Tens of thousands are expected for 'the last Confederate burial'
BY SCHUYLER KROPF Of The Post and Courier Staff
The final crew of the submarine H.L. Hunley will be laid to rest in Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery next April in what is being billed as "the last Confederate burial."
All eight crewmen will be interred with military honors 140 years after the Hunley's final mission ended with its disappearance.
Hunley officials expect the funeral to have a major impact on Charleston as Civil War re-enactors, submarine veterans and history buffs from around the world will be invited to attend. Attendance could be in the tens of thousands, they say.
"The attraction is that it truly may be the last Confederate burial," said Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley.
Other Civil War graves may be uncovered from locations around the country, Lasch said, but this may be the last time in the nation's history that victims killed in the war are laid to rest from off the battlefield.
Officials planned a Friday press conference to announce formal details of the funeral and the target date, but the burial is almost certain to include a period march through Charleston. That's what happened in 1999 and 2000 when the remains of about 30 Civil War soldiers, Marines and earlier Hunley sailors were buried.
Those remains, which were recovered from beneath The Citadel's football stadium, were carried through the city on horse-drawn carts from The Battery to Magnolia Cemetery. Re-enactors and women in mourning dress marched with them while thousands lined East Bay Street to watch.
Hunley officials originally targeted this November to bury the crew, but the scope of the event and the work currently under way to study the bones caused that date to be bumped back.
The weekend around Feb. 17, 2004 -- which would be the 140th anniversary of the sub's final mission -- was ruled out because it is too close to the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, which draws thousands of visitors to Charleston.
Under the command of Lt. George Dixon, the Hunley was lost on the night of Feb. 17, 1864, after it rammed an explosive charge into the hull of the Union blockade ship Housatonic. It was discovered four miles off Sullivan's Island by a dive team funded by adventure author Clive Cussler in 1995, and raised in August 2000.
Two previous crews from the Hunley that were lost during test missions around Charleston Harbor already are buried in Magnolia Cemetery, including sub benefactor Horace L. Hunley. The remains of the third crew of Hunley sailors are being kept in a morgue at the Hunley conservation lab in North Charleston.