Monday, July 3, 2017

CSS Georgia: Large section of armor above the water for first time since 1864

The west casemate, welded to a frame, is lifted from river. (USACE/Savannah)

The largest surviving piece of a Confederate ironclad that defended Savannah, Ga., during the Civil War is resting on a barge following its recovery Sunday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers confirmed the 67-ton hunk of iron and wood from the CSS Georgia was brought up from the Savannah River near Old Fort Jackson.

This 31-feet by 24-feet section was called the “west casemate” because of its location in the debris field of the scuttled vessel, which served as a floating battery near the fort. The smaller “east casemate” was recovered June 21. The casemate served as the CSS Georgia’s armor.

The Corps and contractors are removing the remains because of a port deepening project. The CSS Georgia’s crews sank it in late 1864 as Federal forces near the city. Since then, it’s been the subject of 19th century salvage attempts and damage during dredging operations a few decades ago.

The CSS Georgia is the property of the U.S. Navy, which is interested in seeing its conserved artifacts eventually go on display in museums.

The CSS Georgia may have looked like this (USACE)

Dr. Robert Neyland, head of the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval History and Heritage Command, last week visited the recovery operation. Crews were positioning beams on the river floor to assist with the lift of the hefty object.

He spoke of the challenge of lifting the west casemate: “It has been down there a long time. And you have to free the suction.”

The CSS Georgia’s armor was unique, given its makers used railroad iron fastened to layers of wood. “It seemed clever, as well as an economically and fast way to obtain armor,” Neyland told the Picket.

During construction, one 24-foot length iron would be placed face up, the other piece down – forming interlocking protection.

Recovery operation last week off of Old Fort Jackson (Picket photo)

Neyland said he could see some growth rings radiating out on some of the wood of the east casemate. “There’s a row of really long bolts that go through railroad iron deeply into the planking underneath.”

“All of the recoveries to date will add new and significant information to our understanding of the function and construction of CSS Georgia's armor.

The recovery team in coming weeks will hoist up smaller artifacts. A 2015 operation that included Navy divers brought up several cannon and thousands of artifacts.

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