Saturday, January 31, 2015

HUNLEY update

C.S.S. Hunley, first submarine to sink an enemy ship. 
(Naval History and Heritage Command)

The World’s First Successful Combat Submarine Almost Fully Visible    

Image and Raw Video Available to Press: Public Youtube Video:
     North Charleston, South Carolina – For the first time in over one hundred and fifty years, you can actually see the Hunley. Until recently, the submarine was completely covered by concretion, an encrusted layer of sand, sediment and shells that built up slowly over time. The concretion masked the original surface of the legendary vessel, hiding many of her finer features. For the past four months, Clemson University conservators have been conducting the delicate task of chiseling away this encrustation.
      Nearly 70% of the submarine’s exterior has been revealed and they hope to complete the outside of the submarine in the coming weeks. The last areas remaining are being called “forensic hot spots,” indicating areas where they think there may be evidence that could help scientists understand why the Hunley vanished after becoming the world’s first successful combat submarine.
     “Being able to see the surface in minute detail for the very first time is shedding new light on our understanding of the submarine,” said Paul Mardikian, Senior Hunley Conservator with Clemson University.
     Until now, archaeologists have been given the difficult task of studying an artifact they could not actually see. With the exterior of the submarine partially exposed, the Clemson team has already made some interesting discoveries:
     - In one area of the hull, the metal surface is stamped with the letters “C N “. The meaning on this stamp is being investigated, but it is thought to represent the foundry where the Hunley’s iron was forged.
     - We are learning more about how the weapon system worked. The Hunley’s designers were always looking for ways to improve upon the submarine and it’s method of attack. Because of this process of evolution, it has been unclear how the small Confederate Hunley was able to deliver and detonate the torpedo that brought down one of the Union’s largest and mightiest ships.
     - There are areas below the dive planes where it looks like the metal surface of the submarine had somehow been pushed in, causing it to be dented. At this point, there is no telling what could have caused these areas of deformation on the hull. One possible scenario is they were inflicted by 19th century recovery efforts. In 1863, the Hunley sank twice during test missions. Each time, divers used ropes and chains to bring her back to land for repair.
     While removing the concretion has opened up a new avenue of historical discovery, it will also allow for a conservation treatment to be applied to the fragile 19th century submarine. Conservators have been using small hand tools, drills and chisels to break away the concretion, which in some places is harder than the corroded iron it covers. They must be careful because even the smallest mistake could potentially damage one of maritime history’s most treasured artifacts.
     “Removing the concretion is an intimidating task for all involved. There is no room for error when working on a one-of-a-kind artifact like the Hunley. With our team of well-trained experts and perhaps a little luck, everything has gone according to plan,” said Nestor Gonzalez, Associate Director of Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center.
     The Hunley is made from cast and wrought iron. Most of the concretion that has been removed up until this point has been on the wrought iron plates. The cast iron has a greater chance of having retained potentially important historical fingerprints, such as gunfire, scrapes, and other damage. However, cleaning of corroded cast iron is very challenging as it is quite soft and brittle and can be easily damaged during treatment.
     The last areas left to complete on the outside of the submarine are mainly the sections made of cast iron, specifically sections of the bow and conning towers. As these sensitive areas of “forensic hotspots” are uncovered, the team is hopeful to find evidence that will teach us more about the mysterious events surrounding the Hunley’s final voyage and disappearance.

The Hunley Project
On the evening of February 17, 1864, the H. L. Hunley became the world’s first successful combat submarine by sinking the USS Housatonic. After signaling to shore that the mission had been accomplished, the submarine and her crew of eight mysteriously vanished. Lost at sea for over a century, the Hunley was located in 1995 by Clive Cussler’s National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA). The innovative hand-cranked vessel was raised in 2000 and delivered to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where an international team of scientists are at work to conserve the submarine for future generations and piece together clues to solve the mystery of her disappearance. The Hunley Project is conducted through a partnership with the Clemson University Restoration Institute, South Carolina Hunley Commission, Naval History and Heritage Command, and Friends of the Hunley.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stonewall Jackson - Happy Birthday!

Lt. Gen. T.J. "Stonewall" Jackson
by John Adams Elder
Statue of Stonewall Jackson at his grave
in Lexington, Va. (Library of Congress)
It was on 21 January 1824  that Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was born in Clarksburg (or Parkersburg), West Virginia. He was orphaned at an early age and raised by an uncle, Cummins Jackson. He was admitted to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. in 1842 and graduated 17th in a class of 59 cadets in 1846. Jackson fought with the artillery at the Siege of Vera Cruz and in the battles of Contreras, Chapultepec, and Mexico City. By the end of the war he was promoted to the brevet rank of major. Jackson left the army in 1851 and took a teaching position at the Virginia Military Academy. He was married the first time to Elinor Junkin, with whom he had one child who was stillborn. Elinor died soon after of complications. He remarried to Mary Annna Morrison, and they had two children. The first was a daughter who died at one month. The second child, Julia, was their only surviving child. Jackson entered the Confederate Army as a colonel and was promoted to brigadier general and commanded the 1st Virginia Infantry Brigade, afterward known as the "Stonewall Brigade," at the First Battle of Manassas 21 July 1861. His brigade famously stopped a Federal assault, which led to a great Confederate victory. It was there he received his immortal nickname by standing like a "Stonewall." Promotions followed to major general of a division, and then lieutenant general of the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia. His other notable battles and campaigns included the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1863; the Seven Days Battles; the Battle of Cedar Mountain; the Second Battle of Manassas; the Battle of Chantilly; the Battle of Sharpsburg  and the Battle of Chancellorsville. At the last battle he led his corps on a famous flank march that shattered the Federal right and led to one of the greatest Confederate victories of the war. Jackson, however, was mortally wounded by friendly fire and died May 10, 1863. He was buried with full military honors at Lexington, Va. and mourned by the entire Confederacy. Jackson was known at a man of deep Christian faith who was instrumental in bringing many of his men to Christ. All honor to his memory.

Monday, January 19, 2015


Today, January 19, 2015, is an official state holiday in Louisiana. All honor and respect to Robert E. Lee!
Gen. Robert E. Lee
by John Adams Elder

Robert E. Lee at Stonewall Jackson's
grave in Lexington, Va.

Post war image of Lee on Traveler in Lexington, Va.

Equestrian statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, astride his horse, Traveller, in the park that surrounds the headquarters of the Dallas Park Board in Oak Lawn section of Dallas, Texas. (Library of Congress)
Lee and Jackson's Last Meeting

Lee at Jackson's grave in Lexington, Virginia

Recumbent State of Robert E. Lee, Lee Chapel,
Lexington, Va. (Library of Congress)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

150-years-ago FALL OF FORT FISHER, North Carolina

Fall of Fort Fisher, North Carolina on Jan. 15, 1865
(Library of Congress)

[National Park Service]

North Carolina artillery soldier with
North Carolina belt buckle and sword.
(Lilijenquist Family Collection
Library of Congress)
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was relieved of command of the Army of the James and assigned to lead an amphibious expedition against Fort Fisher, which protected Wilmington, the South’s last open seaport on the Atlantic coast. Learning that large numbers of Union troops had embarked from Hampton Roads on December 13, Lee dispatched Hoke’s Division to meet the expected attack on Fort Fisher. On December 24, the Union fleet under Rear Adm. David D. Porter arrived to begin shelling the fort. An infantry division disembarked from transports to test the fort’s defenses. The Federal assault on the fort had already begun when Hoke approached, discouraging further Union attempts. Butler called off the expedition on December 27 and returned to Fort Monroe. Estimated total casualties were 320.

After the failure of his December expedition against Fort Fisher, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler was relieved of command.  Maj. Gen. Alfred Terry was placed in command of a “Provisional Corps,” including Paine's Division of U.S. Colored Troops, and supported by a naval force of nearly 60 vessels, to renew operations against the fort. After a preliminary bombardment directed by Rear Adm. David D. Porter on January 13, Union forces landed and prepared an attack on Maj. Gen. Robert Hoke's infantry line. On the 15th, a select force moved on the fort from the rear. A valiant attack late in the afternoon, following the bloody repulse of a naval landing party carried the parapet. The Confederate garrison surrendered, opening the way for a Federal thrust against Wilmington, the South's last open seaport on the Atlantic coast. Estimated casualties were a total of 2,000.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

150-years-ago The Blockade was Pourous

Richmond Daily Dispatch
January 3, 1865

Blockade Runner Teaser off Fort Monroe, Virginia. (Library of Congress)
     Notwithstanding the alleged ceaseless vigilance of the Yankee navy in watching blockade-runners on the Atlantic and Gulf coast of the Confederate States, their close attention has amounted to comparatively little. Setting aside all that has been supported on State and individual account, the proceeds of the blockade have been very great. The restrictions imposed upon foreign commerce by the act of Congress of last session prohibiting, absolutely, during the pending war, the importation of any articles not necessary for the defence of the country — namely; wines, spirits, jewelry, cigars, and all the finer fabrics of cotton, flaw, wool, or silk, as well as all other merchandise Serving only for the indulgence of luxurious habits, has not had the effect to reduce the number of vessels engaged in blockade-running; but, on the contrary, he number has steadily increased within the last year, and many are understood to be now on the way to engage in the business.
     The President, in a communication to Congress on the subject says that the number of vessels arriving at two ports only from the 1st of November to the 6th of December was for:-three, and but a very small proportion of those outward bound were captioned. Out of 11,796 bales of cotton shipped since the 1st of July last, but 1,272 ere lost — not quite eleven per cent.
     The special report of the Secretary of the Treasury in relation to the matter shows that there have been imported into the Confederacy at the ports of Wilmington and Charleston site October 26, 1864, 8,632,000 pounds meat, 1,507,000 pounds of lead, 13,000 pounds of saltpetre, 546,000 pairs of shoes, 346,000 pairs of blankets, pounds of coffee, 69,000 rifles, 97 packages of revolvers, 2,639 packages of medicine, 43 cannon, with a large quantity of other articles, of which we ed make no mention. Besides these, any valuable stores and supplies are brought, by way of the Northern lines, to Florida, by the port of Galveston through Mexico, across the Rio Grande.
     The shipments of cotton made Government account since March 1864, amount to $5,296,006 in specie. Of this, cotton, to the value of $1,500,000, has been shipped since the 1st of July and up to the 1st of December.
     It is a matter of absolute impossibility for the Federal to stop our blockade-running at the port of Wilmington. If the wind blows off the coast, the blockading fleet is driven off. If the wind blows landward, they are compelled to haul off to a great distance to escape the terrible sea which dashes on a rocky coast without a harbor within three days sail. 
      The shoals on the North Carolina coast are from five to twenty miles wide; and they are, moreover, composed of the most treacherous and bottomless quicksands. The whole coast is scarcely equalled in the world for danger and fearful appearance, particularly when a strong easterly wind meets the ebb tide.
     It is an easy matter for a good pilot to run a vessel directly out to sea or into port; but in the stormy months, from October to April, no blockading vessel can lie at anchor in safety off the Carolina coast. Therefore supplies will be brought in despite the keenest vigilance.