Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Uh-oh.

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on March 23, 2017

Is the long-running and hella expensive H. L. Hunley Project going to get caught up in a South Carolina political corruption scandal? Could be:

This week The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper reported that the left-leaning University of South Carolina – another Quinn client – had turned over documents to Pascoe’s team of S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) investigators.

They aren’t the only ones …

According to our sources, documents have also been obtained from Clemson University – a government agency which has been intimately associated with Quinn’s most brazen fleecing of South Carolina taxpayers: The Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley.

Over the past two decades, tens of millions of tax dollars have flowed toward this Confederate submarine – which was raised from the floor of Charleston harbor on August 8, 2000.  Millions more have been spent on related Confederate memorabilia – and millions more on a government-run “Restoration Institute” run under the auspices of Clemson University.

Why would South Carolina taxpayers be placed on the hook for such non-core appropriations?

Easy: Because former S.C. lieutenant governor, longtime State Senate president and current College of Charleston leader Glenn McConnell (below) was pushing them.  And no one was about to stand up to the man who – at the time – was arguably the most powerful politician in the state.

McConnell – who fancies himself a Confederate general – is a longtime client of Quinn’s political consulting firm, which has benefited considerably from these state appropriations via its “Friends of the Hunley” organization.  In fact, McConnell’s alleged efforts to enrich Quinn using Hunley funding was originally exposed during his bid for the College of Charleston presidency – but no one ever followed up on the allegations.

They are most certainly following up now …

According to our sources, Pascoe and his team of investigators are not only poring through various Clemson University “Restoration Institute” documents, they are also investigating the allegation that McConnell conspired with Quinn’s firm to rig the bidding for various Hunley-related contracts.

As far as I can tell, suspicion at this point isn’t directed at the archaeologists, historians, and conservators themselves, the people who’ve actually done the work of investigating and preserving this remarkable artifact; this looks to be conventional political corruption case of the type that more typically involves road construction contracts or real estate development. Still, it’s troubling, and I hate the idea that the good work that’s been done over the last two decades might be tainted by pedestrian graft.

A few years ago, a well-known nautical archaeologist commented that we’re unlikely to see more very large-scale Civil War underwater archaeology projects in the near term, because “Monitor and Hunley broke the bank.” I think he’s (sadly) probably right about that, although the subsequent work on C.S.S. Georgia at Savannah might be an exception to his prediction. If it turns out that McConnell and Quinn were funneling dirty money into the Hunley project, it’s just going to make that situation that much worse.

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7 Responses

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  1. jason perez said, on March 23, 2017 at 11:55 am

    Wow…well I guess they had to balance things out, Trey Gowdy was making SC just look too good.
    Ok but in all seriousness, I take pleasure hearing stuff like this fall apart. I fully support it.

    • Andy Hall said, on March 23, 2017 at 12:22 pm

      Lots of people, including the news source I cited, I think the Hunley project is a huge boondoggle and inappropriate use of state resources. I disagree, and I am disappointed that this project is likely to be damaged by this.

      • jason perez said, on March 23, 2017 at 12:38 pm

        I was rushing and I could have worded that better. Sorry. The collateral damage to the project itself is unfortunate. But the “funneling dirty money into” is more what I was getting at. Also I may be jumping to conclusions here but someone who “who fancies himself a Confederate general” …+ possible misuse of funds for confederate memorabilia will have me a little skeptical. Maybe the virginia flaggers have made me a bit edgy but Id hate to see what they’d do if given the opportunity.

        Objectively though yes it is unfortunate. Dispassionately I think we’d all love to see things like that restored so we can experience them up close.

        • Andy Hall said, on March 23, 2017 at 1:01 pm

          No worries.

          Glenn McConnell is a mess, and in some ways it’s surprising that his fondness for the Confederacy didn’t much impede his political career. (It certainly would have if he’d been a generation younger.) I mean, for years his major activity away from the State House i Columbia was running a Confederate-themed retail business.

          He’s not especially honest about it, either. The picture of him in the linked article was taken at a costume ball organized a few years ago by a Republican women’s group in Charleston. When he got some negative press attention about it, he claimed that he was wearing a period U.S. Navy uniform, which is BS — it’s a mishmash of uniform elements, but it’s mostly Confederate.

  2. Craig L. said, on March 26, 2017 at 6:27 am

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjM-4SZ_PPSAhUBUmMKHZmgDvQQFggmMAE&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ship-wrecks.net%2Fshipwreck%2Fprojects%2Felgin%2F&usg=AFQjCNHkThiwHcZh282a3tGY-RCWQk-yiQ&sig2=noYB0Q2EXrbatHMGf_6tyw

    Just came across this article while researching my wife’s one-eighth Irish ancestry. One of the nearly 400 victims of the wreck of the Lady Elgin in 1860 was Milwaukee’s harbormaster, Martin Doerley. I learned at my mother-in-law’s funeral two years ago from my brother-in-law that my wife is part Irish. Army Air Corps records for my wife’s father gave me enough clues to locate my wife’s great grandmother, Josephine Doerley, who was both the daughter and the sister of a father and son named Martin Doerley who owned an Irish saloon in Milwaukee’s third ward. Apparently the wreck of the Lady Elgin has been located in recent decades and become controversial over it’s Civil War history with much speculation that the sinking may have been deliberate rather than accidental and possibly an act of war.

    Just wondering if you’ve previously encountered news of this maritime incident.

  3. Craig L. said, on March 27, 2017 at 10:35 pm

    The article linked to my comment about the Lady Elgin disaster included the following statement: “By 8:00 AM many student volunteers from Northwestern University were on the scene as the wreckage and rafts approached the shore.”

    Northwestern’s website describes the history of the institution. A purchase of land was made in 1851 that eventually became the university and the town of Evanston, but in 1855 the school boasted of only two faculty members and a mere ten students. The school might have grown some between 1855 and 1860, but I’d be inclined to doubt any more than a doubling of those figures in five years, so I suspect that the role of the school’s surf patrol in the rescue effort may have been somewhat embellished. Wesleyans started pumping money into Northwestern in the 1880s. Northwestern College (aka North Central) in Naperville didn’t relinquish their claim to the name Northwestern until substantially after the turn of the century.


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