The men lost on the USS Housatonic

Posted on February 17, 2014 by

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Update, 2/20/14: Please see the additional data gathered about three of the men lost, at the end of the post.

While outside my normal “theater of operations”, I felt a bit obligated to write something about the Hunley, today.  Obviously, today marks the 150th anniversary of the Confederacy’s great achievement in submarine history… but also the loss of the vessel that was behind it.

The USS Housatonic

The USS Housatonic

As a qualified submariner, I don’t think I can miss marking the day. Furthermore, I did, after all, make a point of being present for the funeral of the crew members of the Hunley, in April, 2004. Yet, with all of the effort made on the part of identifying the Hunley‘s crew members, I decided (especially after a side conversation with blogging pal, Craig Swain… see his post on the Hunley-Housatonic incident, here) instead to focus on the men of the Housatonic. If you take a look at what’s available on the crew members lost on both ships, I think many will agree there is a void that needs to be addressed.

First, who were the five men lost?

A day after the sinking, the following report was made by Captain Green, commanding USS Canandaigua:

SIR: I have respectfully to report that a boat belonging to the Housatonic reached this ship last night at about 9:20, giving me information that that vessel had been sunk at 8:45 p. m., by a rebel torpedo craft.

I immediately slipped our cable and started for her anchorage, and on arriving near it, at 9:35, discovered her sunk with her hammock nettings under water; dispatched all boats and rescued from the wreck 21 officers and 129 men.

There are missing, and supposed to be drowned, the following-named officers and men:

Ensign Edward C. Hazeltine, Captain’s Clerk Charles O. Muzzey, Quartermaster John Williams, Second-Class Fireman John Walsh, Landsman Theodore Parker.

Captain Pickering is very much, but not dangerously, bruised, and one man is slightly bruised.

I have transferred to the Wabash 8 of her officers and 49 men, on the account of the limited accommodations on board of this vessel.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
J. F. GREEN,
Captain.

Commodore S. C. ROWAN,
Commanding Officer off Charleston, S. C.

Since I decided to do this rather suddenly, this turned into a quick exercise (emphasis on quick) in research. Regretfully, there are limitations to doing this research strictly via computer, and a better sketch of all five men just isn’t going to unfold in this post. Still, time spent on doing this did prove satisfying. I especially found it rewarding to take nothing more than the names of men, and spend time trying to know better who they were… even if I was only able to better “know” a couple of them.

First off, some of the names proved challenging. After all, consider the common names of “John Williams” and “John Walsh”. I didn’t think, however, that “Theodore Parker” would be difficult… but it was as well. Given more time, I might do a little better.

So, we’re down to two of the five… Muzzey and Hazeltine. I’ll give some additional info on Hazeltine first. His story, though still falling short of the bio sketch I’d like to see, yielded material rather quickly.

Born ca. 1842, in New Hampshire, Edward C. Hazeltine was a son of Life A. and Caroline R. Hazeltine. On September 22, 1859, he was appointed as a midshipman with the U.S. Naval Academy. When the census was taken in 1860 (June 30), he was at home, in Concord, and was listed as present with the family…

Hazeltine1860

On May 9, 1861, Edward was among the 42 members of the Second Class, of the USNA, who were ordered “detached” to active service. Young Midshipman Hazeltine appears to have seen service first aboard the USS Hartford , and later aboard the Housatonic… though I don’t have specific dates. Though I can’t say for sure on which ship he was serving at the time, he was commissioned to ensign on December 27, 1862. I wish I knew more of the details of his service, prior to his death on February 17, 1864.

The story of Clerk Muzzey, on the other hand, bore fruit a little differently. I didn’t find his information through the same resources used for Hazeltine, but through the pension application submitted by his mother (on August 22, 1864), Elizabeth. What follows below is the first page of her application (broken into segments for better resolution):

Muzzey1

 Muzzey2

The application file also included this certificate of death, signed by the Housatonic‘s assistant surgeon:

MuzzeyDeath

Despite Elizabeth Muzzey’s claim, the pension board needed more information regarding her dependence on her son’s income and proof of the death of her husband. By 1867, she had provided part of what was needed (*note the reference to Nathaniel P. Banks, then a representative to Congress)…

Muzzey3

For whatever reason, Elizabeth Muzzey apparently never provided proof of her dependence on her son. She died in 1873, with the pension application still pending.

To the sailors on both the Hunley and the Housatonic who lost their lives on this day, an often used Navy salute… “Sailors, Rest your Oars”.

There is a port of no return, where ships
May ride at anchor for a little space
And then, some starless night, the cable slips,
Leaving an eddy at the mooring place…
Gulls, veer no longer. Sailor, rest your oar.
No tangled wreckage will be washed ashore.

Addendum: Just as curious about the recovery of the Housatonic as the recovery of the Hunley? See this site, via the Naval History & Heritage Command for more.

UPDATE, 2/20/2014 – The following additional information about three of the five men lost was obtained from the article from the New York Times, and, in the case of Parker, some information gleaned from his service record:

Williams – “…had got safely on deck, but ventured back to save $300, which he had in his bag on the berth-deck. Poor fellow, he never returned.”

Welsh – “coal-heaver, of Boston”

Parker – “(colored) who was on the lookout directly over where the ship was struck, was blown into the air and instantly killed.” Age 24, 5’7”, Born in NY, NY. Enlisted 5/22/1862, for two years.  

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