Daily Archives: 30 November 2009

Guns of the CSS Georgia

I lamented the use of fuzzy 35mm photos to support the post regarding Confederate 24-pdr Howitzers earlier this month, in particular that of the 24-pdr Howitzer recovered from the CSS Georgia.    Well good friend and fellow marker hunter Mike Stroud, of Bluffton, South Carolina, made a trip to Fort Jackson, outside Savannah recently and offered a few photos.

Confederate 24-pdr Howitzer - Fort Jackson

Again, this weapon matches to an unmarked weapon reported on the CSS Georgia, produced by Savannah founder Alvin N. Miller.  The weapon is currently mounted on a naval-style truck carriage.   Mounted over the forward spar deck, the weapon was likely only useful for close quarters combat.

Trunnions of the Howitzer

Trunnions of the Howitzer

The howitzer’s form includes a step just in front of the trunnions.  Rather typical for the time period, the simple cylindrical rimbases connect the trunnions to the tube.

Muzzle of Howitzer

Muzzle of Howitzer

The muzzle shows signs of damage.

The CSS Georgia had a rather uneventful history.  Built with funding from the Ladies Gunboat Association, she was launched in May 1862.  On paper the CSS Georgia was a major component of the Savannah River Squadron.  The ship boasted the capability of ten guns – four on each broadside and one each for and aft.  In reality, the ironclad was underpowered and little more than a floating battery.  With railroad rail iron instead of the intended rolled iron plate, the ship was too heavy for its weak machinery.  As result, only four heavy guns, the 24-pdr seen here, and a 6-pdr were mounted.  First hand accounts indicated the ship was rather leaky with a low freeboard.  Little wonder, when scuttled on December 20, 1864, the CSS Georgia quickly disappeared into the Savannah River.

Corps of Engineer surveys documented the location of the wreck site as early as 1866.  Other than one attempted salvage in the 1860s, the wreck lay ignored, but marked, for over 100 years.  In 1979 an accurate survey of the site was completed.  Additional surveys in the 1980s and 2003 have mapped much of the ship’s remaining superstructure and debris field.   In addition to the 24-pdr, underwater archeologists have recovered one other cannon from the CSS Georgia – a 32-pdr Navy Gun, rifled and banded.

32-pdr Gun Rifled and Banded from the CSS Georgia

Note the breeching loop on the breech instead of the knob found on most field pieces.  The right side trunnion is badly battered.  But the left side bears the initials of the inspecting officer.

Inspector Initials - CWS

These correspond to Charles W. Skinner, Navy inspector who worked the position in 1852 (only) checking ordinance at Cyrus Alger of Boston, Bellona Foundry (Virginia), and Tredegar Foundry (Virginia).  Secondary sources state this weapon is registry number 714, produced in 1852 by Bellona.  It’s recorded weight was 58-2-00.  Well under the “hundred weight” system this is 6552 pounds (58 * 112 plus 2 * 28, with the zeros indicating no remainders).

Confederates took this particular piece in hand for rifling early in the war, adding a reinforcing band to compensate for the added pressures.

Muzzle of the 32-pdr

The bore of the 32-pdr shows just a hint of rifling.  Likely the lands and groves suffered corrosion due to 100 plus years in the brackish Savannah River.

In addition to the guns, divers have recovered ordnance and various fittings.  According to the surveys, three other guns lay in the river at the wreck site – a 6-pdr cannon, an VIII-inch Navy Shellgun, and another banded 32-pdr Rifle.  Any one of which would be interesting exhibits at the Fort if recovered.   The detailed sonar mappings of the wreck  indicate significant portions of the casemates lay in the mud also.  Perhaps one day the remains of the CSS Georgia can be raised and examined in more detail.

Again, thanks go out to Mike Stroud who contributed these photos.