In 1865, the CSS Georgia, a Confederate ironclad battery was burned and sunk in the Savannah River to avoid capture and to obstruct passage on the river. (The ship was scuttled not far from where the British sank the frigate HMS Rose in 1779 to block the French fleet from sailing up the river to attack the British occupiers.) The Confederates who wished to block the river succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings. Now a $653 million plan to dredge the river to allow for larger ships to call, following the widening of the Panama Canal, is being complicated by the wreck of the CSS Georgia. The Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend $14 million to raise and preserve what is left of the sunken Confederate ironclad. How much is left to preserve is another question.
Civil War shipwreck creates hurdle for government’s $653M plan
In 1862, during the American Civil War, the ladies of Savannah, Georgia pitched in to build an iron-clad floating battery to defend the city. The Ladies’ Gunboat Society raised $115,000 for the construction of the CSS Georgia. ’The CSS Georgia was essentially a steam-powered floating battery–a barge-type structure roofed over with wood at an inclined angle and then covered with railroad iron cladding. Such ironclads were, according to various historical accounts, also described a s “floating forts.”‘ The ironclad was also known as the State of Georgia and Ladies’ Ram. The ironclad bears at least a passing resemblance to the Sea Shadow.
How much of the CSS Georgia is left to salvage is an open question. The latest survey of the wreck completed in 2007 notes: “Very little is known about the design and construction of CSS Georgia. No plans documenting the vessel have been located to date, and construction details are minimal and often contradictory. For example, vessel length has been variously described in six contemporary references as being from 150 feet to 250 feet.” The survey did indicate that the bulk of the CSS Georgia has been destroyed by a combination of manmade and natural forces since the ship’s sinking.