With the 100th anniversary of its disastrous loss and the re-release of the blockbuster movie (in 3D, no less), RMS Titanic-mania is at a high. Sumter isn’t going to be scheduling cruises to the north Atlantic to view the wreckage anytime soon, but we do have our own piece of maritime history about to come to the surface.
One of South Carolina’s most famous war stories involves the sinking of the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor by the CSS H.L. Hunley, the first submarine in the world to accomplish this feat (which was not repeated, by the way, until 1914 when a German U-boat sank the HMS Pathfinder). On May 8 and 9, 2012, a full-scale replica of the Hunley will be on display at the Sumter County Museum. Created by a member of the restoration team that began work on the real Hunley when it was recovered in 2000, this touring display highlights the history and significance of the craft.
The Hunley disaster occurred on February 17, 1864 when the sub dove under the Housatonic with a spar torpedo attached. The torpedo exploded, accomplishing its mission, but most of the crew survived. However, the Hunley never resurfaced. With its captain and crew of seven, the submarine’s fate remained a mystery for more than 130 years. It was discovered during a 1995 dive led by adventure novelist Clive Cussler, and raised five years later.
The Hunley discovery was described by Dr. William Dudley, Director of Naval History at the Naval Historical Center as “probably the most important [American underwater archaeological] find of the [20th] century.” It is presently housed at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, where a painstaking restoration has been underway for years.
The Summerville-based SCV H.L. Hunley Camp #143 is presently touring the Hunley replica throughout the United States, so don’t miss this chance to view this amazing historic re-creation. Volunteers will be available to answer questions and lead discussions of the ill-fated vessel.
In addition, the Carolina Backcountry Homestead will be open, with costumed re-enactors creating an authentic background for South Carolina life in the 1800’s. Admission is $5.00 for adults and $2.00 for ages 10-18. The display will be open both days from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. For more information, please visit www.sumtercountymuseum.org.
For more information on the upcoming display, you may also call the Swan Lake Visitors Center at (803) 436-2640 or toll-free, 1-800-688-4748.