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Smn Joseph F. Ridgaway

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Smn Joseph F. Ridgaway

  • Birth 1835 Easton, Talbot County, Maryland, USA
  • Death 17 Feb 1864 Sullivans Island, Charleston County, South Carolina, USA
  • Burial Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, USA
  • Memorial ID 8654423

Civil War Figure, Crewman of the HL Hunley submarine. Joseph Ridgaway was second-in-command the night the HL Hunley was lost. Born in late 1833 to James and Elizabeth Ridgaway, Joseph was from Talbot County, Maryland. He was just 16 when he earned his Seaman’s Protection Certificate, rating him as an experienced seaman. On August 29, 1862, Ridgaway joined the Confederate States Navy in Richmond, Virginia. Initially, Ridgaway’s only duty on the Hunley was to operate one of the cranks that powered the submarine. But when William Alexander, one of the submarine’s builders, was called back to Mobile, Alabama in early 1864, Lt. Dixon promoted Ridgaway to fill his place as second-in-command. In this position he was responsible for securing the aft hatch, manning the seventh crank and operating the aft pump, the seacock, and the flywheel. While Ridgaway was just over 30 years old, he was also one of the most experienced sailors onboard. Dixon’s selection of Ridgaway to the position of second-in-command must have been based in part on his extensive experience at sea. During excavation of the Hunley, Ridgaway’s remains were found associated with a slouch hat, pencil, and a wooden pipe. Perhaps most intriguing among the discoveries related to Ridgaway was an item he wore around his neck: the ID tag of a Union soldier named Ezra Chamberlin. Chamberlin died at the Battle of Morris Island in 1863, and some seaman onboard the Indian Chief served on picket duty around the island. It is possible Ridgaway picked it up while at Morris Island on picket duty. Forensic experts believe Ridgaway was 5'10" tall. He had also suffered a broken nose and shoulder injuries, possibly from manning the crank on the Hunley. He definitely used tobacco and was moderately robust for his height. After Ridgaway was lost at sea after Hunley failed to return from her mission, his friend and shipmate on the Indian Chief, James Joiner, took the submariner’s personal belongings back to his family in Maryland. Joiner eventually married one of Ridgaway’s four sisters. Hunley scientists have carefully studied the all the remains to determine which member was Ridgaway. To remove any doubt of Ridgaway’s identity, DNA testing from descendants of the Joiner family was conducted. Descendants of Ridgaway’s sister were in Charleston, S.C. April 17, 2004, to attend the burial of their ancestor in Magnolia Cemetery. The HL Hunley sank 4 miles off the coast of Sullivan's Island (Charleston), South Carolina, on February 17, 1864, after sinking the USS Housatonic.

Bio by: Heather from VA


Family Members


  • Created by: Heather from VA
  • Added: 19 Apr 2004
  • Find A Grave Memorial 8654423
  • Blockade Runner
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Smn Joseph F. Ridgaway (1835–17 Feb 1864), Find A Grave Memorial no. 8654423, citing Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, USA ; Maintained by Heather from VA (contributor 39720311) .