- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 27, 2004

RICHMOND — An honor guard of Confederate cavalry re-enactors yesterday solemnly bore the remains of a Civil War submariner to the state Capitol as more than 100 people looked on.

A seaman on the first submarine to sink an enemy ship, Frank Collins was killed Feb. 17, 1864, when the H.L. Hunley sank near South Carolina after having sunk a Union ship.

“He is a patriot to both Virginia and his nation, the Confederate States of America,” Brag Bowling, commander of the Virginia Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) said during a memorial service yesterday. “Men like Frank Collins are special, and we are so proud to bring him home.”

A separate ceremony was held yesterday for a Maryland Confederate sailor.

Collins’ “sedimentary” remains lay in state in the Old Hall of the House of Delegates inside the state Capitol yesterday under the gaze of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee.

A horse-drawn carriage bearing a casket draped in the Virginia flag transported the remains in a procession of Confederate-era regalia and ceremony. A riderless horse, a rifleman from the Roanoke-area 2nd Virginia Cavalry, Company C, and the color guard of the William Latane Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans were featured in the event.

A bagpiper played “Amazing Grace,” and many onlookers wept.

“This was history, pure and simple,” said Thomas Brew, a Richmond resident who is a major in the Confederate Medical Corps. “This is a son of Virginia welcomed home.”

At Baltimore-Washington International Airport in Linthicum, Md., yesterday the remains of Hunley sailor Joseph Ridgaway were similarly borne and presented. Ridgaway, in his late 20s at the time of death, was from Talbot County, Md.

A color guard presented flags as the seamen’s sacrifice was honored. A memorial service for Ridgaway was held in Libertytown yesterday, and will continue today and tomorrow.

Collins and Ridgaway’s remains will be taken to Charleston, S.C., for a formal burial on April 17. It is expected to be one of the largest memorial ceremonies held in the South in many years, with as many as 100,000 people likely to attend. During the ceremony, those paying tribute will make a five-mile march.

(No physical remains are inside the caskets, but sedimentary remains of the eight crew members who perished will be sent for final burial. Collins’ casket will stay in the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond until final burial.)

During the ceremony at the Capitol, Rebecca Farence was recognized as one of Collins’ relatives: Her great-grandfather was Collins’ cousin. Collins, a Fredericksburg native, was thought to be between 23 and 26 years old at the time of his death.

“It’s wonderful that they can honor him and their heritage,” said Miss Farence, a Pennsylvania resident.

SCV member and color guard commander Jeff Ellett recounted a lively history of the Hunley, which attacked the Union ship USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor, ramming it with a torpedo packed with explosives. The Housatonic exploded, and the Hunley soon sank with it a few miles out in the Atlantic Ocean.

“There was an explosion, and within five minutes the pride of the Union Navy lay at the bottom of the Atlantic,” Mr. Ellett said.

Three different crews manned the Hunley, and each one died in its iron hull. Horace L. Hunley, the submarine’s inventor, perished with the Hunley’s second crew. The sub twice was pulled out of the water, cleaned up and sent into battle again — only to sink on its third mission.

“It was basically a deathtrap for the crew,” Mr. Bowling said. “The people who accepted a position on that boat knew their fates were sealed. These guys were real heroes. It shows their dedication to the Confederacy.”

The submarine remained at the bottom of South Carolina waters until August 2000, when the Hunley Commission was formed to excavate the site, funded in part by the National Geographic Society.

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