Monday 28. Sep. 2015

J. F. Carlsen from the Hunley identified

New research by Adam Jon Kronegh from the Danish National Archives shows one of the eight Hunley submarine crewmen came from Denmark.

On February 17, 1864, the submarine the Hunley set out on a dangerous mission during the Civil War. With explosives attached to the tip of the submarine, the Confederate’s Hunley attacked the Union’s blockade ship, USS Housatonic. This was done in order to break the Union’s ship blockade.

Shortly after the attack, however, the Hunley disappeared: The submarine sank and was not excavated until 2001, when it was taken to North Charleston for investigative scientific work.

Solving the mystery of J. F. Carlsen – 8 years of research

A US identification team of researchers, including Linda Abrams and Denmark’s Maria Jacobsen, made comprehensive scientific analyses on the Hunley and the remains of the crew.

One was Corporal J. F. Carlsen. They only knew he was between 20-23 years of age, that he had a worn front tooth with a so called “tailor’s notch,“ and a low amount of carbon-13 contained in his bones. The latter meant that he had to have migrated from Europe relatively shortly before he joined the Hunley on her fatal mission.

In 2007 Linda Abrams and Maria Jacobsen went to Denmark, where they met Adam Jon Kronegh in the Danish National Archives. He assisted their search for J. F. Carlsen in the old, original documents. At that time they did not succeed, but Adam Jon Kronegh continued his search in the archives through the following eight years, and in 2015 he got his big breakthrough.

“As you can imagine, I was very excited to find the real Johan Frederik Carlsen in the archives in February of this year. He was born on April 9th. in 1841 in Aeroeskoebing. His father was a cobbler. That fits with J. F. Carlsen’s ‘tailor’s notch’ because he probably helped his father with needle and thread from childhood.

Two smoking-gun clues are that he is registered in the 1860 census as a sailor, and that he went on the ship ‘Grethe’ to America in 1861. The captain’s diary records show that they docked in Charleston in February 1861. And finally there is the record in the military archives that he deserted in Charleston in February 1861. That is the final proof that point to him being the J. F. Carlsen, who was on board the Hunley.”

Adam Jon Kronegh is proud of being part of solving the mysteries of the Hunley: “It happens maybe once in a lifetime that you get an opportunity to deliver the missing piece to a puzzle like this. So I feel extremely happy and honored to be able help solve this mystery after eight years of research, looking through the old, original documents at the Danish National Archives.

A DNA test on living descendants from J. F. Carlsen is key to making a completely certain match between the crew and the living relatives and thus confirming the identity of the J. F. Carlsen found in the archives.

Further information: Press photos, quotes and interviews

Please contact Press Officer Julie Avery, the Danish National Archives, tel. + 45 41 71 72 41,

Press photos