New Products Flash Sale
Thread Tools
Old May 05, 2012, 01:19 PM
ken_nj is offline
Find More Posts by ken_nj
GSMB Member
ken_nj's Avatar
United States, NJ, Howell
Joined Mar 2008
1,899 Posts
Civil War shipwreck CSS Georgia creates hurdle for government's $653M plan

Before government engineers can deepen one of the nation's busiest seaports to accommodate future trade, they first need to remove a $14 million obstacle from the past -- a Confederate warship rotting on the Savannah River bottom for nearly 150 years.

Confederate troops scuttled the ironclad CSS Georgia to prevent its capture by Gen. William T. Sherman when his Union troops took Savannah in December 1864. It's been on the river bottom ever since.

Now, the Civil War shipwreck sits in the way of a government agency's $653 million plan to deepen the waterway that links the nation's fourth-busiest container port to the Atlantic Ocean. The ship's remains are considered so historically significant that dredging the river is prohibited within 50 feet of the wreckage.

So the Army Corps of Engineers plans to raise and preserve what's left of the CSS Georgia. The agency's final report on the project last month estimated the cost to taxpayers at $14 million. The work could start next year on what's sure to be a painstaking effort.

And leaving the shipwreck in place is not an option: Officials say the harbor must be deepened to accommodate supersize cargo ships coming through an expanded Panama Canal in 2014 -- ships that will bring valuable revenue to the state and would otherwise go to other ports.

Underwater surveys show two large chunks of the ship's iron-armored siding have survived, the largest being 68 feet long and 24 feet tall. Raising them intact will be a priority. Researchers also spotted three cannons on the riverbed, an intact propeller and other pieces of the warship's steam engines.

And there's smaller debris scattered across the site that could yield unexpected treasures, requiring careful sifting beneath 40 feet of water. "We don't really have an idea of what's in the debris field," said Julie Morgan, a government archaeologist with the Army Corps. "There could be some personal items. People left the ship in a big hurry. Who's to say what was on board when the Georgia went down."

Also likely to slow the job: finding and gently removing cannonballs and other explosive projectiles that, according to Army Corps experts, could still potentially detonate.

That's a massive effort for a warship that went down in Civil War history as an ironclad flop.

The Civil War ushered in the era of armored warships. In Savannah, a Ladies Gunboat Association raised $115,000 to build such a ship to protect the city.

The 120-foot-long CSS Georgia had armor forged from railroad iron, but its engines proved too weak to propel the ship's 1,200-ton frame against river currents. The ship was anchored on the riverside at Fort Jackson as a floating gun battery.

Ultimately the Georgia was scuttled by its own crew without having ever fired a shot in combat.

"I would say it was an utter failure," said Ken Johnston, executive director of the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Ga., who says the shipwreck nonetheless has great historical value. "It has very clearly become a symbol for why things went wrong for the Confederate naval effort."

As a homespun war machine assembled by workers who likely had never built a ship before, the CSS Georgia represents the South's lack of an industrial base, Johnston said. The North, by contrast, was teeming with both factories and laborers skilled at shipbuilding. They churned out a superior naval fleet that enabled the Union to successfully cut off waterways used to supply Confederate forces.

Despite its functional failures, the shipwreck's historical significance was cemented in 1987 when it won a place on the National Register of Historic
Places, the official listing of treasured sites and buildings from America's past.

That gave the Georgia a measure of protection -- dredging near the shipwreck was prohibited.

Still, a great deal of damage had already been done. The last detailed survey of the ship in 2003 found it in pieces and its hull apparently disintegrated.

Erosion had taken a large toll, and telltale marks showed dredging machinery had already chewed into the wreckage. Salvaging the remains will likely move slowly.

Divers will need to divide the site into a grid to search for artifacts and record the locations of what they find. The large sections or armored siding will likely need to be cradled gently by a web of metal beams to raise them to the surface intact, said Gordon Watts, an underwater archaeologist who helped lead the 2003 survey of the shipwreck.

The Army Corps' report also notes special care will be needed find and dispose of any cannonballs and other explosive projectiles remaining on the riverbed. "If there is black powder that's 150 years old, and if it is dry, then the stability of it has deteriorated," Watts said. "You'd want to be as careful as humanly possible in recovering the stuff."

Once the remains of the Georgia are removed from the river and preserved by experts, the Army Corps will have to decide who gets the spoils. Morgan said ultimately the plan is to put the warship's artifacts on public display. But which museum or agency will get custody of them has yet to be determined.

Right now the Confederate shipwreck legally belongs to the U.S. Navy. More than 150 years after the Civil War began, the CSS Georgia is still officially classified as a captured enemy vessel.

ken_nj is offline Find More Posts by ken_nj
Reply With Quote
Sign up now
to remove ads between posts
Old May 05, 2012, 02:28 PM
Apismelifera is offline
Find More Posts by Apismelifera
1/2 a bubble off
Apismelifera's Avatar
United States, NY, Schenectady
Joined Mar 2011
883 Posts

Sounds like quite a project. Wonder how long it will take to remove once work starts.
Apismelifera is offline Find More Posts by Apismelifera
Reply With Quote
Old May 05, 2012, 04:41 PM
Kmot is online now
Find More Posts by Kmot
Grumpa Tom
Kmot's Avatar
United States, CA, Los Angeles
Joined Sep 2003
25,001 Posts
"Captured enemy vessel"

Wow. That's something!
Kmot is online now Find More Posts by Kmot
Reply With Quote
Old May 05, 2012, 04:45 PM
Kmot is online now
Find More Posts by Kmot
Grumpa Tom
Kmot's Avatar
United States, CA, Los Angeles
Joined Sep 2003
25,001 Posts
Army Corp of Engineers website about it:
Kmot is online now Find More Posts by Kmot
Reply With Quote
Old May 06, 2012, 09:05 AM
AndyKunz is online now
Find More Posts by AndyKunz
AndyKunz's Avatar
Joined Sep 2001
32,469 Posts
You know, it's kinda funny. "Captured enemy vessel" that belonged to rebels who never really left the Union because it can't be dissolved, but who had to jump through specific hoops in order to be readmitted to the Union - all depending on which Congressional action, Presidential comment, or Supreme Court decision you are looking at.

AndyKunz is online now Find More Posts by AndyKunz
Site Sponsor
Reply With Quote
Old May 06, 2012, 08:21 PM
Steve Bad is offline
Find More Posts by Steve Bad
"Take the Cannollis"
Steve Bad's Avatar
Lake Martin ALABAMA
Joined Feb 2006
946 Posts
There's no bodies in it, so it's not a war grave. No one has seen it for almost
150's just junk. Trash it.

I'd be more worried about dredging up the lost A-bomb near Tybee Island.
They never did find that little gem.
Steve Bad is offline Find More Posts by Steve Bad
Reply With Quote
Old May 07, 2012, 12:44 AM
bgnome is offline
Find More Posts by bgnome
made of fire and pop rocks
bgnome's Avatar
Richmond Virginia
Joined Oct 2009
1,720 Posts
so now its a $667m project huh?

As steeped and simmered in southern tradition as I may be.. you don't grow up in the capital city of the confederacy, in a very old Virginian family with out getting away from it.. but....

and there's my big but getting in the way again.

But I'm with ya Steve, there really is nothing historically significant about this vessel besides its watery grave probably protecting some old pickled southern ladies waterfront view.

the only real reason to pay any attention to getting it out of the way is the hazard of unexploded ordinance.

As for that lost A-bomb? im pretty sure that the people who need to know where it is, probably know exactly where it is and aint telling to keep people from messing with it.
bgnome is offline Find More Posts by bgnome
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Category Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Discussion Remarkable Civil War pictures dll932 Life, The Universe, and Politics 2 Mar 25, 2012 10:09 AM
For Sale 1/48 scale civil war ships for sale HorribleHarry Boats (FS/W) 8 Nov 16, 2011 08:38 PM
Discussion 3rd Annual Civil War Please see post #1 & #2 for answers to most questions. JONBOYLEMON Utah Flyers Organization 549 Aug 31, 2009 02:09 PM
Build Log CSS Teaser - A Civil War Tugboat in O Gauge (1/48th) Stu :) Scale Boats 9 Sep 30, 2008 06:31 PM
Discussion Old Navy's Civil War Ironclads herrmill Scale Boats 43 May 09, 2008 11:32 PM