The Civil War in the News: Spring 2012
A sunken Confederate ironclad and a soldier’s arm from Antietam are in the news this spring.
CSS Georgia Shipwreck Holds Up Dredging of Savannah Harbor
The government is set to deepen the ship channel in the Savannah, Georgia harbor to accommodate larger ocean going vessels. Savannah is the fourth busiest port in the country for container ships, and while the operation will cost $653 million, it’s necessary in order to accommodate larger ships that will call at the port once the Panama Canal’s expansion is completed in 2013.
However, sitting on the river bottom at the edge of the current ship channel are the remains of the Confederate ironclad CSS Georgia. Because of the ship’s historical significance, the site will be surveyed and the remains of the ship will be raised by the Army Corps of Engineers and preserved, at an estimated cost of $14 million.
The Georgia, launched in 1862, was constructed with grossly underpowered engines that rendered it almost useless as a moving vessel. It essentially became a floating gun battery on the Savannah River, aiding in the defense of that city. It was scuttled in December 1864 to prevent its capture when Major General William T. Sherman completed his March to the Sea at Savannah. Georgia was one of two ironclads on the Savannah River. The CSS Savannah, also underpowered but somewhat more maneuverable, helped cover the retreat of the Confederate Army when Sherman arrived. After that, it too was destroyed to prevent it from being captured.
Surveys indicate the Georgia is not intact, so the vessel will have to be raised in pieces. The Corps will search the debris field for any artifacts it can find. Any unexploded ordinance will be handled carefully as it could be live even after all this time. Though this is an expensive endeavor, it should yield some fascinating artifacts from the Savannah of the past as the port city moves forward into the future with an expanded harbor.
National Museum of Civil War Medicine Studying Preserved Arm from Antietam
Museum officials with The National Museum of Civil War Medicine in Frederick, Maryland are studying a preserved forearm in the hope of determining if it is from a soldier wounded or killed at the Battle of Antietam down the road in Sharpsburg, Maryland.
The story goes that a local farmer found the arm while plowing a field soon after the battle in September 1862. He preserved it in a brine solution, then gave it to an area physician, who embalmed it. For years the arm was on display at a private Sharpsburg museum; earlier this year it was donated to the Civil War Medicine Museum. Curators there are hoping to get the arm examined by forensic anthropologists.
Whenever the scientific examinations are completed, the arm will probably be displayed at either the Frederick location or at the Fry House Field Hospital Museum, a site on the Antietam Battlefield operated by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.