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LINDY KEAST RODMAN/AP
Re-enactors carry a casket containing sediment from the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley up Ninth Street to the South Portico entrance of the state Capitol building in Richmond, Va., on Friday in honor of Frank Collins, a Confederate sailor who died aboard the vessel.
Hunley sailor honored in Virginia
Re-enactors treat ceremony in Richmond as funeral for native son
copyright 3/28/04 Associated Press
RICHMOND, VA.--An honor guard of Confederate re-enactors carried a ceremonial casket to the state Capitol on Friday in memory of a Virginia-born sailor who died aboard the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley.
The casket, which is lying in state in the Capitol for one day, contained sediment from the Hunley rather than the actual remains of Frank Collins. Those and the remains of the other seven crew members are being kept in Charleston, S.C., where they are to be buried next month.
Still, the Virginia re-enactors treated Friday's procession with all the honors of a real military funeral, complete with a riderless horse, a riflemen marching in formation and a bagpiper who played "Amazing Grace."
The Roanoke-based cavalry unit delivered the casket to a Confederate color guard based in Mechanicsville, which then assigned shifts to soldiers watching over it.
"I'd have much preferred the skeletal remains," said Brag Bowling, Virginia Division commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "But I remain convinced there was a portion of Frank Collins here today."
Color guard Capt. Frank Yates, dressed in a gray Confederate officer's uniform, called the event attended by about 100 a rare and historic moment.
"It's an honor to do this, presiding over the funeral of a real Confederate sailor," he said.
Collins, a Fredericksburg native, died aboard the Hunley on Feb. 17, 1864, when the submarine went down after ramming a torpedo spar into the wooden-hulled Union ship Housatonic. The Housatonic also sank, securing the Hunley's place in history as the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.
Sediment salvaged from the Hunley after it was recovered from waters off Charleston in 2000 represented Collins' remains. The casket will be moved to the Museum of the Confederacy today before being returned to South Carolina on Sunday. The actual funeral for the Hunley's entire eight-man crew is set for April 17 in Charleston, where 30,000 people are expected to attend.
South Carolina Hunley Commission chairman Glenn McConnell said great pains have been taken to make sure the remains of the crew are not disturbed. He said the sediment used for Friday's ceremony was taken from inside the submarine, from a region where there would "not be any chance of an atom" of human remains being in it.
Some members of Confederate organizations complained that the flags at Virginia's Capitol, in the heart of the former capital of the Confederacy, were not lowered to half-staff to honor Collins.
"They should be," said Robert Barbour, commander of the Roanoke-based Confederate Fincastle Rifle Company. "I mean, he's a Virginian. It doesn't matter what war he fought in."
The Sons of Confederate Veterans also planned a memorial ceremony, a lecture and readings of a letter from Gov. Mark R. Warner and a resolution from the General Assembly.
"He deserves a special honoring," Bowling said. "Because what he was doing by volunteering to be on the submarine was volunteering his life for the cause of Southern independence. It was like a deathtrap going on that boat."
Thomas Brew, who wore a Confederate surgeon's uniform, said he attended the ceremony "to pay respects to a fellow Virginian."
Brew said he also hopes to attend the funeral in Charleston.
"That event is more historical and ends the mysteries surrounding the Hunley," (IT DOES?tms) he said. "It ends a chapter in the Hunley's life as a new one is beginning."
Similar events are planned for George E. Dixon in Alabama and Joseph Ridgaway in Maryland.
Edited By TMSmalley on 1080479774
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