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Navy Prepares To Salvage Enemy Confederate Warship From Georgia River

(Petty Officer 2nd class Heather Brown/U.S. Navy via AP) (The Associated Press)
(Petty Officer 2nd class Heather Brown/U.S. Navy via AP) (The Associated Press)

The U.S. Navy is prepping an elite dive team to begin the process of raising an enemy warship from a Georgia river. The CSS Georgia, which was scuttled by its own crew to avoid capture by General William Sherman in 1864, will be pulled from the Savannah River.

The heavily armored Georgia is considered an enemy vessel owned by the US Navy, and is being removed as part of a plan to widen the river so that larger ships can traverse the waterway. The Georgia never fired a single shot during the war, and special ordnance procedures will be applied while the ship’s weapons are removed for further study.

The ship is a 120-feet-long, steam-powered, armored warship, complete with cannons, cannonballs and some small arms ammunition. It was built using railroad tracks, which makes it unique and one of only two during the war. Divers are scheduled to arrive on June 1st to begin extractionm which will begin with ordnance, before moving on to the propeller, steam engine, and other important materials. The idea will be to preserve the ship as much as possible.

Chief Warrant Officer Jason Potts, on-scene commander for the CSS Georgia operation, said: “The desire to maintain the ship in somewhat of a conservable state is one of the primary concerns. That’s a little bit different from typical salvage. Often times, aside from human remains or things like a flight data recorder, it’s simply object recovery. It’s bringing it up safely and disposing of it. Whereas these artifacts will be preserved for future generations.”

The CSS Georgia was built in 1862 by Confederate soldiers, and the funding was provided by the Ladies Gunboat Association. The group was able to raise $115,000 to build the ship in order to protect their city. Unfortunately it was not a great success, seeing as it never saw battle, leaked horribly, was barely maneuverable, and the engines were unable to drive the vessel through the river’s currents.

View looking toward the Savannah River and the buoy marking the wreck of the CSS Georgia
View looking toward the Savannah River and the buoy marking the wreck of the CSS Georgia

Navy Diver 2nd Class Jonny Pounders remarked on the salvage operation, saying: “It’s an honor to even be part of something like this. It’s a great honor for me personally. It’s a huge part of history, it’s a tragic part of history. I think it’s good that we remember things like this, and that the nation, parts of the nation or whoever gets to see this, remember that these things happen, and we can always learn from something like that.”

The Navy divers on the team are from the same people who salvaged the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor, as well as the ill-fated Challenger and Columbia space flights.