Salvaging the Civil War-Era Ironclad CSS Georgia

By August 8, 2015 Article, Technology No Comments

All hands are on deck, so to speak, in efforts to salvage Civil War-era ironclad CSS Georgia, which has been resting beneath the waters of the Savannah River since it was scuttled in 1864. The hardy team working on the project includes representatives from a Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit, an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit, the Naval History and Heritage Command, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Kemplon Engineering takes a closer look at this exciting ‘dive’ into history.It all begins with the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project (“SHEP”). The $706 million-project involves deepening the river, so that it could accommodate larger ships. Deepening the river from 42 to 47 feet, however, would destroy the historically significant wreck if it weren’t removed, as it lies 40 feet underwater by a channel traversed by commercial ships entering the port.

The 1,200-ton CSS Georgia was built in 1862 as an ironclad warship tasked with the defense of the city from a Union advance. Lacking in offensive power, however, the ship was anchored in the Savannah River as a floating battery. After having served for around 20 months, however, the ship was scuttled in 1864 by its own crew, to prevent capture when the Union army under Gen. William T. Sherman took Savannah.

A Challenging Operation. The Savannah River spans 18 miles, connecting the Port of Savannah to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a busy waterway with civilian and commercial traffic, aside from having a strong current and murky waters. But with training and teamwork plus high-tech equipment, the units are able to move forward with the challenging operation of ‘raising the wreck’ and saving the CSS Georgia from being lost during the expansion project. The cost of recovery is estimated at $14-15 million.

The efforts of the recovery teams have since yielded plenty of progress. 128 unexploded ordnance have been recovered from the site, and two of four cannons have been retrieved this July.

The Raise the Wreck Festival, held recently in Old Fort Jackson, was one of the ways by which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers thought they could share information on the historical significance of the wreck and all the efforts being undertaken to salvage it. The festival was free for visitors, who could participate in interactive games, do a Q&A with underwater archaeologists and divers, watch dive operations, and check out historical artifacts.

Did you find this article interesting? Our blog is full of other content on maritime history and marine archaeology, as well as other themes and topics relating to the maritime industry.

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^ Gast, Phil. “Divers begin recovery of Civil War ironclad.” CNN, 30 Jan 2015. Web. 02 Aug 2015.

^ Hyatt, Jessie. “Salvaging CSS Georgia.” All Hands, 24 Jul 2015. Web. 02 Aug 2015.

^ Messer, Adam. “Raise the Wreck Festival explores lost history of CSS Georgia.” Savannah Morning News, 23 Jul 2015. Web. 02 Aug 2015.

^ “Navy divers to help raise confederate warship CSS Georgia artifacts from Savannah River.” Fox News, 24 May 2015. Web. 02 Aug 2015.

^ “Navy salvages cannon from wreck of Confederate ironclad.” MarineLog, 23 Jul 2015. Web. 02 Aug 2015.

^ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Historical Background.” Web. Accessed 02 Aug 2015.

^ U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Raising History: Raising the CSS Georgia.” Web. Accessed 02 Aug 2015.