Sometimes ” Second Choice” is the Best!

Dear Reader:

Thursday afternoon I was back in the ” blog room” when I heard a knock and the wonderful ” Miss ” Jo” ( Dufford) was coming through the door calling out to me…” Remember now…you were ” Second Choice.”

” You got lucky today!” she laughed and held out a box filled with a huge sandwich, dressing, pasta … Jo continued ” I was taking it to a couple who have both been under the weather but neither was home…. so…..”

” So by default I get this scrumptious looking lunch?” I replied. ” You just happened to be the closest house on my way home.. said Jo… so you won the ” Second Choice prize meal!”

Not only was I honored but also famished… a win-win for me… especially since I needed some more information on an historical keepsake that Jo had given me for Christmas and I wanted to re-tell the story. And here it is!

” The Secret Story Inside the Hunley”

Jo’s replica of the once lucky gold coin worn in the Hunley submarine commander’s ( Lt. George Dixon) pocket

Charleston is known for its historical sites but ever since the Civil War submarine ( The Hunley) was pulled up from its watery grave ( sank in 1864) on August 8, 2000 it has found its home in the Hunley Museum… or Warren Lasch Conservation Center-Cooper river.

( *** Mandy remembers she was one of hundreds of spectators watching the Hunley being raised in her dad’s boat but, unfortunately, the water was choppy with so many boats and she got so seasick she was previously pre-occupied hanging over the railing and missed the historic moment as it broke through the surface. )

Today the love story, however, of the romance between Lt. George Dixon and his fiancée Queenie Bennett, who gave him a $ 20 dollar Double Eagle gold piece to put in his pocket as a lucky charm… captures the tourists’ immediate attention… especially when they hear how it saved his leg and life at the Battle of Shiloh.

A musket ball hit him in the thigh… normally costing him his leg ( and because of the unsanitary amputation procedures) usually one’s life… except he had the gold coin in his pants pocket… the coin was bent but took the brunt of the musket ball.

( Today these bent gold coins are sold as souvenirs along with a short paragraph telling about the romance and the battle of Shiloh… but when Jo went… she lucked up and one of the archaeologist conservationists, who had actually held the coin that was in the vest pocket of Dixon’s remains/ having fallen out… had handwritten these notes. Just amazing!!! Lucky Jo and she gave it to me… my luck continues! ) What a gift Jo!

I held the real coin the day it was recovered!”

Though Dixon kept a permanent limp he still understood how fortunate he was but little did he know a greater fate awaited him on February 17, 1864 in the dark waters outside Charleston harbor.

On that night Lt. Dixon commanded the CSS Hunley, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship in battle. He and seven crew men slipped beneath the water in the hand-cranked submarine-navigating toward the Union warship USS Housatonic.

They deposited the charge and back propelled as quickly as possible so the union vessel could be detonated by a pull cord. The explosion sank the Housatonic in under five minutes but, unfortunately, it also sent Dixon and his crew to the bottom of the Charleston Harbor… becoming their tomb.

After securing the submarine in the museum tank… in 2000, the gold coin was found near the hull where the commander had sat… probably fallen this time from a vest pocket. It bore the initials G. E. D. and inscription ” My Life Preserver.” ( Many historians agree that it might seem like ” the lucky charm” had lost its charm the second time around… but instead, they reason, it allowed Dixon to find his true place in history.)

Now you know there would be no way for ghost stories not to circulate from this tragedy… since ghost stories abound in Charleston. ( Even when the Hunley crew were being interred in Magnolia cemetery… many apparitions appeared in snapshots taken during the funeral.) And since it is February now… here’s a couple of sightings for you.

1) Today, every February 17, if one goes to Charleston Harbor-the water’s edge, you might just see a light in the distance, hovering just above the surface of the water. The Hunley crew were instructed to surface and light a signal lantern, after sinking the Union war ship – Housatonic. Witnesses back then reported seeing a light right after the warship sank.

Other strollers and tourists today, walking by Charleston Harbor in the evenings around February… have reported seeing the ghost submarine surface for a few minutes when the moon is full before returning into the dark waters.

So until tomorrow… now you see why being ” second choice” sometimes can still earn you the gold? ( Thank you Jo for my historical artifact that I will treasure forever.

Today is my favorite day! Winnie the Pooh

Lt. George Dixon
Queenie Bennett
The original coin mounted in museum
Children pretending to be hand crankers on the Hunley … getting it to dive.

About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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4 Responses to Sometimes ” Second Choice” is the Best!

  1. Rachel Edwards says:

    Well…I am back again…didn’t get the blog yesterday but it appeared today. Yeah! What a great treat…seeing Jo…getting lunch and hearing this great story and getting a replica of the coin…a winning 2d choice…thanks for sharing


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Welcome back… just in time to bundle up again! Hope you can enjoy a do nothing restful day! And hope you had fun on your birthday get-away!

      Sent from my iPhone


  2. Johnny Johnson says:

    Mrs. Dingle you did it again! But not just the second chance, or second time, for the forty eleventh time, as my Grandmother would say. Yes indeed the chill bumps on my arms and the hair raised right along with the chill bumps! The way you almost had me on board the Hunley on the night she sank the Housatonic! You got me with the double whammy, just the Historicalness (if that’s a word) of the story, the gold coin and the words on the paper, also taking me to Shilo and back to the Hunley like I was Mr. Dixon! But then the spooky part got me again and now of course I have to go to the battery now and look for the light from the Hunley and to the graveyard to snap a few pictures and see if I caught some images that shouldn’t be there. I believe the last of the chills have gone away now that I know I am not Mr. Dixon and I am in my easy chair in my Den, at home.
    But I have to check something else while I am at the Cemetery. You see my Grandmother’s second husband was Mr. Lucas Dixon, my Father’s stepfather. I know that My Grandfather (not by blood, but by love) is Buried in a very old cemetery Downtown Charleston in a section belonging to his Family. I have to do some digging through some files, other documents and the internet and see if my Grandfather Dixon is kin to Lt. George Dixon. I don’t have living relatives from my Grandfather Dixon’s side of the Family that I know of. But this chill bump ride is going to keep going on and off for a while! One thing I do know right off the top of my head, Grandfather Dixon was in the Army. The US Army and not the Confederate Army by any means, and that his Family as far back in History to my Knowledge, were Charlestonians. That one tid bit of information could make or break connection or kinship. We shall see! I love it when your writings get me in this way! Thank you!


    • Becky Dingle says:

      So glad you enjoyed the research and story… we are so blessed to live in the Charleston area where so much history abounds… hope you success in making some ancestral connections to the name Dixon… good luck and let us all know if you find it …and the ghost light or submarine sighting! 😁

      Sent from my iPhone


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