Obviously, the South is the only place where old times are not forgotten.
On Friday afternoon, a New York motorist called police with a tip about a potential terror threat. Seems someone was hauling a suspicious-looking object — it resembled a torpedo — on the highways around the city.
Before long 30 agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, were searching for this potential menace.
Even Coast Guard cutters in the area were on the lookout, since the thing looked sort of like a boat.
They should have set the terror color chart to Rebel Gray, because they were just hunting for a bunch of good ol’ boys from Summerville hauling a replica of the H.L. Hunley to Connecticut for the weekend.
“It’s pretty bad when four Confederates and a replica of the Hunley can cause all this,” says Mark Clark, general manager of the exhibit. “Maybe they were worried we were here to get them back.”
You know, this is the most trouble the Hunley has caused Yankees in nearly 150 years.
Educate, not destruct
The H.L. Hunley Traveling Exhibit has been cruising American highways for more than a decade.
In all that time, it hasn’t sunk any U.S. warships, although it did get a flat tire outside of Atlanta last year.
The sub model, built by John Dangerfield, is a life-size iron replica of the first successful combat submarine in history.
These days, the exhibit is its own charitable education organization, set up by the Sons of Confederate Veterans’ H.L. Hunley camp in Summerville. It travels from California to Connecticut, Mississippi to Tennessee, teaching folks about the Hunley and its attack on the USS Housatonic outside Charleston on Feb. 17, 1864.
Apparently, it’s missed a few folks in New York.
Because for a while Friday and Saturday, local, state and federal authorities spent an inordinate amount of time looking for the replica.
“I’ve heard a lot of things, a lot of strange stories related to this project over the years, but this is the best one,” says Kellen Correia, executive director of Friends of the Hunley.
Yeah, since the Hunley very briefly became a weapon of mass distraction.
Investigators finally turned up a surveillance photo of the Hunley exhibit rolling through a toll booth.
That was the first clue something was not amiss. Terrorists don’t use toll booths.
Except maybe in “Blazing Saddles.”
New York police eventually called the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, home of the Hunley. They were able to direct authorities to Clark.
Clark says the police were extremely nice when they reached him by phone in Connecticut on Saturday. That’s probably because, by that time, they realized that a hand-cranked submarine bolted to a flat-bed trailer wasn’t much of a threat to the Big Apple.
In fact, the Hunley Traveling Exhibit was at a Civil War show at Mystic Seaport — where it was received warmly, by the way. No hard feelings among Connecticut Yankees.
Clark told New York police when the exhibit would be coming back through, gave them his license tag number. They didn’t offer an escort, but they didn’t try to set up another blockade, either.
On Monday, New York Police did not even remember the incident but said, “We get a lot of bizarre calls here.”
The upshot is the Hunley got a little publicity, and may have educated a few folks — which is the replica’s purpose.
Not to blow up New York.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com. Tune in to his live chat Wednesday at 11 a.m. at www.postandcourier.com.