Absolum Williams - The H.L. Hunley's Forgotten Black Crewman | History In A Nutshell Shorts


Did you know that a Black sailor once served on the ill-fated Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley?

Shortly after the Hunley's arrival in Charleston, South Carolina, Lieutenant John Payne of the Confederate Navy was chosen to command the Hunley's first crew. Payne needed strong, able-bodied volunteers to man the submarine. Whether it was out of boredom or curiosity for this “fish-boat”, Absolum Williams – a sailor from the ironclad C.S.S. Palmetto State was one of the men who stepped forward. A diving accident on August 29, 1863, claimed the lives of 5 crewmembers, including Williams. When newspapers reported on the accident, Williams's name was left out most likely because he was Black.  The bodies of this first crew were discovered buried underneath The Citadel’s Johnson-Hagood football stadium in 1999, and later reinterred at Charleston’s Magnolia Cemetery to rest alongside the other Hunley crews.

No photographs of Absolum Williams are known to exist.

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