Newly found Hunley dime a 'highly valuable' relic
Coin discovered amid crewman's remains
BY ANDY PARAS
The silver is gone, eaten away by more than 100 years of corrosion at the bottom of the ocean, but the words "U.S. Dime" remain etched on what is the second coin recovered from the H.L. Hunley submarine since the famous $20 gold piece was found six years ago.
Scientists who recently recovered the tiny dime say it's just as valuable to their fact-finding mission as it was to the European crewman known only as Lumpkin, who likely carried the coin in his pocket aboard the Confederate vessel's final mission.
The coin was found among the crewman's remains, said Philippe de Vivies, a conservator with the Friends of Hunley. A massive coin shortage at the time was likely the reason more coins haven't been found onboard.
"It was highly valuable," Vivies said. "It was very important to him."
Vivies carefully etched the now-brittle coin from a thick, cementlike sediment pulled from the submarine using a dentist's drill. It wasn't until he removed the concretion from the surface that he was able to make out writing. "At the time I found it, I didn't know what it was," he said.
The coin, roughly the size of a penny used today, was minted in 1841. The Lady Liberty on the front of the coin is barely visible. "U.S. Dime" on the back and the date can be clearly made out. Preliminary research indicates that it was made in Philadelphia.
The only other coin discovered onboard the submarine was a gold coin that is believed to have saved the life of Lt. George
Dixon, the sub's commander during the Battle of Shiloh.
A bullet hit the coin, which Dixon engraved to read: "Shiloh April 6, 1862 My Life Preserver."
Lumpkin was one of four European crewmen among the eight who died shortly after the sub sank the USS Housatonic.
Hunley researchers are leaving for Europe next week in hopes of finding more about two of the other European crewmen.
Genealogist Linda Abrams has been investigating the crew's identities for six years. She was shocked to discover that half the crew was European.
"That was a blow to the research I was doing because I thought all these guys were going to be good old Southern boys," Abrams said. "One of them? Fine. But four?"
She will travel to London, Germany and Denmark to try to discover more about crewmen J.F. Carlsen and Arnold Becker.
Carlsen is thought to be a sailor of Danish descent whose family lived in a territory now in Germany. Becker was born in Germany, but Abrams said she doesn't know much more about his origins at this point.
"I don't know if I'm going to come back with the families of these two guys in my briefcase," Abrams said. "But I fully expect to return this year. I intend to make contacts."