Recovery of CSS Georgia Yielding Cannons and Other Artifacts
The ironclad CSS Georgia was part of the defenses of Savannah, Georgia during the Civil War. The heavy vessel was underpowered with an inadequately small engine, and the ship was relegated to being a floating gun battery in the Savannah River. To prevent it from falling into Union hands, CSS Georgia was scuttled by its crew when General William T. Sherman’s army captured Savannah at the end of the March To the Sea.
Some parts of the ship were salvaged just after the Civil War, but after that the vessel was largely forgotten until river dredging operations accidently rediscovered it in 1968. The Army Corps of Engineers contracted Texas A&M University to survey the ship in the 1980s; two cannon plus cannon balls and artillery shells were recovered in 1986 and can be seen at Old Fort Jackson near Savannah.
Savannah is an important East Coast port, and the Savannah River bottom is to be dredged to accommodate larger ocean going freighters and container ships. As part of this project, the Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Navy, archeologists, salvage contractors, and other experts (including bomb disposal experts, as some shells may still pose a threat) are recovering as much of the wreck as possible in an operation that began in January 2015.
Visibility is generally limited to a few inches in the murky water. Modern sonar and imaging equipment is used to communicate with Navy divers and guide them to possible artifacts. The divers have recovered everything from bottles and pottery to metal objects, large sections of the casemate, ordnance, and cannon. Four cannon were recovered in July 2015.
The cannon were taken to a lab at Texas A & M for conservation and study. The conservation process is expected to take between three and five years.
CSS Georgia is considered to be a captured enemy vessel and as such, belongs to the U.S. Navy. The Navy and Army Corps of Engineers are working on finding museums for these artifacts.