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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Living in Charleston, SC there is always a wealth of Civil War news and events going on. Unfortunately most have nothing to do with the War itself and instead tend to be people trying to rewrite the war, be it the cause or ending.

Donít get me wrong, I tend to bring my head up a couple of times a year. I love going to the Civil War show (think a Star Trek convention but instead of Trekkie nerds, you have Civil War nerds), I like going to one of the reenactments, mainly for the food and I head over to CSA galleries during their sales, hoping one day to find some union art that will take my fancy. Of course I canít forget the Daniel Library Friends of The Citadel who put on a wonderful author lecture series each year, which always features a few Civil War authors.

The big thing in the Charleston area over the last few years (besides the NAACP boycott of SC due to the Confederate battle flag flying on state grounds) is the raising of the CSS Hunley. And there have been some crazy things happening as of late, so I thought I would start posting on them.

For those of you who are unaware of the Hunley, it has the distinction of being the first submarine to sink an enemy ship during war. It also liked to sink, a lot. Before sinking its ship, it sunk twice as it practiced Ė and then after sinking the USS Housatonic, the Hunley sunk again.

Fast forward to present day and author Clive Cussler goes exploring and finds the wreck, the state gathers some money and raises it and now itís in a lab being poked and prodded for all of its secrets and getting refurbishing too. When the refurbishment is complete, it has too find a home and that has been a little tricky. There are three major cities in the Charleston area Ė Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant - and they are all fighting to be the home.

The leaders of each city have great points on why it belongs in their city.

The City of Charleston has the oldest museum in America and gets the most tourists in its downtown area, so it would make sense to put it there.

Mount Pleasant has Patriots Point, a floating Naval Museum, so it has the best experience with ships. Plus all the Navy historians already go there so the tourists that want to see the Hunley, are going to be in Mount Pleasant to begin with. As far as Civil War enthusiasts go, almost half of the tourists who go to Fort Sumter depart from that location.

North Charleston currently gets few tourists but is in the midst of redeveloping the property that was once the Charleston Navy Base from a blighted eye sore to a new community. It had partnered with Noisette, a private company to finance and do the actual work but there were a few bumps in the road. But guess what? North Charleston has the upper hand in landing the museum, why you ask? Simple, it is willing to put money and a lot of it to keep the Hunley in the city that itís being refurbished in. So the city was announced as the winner but no formal document was signed.

Within the past week North Charleston has started to cut ties with Noisette and a divorce settlement is being hammered out. As the public makes its way through reading the lengthy document, a surprising factoid has appeared. North Charleston will still be given the land needed to build the museum but it will give Noisette the right to build condos and offices above and next to the museum.

Unfortunately, this could be a breaking point for North Charleston receiving the Hunley.
The Hunley Commission, the group charged with preserving the Hunley, does not like this idea at all and two have stated that they will not allow the Hunley to stay if the deal is not changed, city council members are now stating that they are getting a bum deal from Noisette (even though they originally said they agreed to the plan) and the Mayor of North Charleston is trying to calm everyone down.

I donít know what is going to happen but will be watching it closely.

Why? Because it has better drama than anything on TV right now and I love watching politicians fight over the Civil War, especially when most know nothing about it.


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