Valerie Fain with Doug Devine $20 Gold Piece the CSS Hunley
Have you ever been to a dinner party seated next to a person who extravagantly boasts about the things they have done? Yet, across from where you sit the humble gentleman who never says a word, if he did therein would lie the extraordinary story that you would love to hear. The Hunley, have you heard of it? My friend Doug Devine director of OnlineAuction.com could tell you of it, of course you would have to ask, Mr. Devine has accomplished many things but the Hunley is what I want to talk of. The Hunley was the confederate state submarine sunk in its final battle February 17, 1864. The hand-cranked Hunley sank the Union blockade ship Housatonic, becoming the first submarine in history to sink an enemy war ship. The H.L. Hunley and its eight-man crew were preserved for more than 140 years under silt.
Life has its surprises, doesn’t it? Getting a call to be a part of this historical project probably wasn’t what Doug thought his day would entail as he drank his coffee that morning. Mr. Devine owner of Pacific Survey has been involved with measuring technologies for more than 25 years; he was instrumental in the raising of the Hunley. Using computer models, advanced measuring and analytical instrumentation the recovery plans were developed to ensure the safety of this historical project – the only one of its kind on the planet today. August 8, 2000 was a joyful day in Charleston. After five years of planning and fund-raising the Hunley was raised from beneath 3 feet of sand and 27 feet of water from its resting place, four miles off Sullivan’s Island. The tube-shaped boat was forty feet long and four feet deep. There was barely enough room for eight men. Inside, the men would use candles for light; they would sit on a wood bench and turn a shaft that moved the propeller. The Hunley’s whereabouts remained unknown until divers, funded by author Clive Cussler, discovered the sunken vessel in 1995, 4 miles off the Carolina coast.
If you read the fascinating story about the Hunley and crew member George Dixon you will hear of the famous gold coin that Queenie Bennett gave him “Hold this keepsake close, to remember my love and bring you good luck.” This was 1864 and George was leaving Mobile, Alabama to fight with the Confederate Army of the South. It’s rumored George slipped the gold coin into the left pocket of his trousers, and in the fierce fight at the Battle of Shiloh he was shot, he fell to the ground but the gold coin stopped the bullet and saved his life. Later, he had the coin inscribed “Shiloh April 6, 1862, My Life Preserver.” Please read the whole story “The Story of the H.L Hunley and Queenie’s Coin” by Fran Hawk. The coin is on display today at the Hunley Exhibit. You must learn of Horace Hunley, a wealthy Southerner who lived in Mobile, and helped George Dixon and others build and pay for the submarine the H.L. Hunley. Of course, if you know me at all you know I tend to be a romanticist. Queenie did eventually remarry but I wonder if her heart was forever broken just like the broken vessel that lay mysteriously unearthed in the Atlantic Ocean all those years. I plan to someday go to the museum and see it for myself.
I’m sure there was much speculation that a tiny vessel could sink the great USS Housatonic Union Ship. The same speculation that the Hunley would even be found, let alone raised and preserved. But a few people with a vision that stayed steadfast in what they believed did it. That’s what Mr. Devine brings to our company, a vision and positive attitude to get the job done even when others say it can’t be done.
I love the quote by Isabelle De Borchegrave who says, “No one truly invents anything; you always build on the Past.”
Mr. Chapman’s Painting, c. 1864
Miss Queenie Bennett who was the young sweetheart of Lt. George E. Dixon (the Hunley’s last skipper) and of the twenty-dollar gold piece she had given him. It is probably among his bones in the wreckage of the submarine, as the coin had become a good luck piece after it stopped a Yankee bullet, thus saving his life at the Battle of Shiloh.