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Descendent of Fredericksburg submariner Frank G. Collins is proud of his historic service on the Hunley
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Date published: 4/17/2004
For THE FREE LANCE-STAR
For Becky Farence, seeing the face of her ancestor Frank G. Collins 140 years after his death in the Civil War was "surreal."
"The eyes, I can't place in my family," she says of the reconstruction unveiled this week of Collins, a Fredericksburg sailor lost aboard the Confederate submarine Hunley in 1864. "I see the cheeks, though, and wonder."
Collins' likeness was unveiled Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C., as part of a weeklong buildup that will culminate in the burial today of eight members of the final crew of the sub.
The CSS Hunley made naval history on Feb. 17, 1864, when it attacked the Union blockade ship USS Housatonic just outside Charleston's harbor, becoming the first submarine ever to sink an enemy vessel. For reasons still unknown, the Hunley never returned to base after the attack.
The Hunley was raised intact four years ago and taken to a special facility at the old Charleston Naval Base for conservation. Subsequent archaeological excavation of the sealed submarine led to the recovery of the remains of all eight crewmen, including Collins.
A team of world-class scientists and researchers identified the eight members of the Hunley's crew. Sculptor Sharon Long, working with Smithsonian Institution forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley, has produced reconstructions of the faces of the crewmen.
Those faces were publicly revealed, two at a time, at the end of lectures about the Hunley this week at the College of Charleston.
What Farence and others in attendance learned about Collins was that he was the tallest crew member of the crew, standing 6-foot-1. He had to crouch down just to fit into the tiny vessel, which was only 4 feet tall, 42 inches wide and 40 feet long.
Collins was one of seven men who hand-cranked the propeller. The commander steered from the front, using a single candle to illuminate a compass and map.
Sitting in the fourth seat in the single row, Collins would have been farthest away from the two escape hatches, making his position the most dangerous in the sub.