CSS Georgia update: Delays raising the ironclad… for a good reason

I’ve mentioned the project to recover the CSS Georgia a few times here on the blog.  What has been recovered has been, to say the least, impressive.  Savannah’s WTOC reported that over 8,000 artifacts had been recovered as of the first days of June. The project belongs to the US Army’s Corps of Engineers.  But since the ship technically belongs to the US Navy, their drivers are taking the lead.  The Savannah, Georgia ABC-TV affiliate (WTVM), offered an update on the progress of the recovery, noting some delays.  There’s a video on their site, but let me pick a few particulars out for emphasis:

The Navy was supposed to start the recovery on Monday, but the project has been delayed because divers continue to find more artifacts. Officials are hoping the Navy can start bringing up the vessel in about three more weeks.

Yes!  Better to have a thorough effort to recover artifacts and get this done correctly.   The WTOC news link also comes with a video with shots of some of the 8,000 artifacts being recovered.  Lots of good stuff!  The artifacts are being shipped to Texas A&M for processing, handling, and treatment.

Quoting Russell Wicke, Corps of Engineers spokesperson:

“The first part of that phase, they’ll be bringing up the stuff that could actually blow up.”

For the second week in a row, I get mention unexploded ordnance and proper handling.  Doesn’t matter that the shells have been underwater for 150 years.  These must be treated with respect.  Let’s not confuse proper risk mitigation with disregard of history.  If the team is able to safely recover, inspect, and – if needed – disarm those munitions, then everyone wins.  If they cannot do that  safely, then we shouldn’t second guess the call.

The long term goal of this recovery is preservation:

Navy officials said they hope to have the CSS Georgia removed by the end of August. Texas A&M will be restoring most of what is brought up, and the Army Corps hopes to have the iron clad on display here in Savannah one day.

I’m not sure if there are any discussions as to where the ironclad might be displayed.  I have some ideas of my own.  But I trust those responsible are going to make good decisions in that regard.

And something to keep in mind with respect to this project – this is “Part 1” of a larger project to expand the harbor of Savannah.  Part 2 involves dredges which will enlarge and re-build the ship channel leading to the Atlantic.  The Corps of Engineers have, in my opinion, given history and preservation high priority in this project.  I predict that one day we can showcase this as an example where preservation did not translate to some impediment to progress.


Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “CSS Georgia update: Delays raising the ironclad… for a good reason

  1. I have researched many of the wrecks of the confederacy. I would love to see them raise the Arkansas, Manassas etc… Many of our ironclads remain in good condition under the mud. This our history and it needs to be protected.

    1. I hear you. But, let me in fairness offer the “other side” to this. For the most part, nature will “preserve” the wrecks in situ better than an underfunded, poorly-directed recovery effort can. We see the success stories appear several times a year with respect to World War II sites (aircraft and ships). But we don’t read about the failures, which outweigh those in number. So to start with, I think the word “preserve” is somewhat misapplied in these cases. Perhaps a better words would be “stabilize” or “restore” if not outright “recover.” Yes, the goal is to preserve. But that action is somewhat open ended and subjective in application.

      The other factor in play here is the presence of human remains. I don’t think we should disrupt any wreck that is suspected to contain human remains. Maybe it is just my old sensibilities showing through. There are some exceptions, of course. Should there come a time when the need to widen channels or other activities might lead to disruption of the remains, then I think a deliberate, planned approach would be acceptable. But otherwise, I am averse to some rush to disrupt a grave simply because someone wants to hold history in their hand. There are other ways that can be done, I think.

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