be a serious and resolute soldier. They convinced the general that ignoring the vessel would be a waste. Dixon pointed out that the Hunley sank this time because the crew forgot to shut off the ballast-tank valves. The latest accident was just that … there was nothing wrong with the submarine itself, as long as it was operated correctly.

Dixon told Beauregard that with him in command, Alexander as his first officer and a crew of their choosing, the Hunley could, and would, sink a Union ship. Beauregard gave Dixon and Alexander permission to prepare the boat and raise a crew – but only of volunteers.

It took more than a month to get the submarine ready. Like before, the bloated bodies were removed in pieces, and the interior of the vessel was cleaned with twenty-one pounds of soap and lime. All the hatches were left open for several days in an attempt air out the stench. 

Dixon and Alexander were able to acquire most of the new crew from the Indian Chief, the ship in Charleston harbor the Hunley was attempting to submerge beneath when it sank. They explained how dangerous the mission was going to be … that it would involve twelve hour days of hard labor in a claustrophobic environment, often pitch dark black, in cold, wet, cramped conditions with stale air. He only wanted men willing to work in that environment.

Dixon and Anderson supervised the refitting of the Hunley. One of the main alterations, at Beauregard’s order, was to replace the tugged mine with a mounted spar that had an explosive at the end. They also moved the submarine to the northern end of Sullivan’s Island, at Battery Marshall, across from Breach Inlet on Long Island (present-day Isle of Palms.) This took the boat away from prying eyes in the Charleston harbor during their nighttime training sessions. More importantly, it was also closer to the open ocean which made for easier access to the Federal blockading fleet.

CSS H.L. HunleyR.G. SkerrettPen and ink drawing with wash, 190245-125-P

A 1902 sepia-wash drawing of Conrad Wise Chapman’s painting of the Hunley, by R.G. Skerrett. Courtesy Naval Historical Center.

During one of their training missions they wanted to test the limits of how long they could sit on the bottom without refreshing their air. Dixon’s theory was, if they successfully attacked a surface ship, they may need stay submerged for safety and waiting for a tide. They estimated half an hour was the limit.

They flooded the ballast tanks and the Hunley settled on the bottom and the crew sat in silence. Dixon, no doubt, sat silently at the controls, rubbing the warp in the gold coin in his pocket where the Yankee bullet had struck. The only illumination inside the submarine was a flickering candle, which snuffed itself out half an hour later. So the men sat in darkness – with time seemingly standing still – until all of them were light-headed from lack of oxygen. They then began to pump furiously and the bow of the submarine started to rise. However, the stern remained on the bottom.

In the pure darkness, working only by feel and his intimate familiarity with the machinery, Alexander discovered seaweed blocking the valve. He managed to clear the obstruction, pump out the tanks and the Hunley bobbed to the surface. Dixon and Alexander threw open the hatches and the men gasped the fresh sea air.

They had been on the bottom two and a half hours.

The experience convinced the crew to make a decision – if the boat ever became stuck beneath the surface, they would flood the vessel and drown themselves. They preferred the quick death of drowning to the long panicked agony of suffocation.

At the beginning of February, William Alexander was ordered back to Mobile by Gen. Beauregard to help build a rapid-fire repeating gun for the Confederacy. At this point in the War, the Confederacy needed any weapons that could be built.

On a cold, clear night, February 17, 1864, after two months of training the new crew, the Hunley left the wharf at Battery Marshall. After the tide turned, she silently sailed out of Breach Inlet, into the Atlantic Ocean and history. She headed for the Federal blockade, four miles off shore. Dixon was most likely dismayed that it was such a clear night – the Hunley would more easily visible as it approached her target, before she dove. 

The plan was simple: after the Hunley had accomplished her mission, she would surface and flash a blue phosphorus lamp. At that signal, the troops on lookout on Sullivan’s Island would light a bonfire on the beach to guide her home.

The USS Housatonic was a 1240-ton screw sloop-of-war launched on November 20, 1861. Eighty-five feet wide, 205 feet long with a beam of thirty-eight feet, the Housatonic, with a crew of 155 men, arrived in Charleston on September 11, 1862 as part of the Federal naval blockade and took a position off the bar.

When the Union authorities had first learned of the existence of the Hunley, and the Davids – and the real possibility of an underwater attack – Admiral John A. Dahlgren wasted no time in laying out defensive plans. He ordered that the ships change anchorage regularly, and keep guns trained on the water at all time. He also advised them:

… not to anchor in the deepest part of the channel, for by not leaving much space between the bottom of the vessel and the bottom of the channel it will be impossible for the diving torpedo to operate except on the side, and there will be less difficult in raising a vessel if sunk.

It would soon prove to be a prescient order.


USS Housatonic – first ship to be sunk by a submarine attack. Courtesy Library of Congress

At 8:40 p.m. Robert F. Flemming, a black sailor, saw something usual floating in the moonlit water, about 400 feet away. He reported the sighting to an officer, who, after looking told him, “It’s a log.”

Flemming responded, “It’s not floating with the tide, like a log would, it’s moving across the tide.”

At 8:45 p.m. John Crosby, the Housatonic’s acting master, also saw something in the water glint off the moonlight “like a porpoise coming to the surface to blow.” It was about 100 yards off the starboard beam. When he looked again, it was gone. He called out an order to “slip the chain, back the engine.”

A moment later an explosion rocked the warship – ninety pounds of gunpowder. Water rushed into the engine room, crashing timbers and metal, and the ship lurched to port and continued to list. Most of the men were asleep in their bunks and dozens of them were tossed into the ocean as an entire section of the ship disappeared. 

Sailors on deck fired rifles into the water, and soon found themselves standing in water – the ship was sinking. Many of the crew manned lifeboats and began to pick up their mates out of the frigid Atlantic water. Others simply climbed the ship’s rigging to safety.

Within an hour of the explosion the Housatonic was sitting on the bottom, in 25-feet of water, meaning more than ten feet of the ship was above the waterline. Out of a crew of 155 there were only five fatalities.

Robert F. Flemming, the black sailor who first sited the “log,” was hanging from the ship’s rigging, waiting to be rescued. Off the starboard bow he saw a blue light shine for a moment. Then, it was gone. But he saw it.

On the beach at Sullivan’s Island, after the blue light signaled, the soldiers lit the bonfire and kept it burning until dawn, but the Hunley never returned.

The following day, Lt. Colonel O.M. Dantzler sent Beauregard a brief note:

I have the honor to report that the torpedo-boat stationed at this point went out on the night of the 17th instant (Wednesday) and has not returned. The signals agreed upon to be given in case the boat wished a light to be exposed at this post as a guide for its return were observed and answered.

Over the next few days the story of the attack was pieced together.  Beauregard sent a telegram to the Confederate command in Richmond:

A gunboat sunken off Battery Marshall. Supposed to have been done by Mobile torpedo boat, under Lieutenant George E. Dixon, Company E, Twenty-first Alabama Volunteers, which went out for that purpose, and which I regret to say has not been heard of since … There is little hope of the safety of that brave man and his associates, however, as they were not captured.

The news of the successful attack was greeted with excitement across the South, positive that was greatly needed for the southern psyche. On February 29, the Charleston Daily Courier reported:

The glorious success of our little torpedo-boat, under the command of Lieutenant Dixon, of Mobile, has raised the hopes of our people, and the most sanguine expectations are now entertained of our being able to raise the siege in a way little dreamed of by the enemy. 

The excitement was short-lived. On the first anniversary of the Hunley’s attack, February 17, 1865, Federal troops marched into Charleston. At the same time 150 miles to the north, Columbia, the state’s capital city, surrendered to Sherman’s troops after being burned. For South Carolina, the War was over, but the story of the Hunley had another 140 years to reach a conclusion.


As the years passed, and countless histories of the War were written, through the mist of memory the Hunley became little more than a footnote, a factoid. In 1870 Jules Verne wrote a fantastic story, Twenty Leagues Under the Sea, about the adventures of a submarine, the Nautilus.

Verne was obviously well aware of the American Civil War. European newspapers covered the war in full, and often sensational, detail. In 1865 Verne published a short story “The Blockade Runners,” in which a Scottish merchant captain uses a ship named Dolphin to break the Union blockade of Charleston harbor.

In 1872-73, the former Confederate diver, Angus Smith, who lived on Sullivan’s Island, was given a contract to remove old wrecks from the channel. Smith was a member of the dive team which had raised the Hunley both times they sank in Charleston harbor. He was very familiar with the boat.

A couple of years later Smith responded to a request for his memories about the torpedo boat from former General P.G.T. Beauregard, who was putting papers together about the War. Smith claimed to have attempted a salvage of the Hunley. He wrote to Beauregard:

I went to work to save the torpedo boat, and I got on top of her, and found out the cause of her sinking. The boat is outside or alongside the Housatonic. She can lifted any time our people wish … she can be saved and my opinion is she is as good as the day she was sunk.

In all likelihood, that was the last sighting of the Hunley for more than 100 years.

battery marshall marker

Marker on Sullivan’s Island, with Breach Inlet in the background. Photo by author.

Sometime in the late 1870s P.T. Barnum, master showman and businessman, offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who could salvage the Hunley for his traveling show of oddities. The staggering amount of money sparked off a round of searches and explorations that yielded nothing.

About the same time, the government began the construction of the stone jetties off the coast of Sullivan’s Island – four-mile long groins designed to alter the flow of sand from filling the main channel into Charleston harbor. Not only did the altered sand flow change the contour of Sullivan’s Island, and erode most of Morris Island, it also slowly, but inevitably buried the Hunley deeper.

In 1970, a Charleston-based professional diver, Edward Lee Spence dove off the side of a fishing boat in 27-feet of water, in an attempt to free the line of a fish trap for his friend. Spence, a Civil War naval history expert, was intimately familiar with the thousands of wrecks up and down the Charleston coast. As he went over into the cold November water, he also knew he was close to the site of the Housatonic.

Along the bottom he found where the line was snagged on something that resembled a ledge. Upon closer examination it was solid, a black iron tube, about twenty-feet long, with the rest of it buried beneath the sand. With a flash, he realized what he was touching.

A moment later Spence surfaced and he screamed out to his friends on the boat, “The Hunley! I’ve found the Hunley!” He tossed a buoy, and for claim purposes, he drew a crude map in an effort to mark the location. For next twenty years, Spence crusaded everyone who would listen about his discovery. Problem was, he could never find it again, he had no proof and he refused to release its location, for looting purposes.

In 1994, two groups combined forces in an effort to find the Hunley. The South Carolina Institute of Archeology and Anthro-pology (SCIAA) issued all permits for anything excavated from South Carolina waters. Employee Mark Newell, was an experienced diver and Civil War buff. His days off were often spent diving off the Charleston coast, mostly around the Housatonic site, looking for the Hunley. He agreed to a joint venture with a non-profit business, NUMA – National Underwater and Marine Agency, operated by best-selling novelist, Clive Cussler. It was a bit of real life following fiction.  

Cussler’s fictional character, Dirk Pitt, is kind of a maritime James Bond. Pitt, who works for an organization called NUMA, first appeared in the 1973 novel The Mediterranean Caper. However, it was the third Pitt novel, Raise The Titanic which vaulted Cussler to mega-selling status, making him a wealthy man with more than 40 million books sold.

This wealth made it possible for Cussler to establish a real-life version of NUMA in an effort to search for lost maritime treasures across the world. They had great success, discovering more than sixty vessels. Cussler, however, vowed that before he died, he would find the Hunley.

Unfortunately, the joint NUMA/SCIAA mission was unsuccessful; it was marked with animosity and ended with no love-lost between the two groups. However, the NUMA team continued to search. Financed by Cussler, Ralph Wilbanks, Wes Hall and Harry Pecorilli continued to search for the Hunley. Periodically Cussler would fax them a new chart with search locations marked on them, but after a dozen or so dives, their confidence was lagging. Cussler kept telling them “the damn things are never where they’re supposed to be.”

On May 3, 1995, Hall and Pecorilli dove a site they had mapped and explored earlier. During the previous dive, the floor had been covered by a bed of oyster shells, but this time, it was clear. Pecorilli began his exploration, poking his stainless steel probe into the sand when he made contact with a solid object. Using the vacuum hose he cleared an area three-feet wide while Hall explored the surface of the metal with his hand. Suddenly he grabbed Pecorilli’s arm and began to gesture. The two men surfaced a few minutes later next to the dive boat. Wilbanks, on board, looked down at them in the water. Hill said, “It’s the Hunley.”

A week later, May 11, Clive Cussler met with the media in front of the iron replica of the Hunley outside the Charleston museum. He played a videotape the divers had made of their discovery. When asked for the coordinates he refused. Only the rightful owners, whoever that was determined to be, will be shown its location, he said. He remarked:

I didn’t spend fifteen years looking for it only to have it broken up by amateurs. Until I see a comprehensive plan put together by qualified people, they won’t get any cooperation from me.

Within days, South Carolina was in another skirmish against the United States government – over the ownership of the Hunley. Under the rules of war, the United States government owned all Confederate vessels. So technically, it was owned by the Navy and the General Services Administration would make the decision.

 State Senator Glenn McConnell, from Charleston, rushed a resolution through the legislature asking Congress to give South Carolina title to the vessel. Congressman Mark Sanford, also from Charleston, quickly registered a bill to that effect in Congress, followed almost immediately by Alabama. Both southern states had good claims to the rights of the Hunley – constructed in one state, and seeing action and lost in the other. They were also both fearful that the Smithsonian Institute would use its formidable power and claim the Hunley for their collection.

South Carolina then fire a shot across the bow of the U.S. government’s claims. McConnell, who at this time was chairman of the hastily formed Hunley Commission, claimed that the U.S. government had no claim, since the Hunley was never a Confederate vessel – it was a privateer, designed and built with private money. Lawyers produced papers from Horace Hunley’s business concerns in Mobile that proved McConnell’s supposition.  The lawyers argued that, according to South Carolina state law, for any private property abandoned for more than a year and a day, rights were forfeited.

They also argued that the Federal jurisdiction only extended three miles into the ocean. Since the Hunley was almost four miles from shore, she was out of the jurisdiction of the Federal government.

Finally, an agreement was worked out: The U.S. government kept title to the Hunley, and the submarine would stay in Charleston. The SCIAA, National Park Service and the Naval Historical Center were to be involved in the recovery of the submarine and Hunley Commission was appointed to direct and manage the display of the vessel.

Cussler gave up his coordinate numbers and within the year, a platoon of divers/ archeologists from all the agencies verified the claim – it was the Hunley.   

Five years later, August 8, 2000, the H.L. Hunley broke the surface of the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in 136 years. With a crowd of hundreds of boats dotting the surface, carrying thousands of on-lookers, the raising of the Hunley was broadcast to the world.

Thousands of people in Charleston, from all across the South, ditched work and found some location to watch the historic event.  Hanging from her secure sling, the Hunley, and a flotilla of hundreds of boats, sailed into Charleston harbor, past Fort Sumter, past Castle Pinkney, and up the Cooper River. More than 20,000 people lined Charleston’s Battery sea wall, beaches, parks and marinas to watch the submarine’s procession.

As the parade approached the USS Yorktown, a World War II aircraft carrier that is a permanent museum on the Cooper River, a regiment of Confederate reenactors fired a twenty-one gun salute from the deck. A lamp on the carrier was lit with a blue light, signaling “Mission Accomplished,” one-hundred and thirty-six years later. 


The H.L. Hunley breaks the surface for the first time in 136 years, August 8, 2000. Courtesy Naval Historical Center

The submarine was placed in a deep water tank at the Charleston Navy base. The next step was her conservation and her excavation.

In March 2001, chief archeologist Maria Jacobson was the first person to fully enter the submarine. As she cleared away the thick muddy sediment which filled the iron tube, she came across the body of the first crewman. Over the next few weeks they discovered six other remains – seven of the crew were still inside. The body of George Dixon, they hoped, would most likely be in the forward conning tower.

Meanwhile, in addition to the careful extraction of the bodies, there was a steady stream of artifacts being recovered almost daily – pipes, clothing, buttons, pocketknives, as the submarine slowly reveled her secrets.

On May 17, 2001, they discovered a signaling lamp in the conning tower, and also, the body of Lt. George E. Dixon. Five days later, Maria Jacobson was working on preparing Dixon’s body for removal when her fingers ran across a small, solid circular object near Dixon’s pelvis. She held the object out in her muddy hand and as water was poured over it, a warped gold coin was revealed. She turned it over, and read the inscription “Shiloh. April 6th 1862. My life Preserver. G.E.D.”

Other than the recovery of the bodies of the crew, the discovery of Dixon’s coin was the most sought after artifact from the Hunley.

The last funeral of the War Between the States fittingly took place in Charleston on April 17, 2004. The third crew of the Hunley took their final voyage, a 4-and-a-half mile journey from White Point Garden in downtown Charleston to Magnolia Cemetery.  More than 400 journalists from across the world covered the event. Ten thousand reenactors participated, and more than 50,000 people lined the streets of Charleston to watch the procession pass.

After a memorial ceremony at 9:15 a.m., horse-drawn caissons carried the crew down East Bay Street to Magnolia Cemetery, where they were interred next to the first two crews of the Hunley.


The third crew of the Hunley, at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston. Photo by author.


H.L. Hunley


Michael Cane
Nicholas Davis 
Frank Doyle
John Kelly
Absolum Williams


Horace Hunley – captain
Robert Brookbank
Joseph Patterson
Thomas W. Park
Charles McHugh
Henry Baird
John Marshall
Charles L. Sprague


Lieutenant George E. Dixon
Arnold Becker 
C.F.  Carlson 

Frank Collins
James A. Wicks
Joseph Ridgeway



Today In Charleston History: February 12 – Charleston Firsts

1736 – Dock Street Theater

Constructed on the corner of Church Street and Dock Street (now known as Queen Street), the Dock Street Theatre was the first building in America built exclusively to be used for theatrical performances. On February 12, 1736 the Dock Street Theatre opened with a performance of The Recruiting Officer, a 1706 comedic play by Irish writer George Farquhar. The second work featured in the theater was the ballad opera, Flora, or Hob in the Well after its successful performance the year before at Shepheard’s Tavern.

The Great Fire of 1740 destroyed the original Dock Street which was replaced in 1809 by the Planter’s Hotel on the same site. In 1835 the wrought iron balcony and sandstone columns of the Church Street facade were added. The Planter’s became one of the finest hotels in the South. Most histories of Charleston claim that the famous drink, Planter’s Punch, was first served here, but that is not true, as is common among many Charleston “legends.”  

After the War (Between the States), the Planter’s Hotel fell into disrepair and was slated for demolition. But in 1935, the original building became a Depression Era WPA (Works Progress Administration) project. The hotel’s grand foyer became the foyer of the new theater and the hotel’s dining room now serves as the box office lobby.

On March 18, 2010, the Dock Street Theater reopened for the third time after a three year, $19 million dollar renovation by the City of Charleston which included state-of-the-art lighting and sound, modern heating and air conditioning.

dock street = two views

Dock Street Theater: TOP: view of the building circa 1835 as the Planters Hotel. BOTTOM: Modern view of the theater.