CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - As many as 10,000 history buffs are expected to pay last respects on Saturday to the crewmen of the H.L. Hunley, a tiny, hand-cranked Civil War submarine that sank a warship 140 years ago
Naval historians credit the primitive Confederate sub with the first successful submarine assault on an enemy warship. Its eight-man crew rammed the Union's Housatonic on Feb. 17, 1864, with a spar attached to a powder charge.
But the 43-foot (13-meter) Hunley and its crew disappeared after the attack. The mystery of its whereabouts was not solved until 1995, when a group bankrolled by best-selling author Clive Cussler found it buried in the seabed 4 miles off the South Carolina coast.
Scientists recovered the Hunley in 2000. Since then, they have studied the crew's remains and other items found in the vessel. This week, forensic archeologists unveiled portraits based on facial reconstructions of all eight crewmen.
So far, the Hunley funeral preparations have generated little controversy in a state that where pitched battles were fought in the 1990s over whether the Confederate battle flag should be flown over the legislature. The flag was moved in 2000 to a monument on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds.