Saturday, January 17, 2015

New Discovery From the Hunley


H.L. Hunley: Scientists peeling away crust on submarine marvel at its craftsmanship

Scientists remove concretion (Photos courtesy of Friends of the Hunley)

Scientists chiseling away decades of sand and shell from the H.L. Hunley are forging a tie to the builders of the historic submarine: A painstaking attention to detail.

Since August 2014, a team of conservators using small tools, including dental chisels and hammers, have been removing concretion coating the exterior.

They are looking for clues as to why the Hunley sank after it became the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel.

“It keeps surprising us,” said Nestor Gonzalez, assistant director of Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, S.C.

You have a very close sense of the attention to detail and the care they put into it," he said. "How the rivets are perfectly flush and the finishing is very high quality.”

Three days a week, members of the team enter the drained tank, wearing protective eyewear, gloves and masks as they slowly reveal the doomed submarine’s skin.

That work is adding to their knowledge of the craftsmanship that went into the Hunley, which was built for the Confederacy in secret in Mobile, Ala., without the use of blueprints.

Scientists have been looking for any separation of the wrought iron plates that cover the exterior. Such a discovery would indicate the Hunley may have suffered fatal damage when thetorpedo it planted into the hull of the Union ship USS Housatonic went off.

“We have not seen anything like that,” Gonzalez recently told the Picket. “The guy was a very good builder.”

What the team is finding is a vessel that, while corroded, retains its structural integrity. The builders staggered the plates to strengthen their hold and carefully connected the rings that form the skeleton of the 40-foot Hunley.

“Everything had been very well thought out,” said Gonzalez.

Conservator Virginie Ternisien at work 

The stuff of legends

The Confederate government brought the Hunley to Charleston in a bid to help break the Union’s siege on the port city. The eight-member crew that set out for the Housatonic knew the risks.

Five members of the first crew died in August 1863 when it accidentally dived while its hatches apparently were open. The second crew's eight members succumbed in October when the Hunley failed to return to the surface.

On the moonlit evening of Feb. 17, 1864, the crew of the hand-cranked vessel set off a charge that sent the Federal vessel to the sandy bottom outside Charleston Harbor.

The Hunley – likened to the shape of a whale -- disappeared from view. What happened to it has become the stuff of legends and research for decades.

For a long time, one prevailing view held that a lucky shot broke the glass in one of the Hunley’s portholes, bringing in rushing water and causing the sub to sink. But research has not proven that theory.

Another scenario holds that the Hunley was swamped by or struck by another Union vessel. Or that it plunged to the sea floor to avoid detection, and never made it back up. A latch on the forward conning tower was found to be not properly locked, adding to the mystery, CNN reported in a 2014 article about the project.

In January 2013, officials announced a significant discovery.

Research showed the submarine was less than 20 feet from her 135-pound torpedo when it exploded. The effects of the blast may have sent the Hunley to the bottom, where the crew ran out of oxygen.

Ongoing efforts to solve the mystery

Conservators have been looking for any holes or bullet damage that may help explain why the Hunley sank.

“There is nothing we can see at this point, said Stephanie Crette, director of the Lasch center.

The vessel appears intact.

“We are stabilizing the items, but also working to unveil the secrets of the submarine. We are moving toward finding evidence as to why it sank,” added Gonzalez. So far, there are “no new clues.”

Removing the sediment from the Hunley is a critical component in understanding its construction and what happened.

Last May, scientists immersed the submarine in a bath of toxic sodium hydroxide to help loosen the concretion. The idea is to loosen the sediment, remove as much salt as possible from the wreckage and help protect it from further corrosion.

The scientists work from about 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays after solution is drained from the tank and the pH level is lowered, said Crette. The tank is refilled each day when their work is completed. Analysis is done on other days. (The general public can see the Hunley on weekends).

In some areas, the concretion can be up to two inches deep. The team works in a grid fashion, first exposing the rivet line and then working their way to the center of the plates.

Next up: Hunley’s interior

Scientists have completed cleaning nearly all of the exterior plates and are moving on to cast iron components – a very long and complicated process.

“Cast iron is very difficult,” said Gonzalez. “But it is also very rewarding … We are seeing absolutely outstanding surfaces.”

Builders used cast iron for the dive planes, the conning towers and for parts of the bow and stern. Conservators are excited about exploring the connection that linked the torpedo spar to the hull. “It can reveal fantastic details,” said Gonzalez.

Officials said they have found no evidence indicating a problem with forward conning tower may have had anything to do with the Hunley’s demise.

Scientists expect to begin deconcretion of the interior in about three months, with the entire process completed by the end of the year.

While the Hunley submarine is empty, there’s a possibility that an artifact may break loose during the work, Crette told the Picket. One scientist found an entire snail shell in the encrusted exterior.

Paul Mardikian works on the bow.

With the chipping away of each piece of crust, the submarine is returning to its original appearance, the conservators guided by an 1863 painting of the Hunley by Conrad Wise Chapman.

The nonprofit Friends of the Hunley provides a history of the boat and current conservation updates on its website.

“A lookout aboard the Union Navy's largest ship was tired, cold -- but restless. Talk of a Confederate secret weapon was in and out of his thoughts. Suddenly he spotted something move in the chilly waters. A porpoise? There were certainly a lot of them around. But something about this one didn't seem right."

What didn’t seem right was the Hunley, which sank the Housatonic. Five of its crew members died; 150 others were soon rescued.

The eight men on the Hunley also died. The quest continues for the manner and cause of their deaths.

(Photos courtesy of Friends of the Hunley)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Deadline For Funding Requests Announced


The Budget and Finance Committee will review funding requests prior to the Spring General Executive Council (GEC) meeting. Requests must be received no later than Monday, February 2, 2015 and must be received in one of two formats, to be considered!

(1) It is preferred that requests and supporting documentation be sent as attachments to an email message directed to Adjutant-in-Chief Nash ( and Executive Director Landree (

(2) If you send the request and supporting documents in hard-copy format, they must be sent to Adjutant-in-Chief Nash, Executive Director Landree and Army Commanders McCluney, Burbage and Lauret, who also serve on the Budget and Finance Committee. Mailing addresses can be found on the National Committee page at:

Those requesting funds should read the Funding Proposal Guidelines found on the Forms and Documents page of at:

The form to be used to make a Funding Request is also on the Forms and Documents page at:

The information requested on the form is the minimum that is needed for consideration of a funding request. Those making requests are encouraged to submit supporting information if it helps clarify the purpose and other particulars of the project.

If you have any questions regarding the guidelines, form or process, please contact me.

Douglas W. Nash, Jr.
(910) 635-9700

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Political Correctness Rears Ugly Head in Pensacola

Commissioners vote to remove all flags, but American, from Pensacola Bay Center

Updated: Friday, December 12 2014, 12:02 PM CST

For years, the Pensacola Bay Center has flown the Confederate battle flag.  The most well known flag, with white stars atop diagonol blue bars and a red background, was never an official flag of the Confederacy. It was used by soldiers, in battle, but not by the government itself.    
Aubey Smith, Commander of the Pensacola Sons of Confederate Veteransa, says "it's our heritage. It's our ancestry. The 600,000 men, women and children who died during that conflict, it's not something that can be swept under the rug by not showing that flag."

Others see something far more sinister in the flag.

Katrina Ramos says "what I see from the Confederate flag is oppression. What I see from the Confederate flag is slavery. So who's heritage are they talking about."

In 2000, the city of Pensacola voted to stop flying the battle flag. They replaced it on city buildings with a national flag of the Confederacy. At the time, the Escambia County Commission voted unanimously to keep flying the flag.

One resident said "as a citizen of this county, who's money, along with all these other folks, goes to support our public buildings and our government, this is a very inappropriate symbol."

Thursday evening, the Commission heard arguments from supporters of the flag, and those who want it down. Dozens of county residents attended and spoke out. After nearly an hour of discussion and debate, the commission voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Pensacola Bay Center .. and all county government buildings. Their new rule says that only the American flag may fly. The only exception is the flag of Florida, and only if it is already in place.

Says Ramos, "we have so much racial tension in our country right now. And so what I want to see from Pensacola is, let us be the first to be an example. Let's start removing these things that are creating racial tension."
The vote passed four to one, with only district one Commissioner Wilson Robertson objecting.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Confederate Flag License Plate Case Gets U.S. High Court Review

The U.S. Supreme Court will consider whether Texas officials must issue a license plate depicting the Confederate battle flag, accepting a free-speech dispute with implications for dozens of states with similar specialty-tag programs.
The court today agreed to review a ruling that Texas violated the Constitution when officials rejected an application by the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans while issuing more than 350 other specialty plates. Those include tags that say “Stop Child Abuse,” “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “God Bless Texas.”
The case will determine how much power states have to control the topics and designs of their specialty plates. A federal appeals court said officials can’t favor one viewpoint over another in choosing which proposals to approve.
That ruling will have “untenable consequences,” Texas officials led by Attorney General and Governor-elect Greg Abbott argued in their appeal. “After this ruling, it is not apparent how the state could exclude profanity, sacrilege or overt racism from its specialty license plates.”
The case will test a court that in other contexts is broadly supportive of speech rights. Most federal appeals to consider the issue have said states can’t discriminate on the basis of the message a group seeks to convey on a license plate.

Extra Fee

Texas has a board that approves every license plate design before it is issued to the public. Drivers who want a special plate pay an extra fee, with the money going in part to state agencies and in part to charitable and nonprofit groups.
The disputed plate design consisted of a battle flag surrounded by the words “Sons of Confederate Veterans 1896.” The Texas board said many members of the public found the design offensive.
The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the state in a 2-1 decision.
“By rejecting the plate because it was offensive, the board discriminated against Texas SCV’s view that the Confederate flag is a symbol of sacrifice, independence and Southern heritage,” the majority said.
A central question will be how the court classifies license plates. Texas contends they qualify as government speech, immune from any requirement that they be viewpoint neutral.
The Texas chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans urged the Supreme Court not to hear the case. The flag “is a symbol that should be a topic for open debate, without the government censoring one side or the other,” the group argued.

Virginia Ruling

The same issue has arisen in the context of the abortion debate. In February, a three-judge panel said Virginia was violating the Constitution by distributing plates that say “Choose Life” while refusing to issue ones that bear an abortion-rights slogan. The state is one of 29 that issue “Choose Life” plates.
The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the Supreme Court to review that decision. The justices today took no action on that appeal and probably will defer acting until they resolve the Texas case.
The court will hear arguments early next year and rule by June in the case, Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, 14-144.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Stohr in Washington at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Oster at Mark McQuillan, Laurie Asseo

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Mississippi Eyes Ballot Measure Preserving Confederate Heritage, Making Christianity State Religion, English Official Language

If passed, a measure being considered for Mississippi’s 2016 ballots would make Christianity the state religion, English the official language, and, according to its creators, preserve the state’s Confederate heritage.
 That’s not all — the measure aims to ‘restrict or define’ Mississippi’s heritage in a number of areas: state flag and nickname, and even university mascots.
It’s currently officially defined as ‘Initiative 46,’ but proponents of the plan call it the ‘Heritage Initiative.’ If the petition garners enough response, it should show up on the Mississippi ballots in   the 2016 election.
Promoted by the Magnolia State Heritage Campaign, the initiative proposes to do the following:
  • Acknowledge Mississippi as a “principally Christian and quintessentially Southern state” and the Christian Bible as a “foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues.”
  • Declare English the official language in the state, and require all government and
  •  public communications to be in English only. (There is an exception for foreign language instruction, and those places where Latin or French are traditional, such as in medicine and law.)
  • The flag adopted in 1894 and confirmed by vote in 2001 will be declared the state flag. (See below.) The salute will be “I salute the flag of Mississippi and the sovereign state for which it stands with pride in her history and achievements and with confidence in her future under the guidance of Almighty God.”
Mississippi Eyes Ballot Measure Preserving Confederate Heritage, Making Christianity State Religion, English Official Language image mississippi christian state confederate heritage
  • Declare ‘Colonel Reb’ (depicted in stained glass below) as the official mascot of the University of Mississippi, and affirm that teams will be called “The Rebels.” (The measure also defines mascots for two other state universities, and forbids forcing a list of other universities to merge or consolidate.)

Mississippi Eyes Ballot Measure Preserving Confederate Heritage, Making Christianity State Religion, English Official Language image mississippi christian state confederate heritage colonel reb
  • April would be declared Confederate Heritage Month, acknowledged by schools and used to guide curriculum, and the last day of that month would be Confederate Memorial Day, on which government offices would be closed, and employees would recieve an unpaid holiday. The week before would be Dixie Week. The Confederate Flag must be displayed on State Capitol grounds.
  • Borders would be restored to ‘original’ boundaries, erasing wording established in 1990.
The measure would also ensure that state identification, license tags, and other materials reflect the nickname, state flower, and flag (yes, all state id cards would bear a flag that includes the Confederate flag as a portion of it), protect the flying of flags over veterans’ graves, and officially protect and preserve any publicly owned or held Confederate memorabilia.
According to the Clarion-Ledger, the initiative is endorsed by such prominent Mississippians as former Miss America Susan Akin, author Julie Hawkins, and former State Representative Mark DuVall.



City of Danville denies request to remove confederate flag

Updated: Nov 06, 2014 9:28 PM CST

DANVILLE (WSLS) - The Danville City Council voted 7 to 2 to approve a resolution directing the city manager to notify the Board of the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History that the council cannot, under Virginia law, consider its request to remove the confederate flag from the grounds of the museum.

Dozens of people packed the council chambers. At times, emotions ran high as residents from both sides of the debate shared their views on the issue.

On September 30, 2014 the city manager received a letter conveying the museum's board of directors request that the city remove the Confederate flag.

Those who support the removal of the flag said the flag is offensive to African Americans and other groups because it represents a symbol of discrimination and racism. On the other hand, members of Sons of Confederate Veterans said the flag honors those who fought for our country and should not be removed.

The city council's resolution to deny the request to remove the flag means that the flag with remain at the museum.



Controversy Over South Arkansas Monument

El Dorado-- Built by the Daughters of Confederacy in 1909, this confederate war monument stands in plain view in front of the Union County courthouse in El Dorado, some say in its rightful place.
Camp Commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Mark Williams, says this monument stands as a memorial in honor of fallen soldiers.
"Roughly 10 infantry companies and 2 cavalry companies came from this county, and that's approximately 1200 men. I'm not sure how many came back, but probably 30 to 40 percent didn't come back," says Mark Williams, Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Though this monument has a historic representation, there are those in the community that say not all things in history need to be represented.
That includes Pierce Moore, Pastor of El Dorado's First Baptist Church.
He believes the statue is racist.
"Who would want to put a statue up that commemorates the worst, the worst of American History. I mean, I think there more things that we could do to be a little more civil, and all of this. I think sometimes people don't always think that way," says Pierce Moore, First Baptist Church Pastor.
Historian, Carolyn Williams, agrees.
She thinks the African American community needs to focus on the positive aspects of the confederacy, not the negative ones.
"The only thing he can do now is stand out here just like he is, in the rain, the sleet, in the snow. No harm to you. Tell your kids about the positive. Tell everybody you know the positive. The Confederates lost, they lost," says Carolyn Williams, Historian and Owner of Quilted History.
This isn't the first time this confederate war monument has been at the center of controversy.
It was referenced in a Supreme Court case ruling to justify allowing county funds to restore monuments like this one, all over the country.
For now, the monument stays put, with or without public support.