|Dahlgren cannon, bayonet hilt, eagle breast plate (USACE-Savannah)|
Archaeologists who worked with US Navy divers in 2015 and 2017 to clear the remnants of the floating battery used to guard the city’s defenses from autumn 1862 to December 1864 earlier this year filed a final report on their efforts.
They detail what’s known about the ship’s design, construction, propulsion, armaments and life aboard the “Mud Tub,” which was scuttled as Sherman’s forces neared Savannah.
Rather, 20th century dredging disturbed the site and salvage operations not long after the Civil War removed a quantity of artifacts that might have filled in gaps about the underpowered CSS Georgia. A portion of the final report includes a fascinating passage by CSS Georgia documentary maker Michael Jordan about that salvaging and why one man involved tossed some of the recovered material back into the river out of frustration with the contract and officials.
The sheer number and array of artifacts -- which includes interlocking railroad iron used to for armor -- found in the river make up a large part of the massive report. In a future post, we will feature a brief Q&A with Watts and discuss a few answers to key questions raised about the CSS Georgia before the diving and mechanized recovery even began.
Here’s a summary of some of what was found in 2015 and 2017 as part of the Corps’ efforts to remove barriers in the Savannah harbor to make way for a significant deepening of the vital shipping channel:
Material associated with the CSS Georgia: 440 tons
Recovered artifacts: 32,782
What was or is being conserved: 13,601 artifacts weighing 165 tons
What was reburied in the river: 19,181 artifacts weighing 274 tons
|Largest portion of surviving casemate (USACE)|
Number of cannon recovered: 5 (others were previously found). Divers and crews on a barge pulled up two IX-inch Dahlgren cannon, a small cast iron 6-pounder and two 6.4-inch single-banded Brooke rifles. Three have been cleaned and are ready for shipment to the National History and Heritage Command, which stores the artifacts at the Washington Navy Yard. The second Dahlgren and Brooke will be finished shortly.
|6-pounder case following conservation with shot and wood sabots (USACE)|
Discarded military munitions: 246
|Single-shot percussion or flintlock pistol (USACE)|
Small arms rounds: 153 of varying caliber and make were recovered from the CSS Georgia.
Casemate: South section recovered, East and West sections reburied
Propellers recovered: One, the other may have been previously salvaged
Steam cylinders found: Both
Clothing buttons: 24 (metal, glass, wood, bone and composite)
Tools: 38, including augers, axes, chisels, drills, files, hammers, pliers, scrapers, and wrenches
Kaolin smoking pipe bowls: 8 (example, photo right)
Bayonet hilts: 6, all being saber or sword-type bayonets. “Ironically no examples of Enfield bayonets have been recovered, as this was the type of rifle found on the ship.”
Swords: Two model 1832 foot-artillery swords were recovered. The M1832 foot artillery sword was developed and manufactured by Nathan P. Ames, and had multiple variations in blade size and shape. The identifiable portion of this sword is the grip, with the straight set perpendicular to the grip.
Among the most significant artifacts were pieces associated with brass gun sights and percussion locks.
“These were used in tandem to provide a greater degree of accuracy and instant discharge of the gun during naval engagements. Instruments of this type are relatively rare in archaeological settings because brass instruments like these were typically melted down and repurposed after the Civil War. The group of brass naval gun sights and percussion locks recovered from the CSS Georgia represents one of the largest, if not the largest, ever recovered from a Civil War site.”
Jim Jobling, lab manager at Texas A&M's Conservation Research Laboratory, puts the number of artifacts sent to Texas a bit higher than the number listed by Panamerican. He says the lab has conserved 13,761 out of 18,399 items. About 10,500 have been shipped and the lab has another 3,200 ready to go.
Panamerican Consultants, which is based in Memphis, Tenn., said the recovery generated extensive data on the ironclad.
“Three sections of casemate, disarticulated railroad rail armor, elements of steam machinery, and ordnance comprise the major surviving elements of the vessel. Small artifacts, vessel hardware, and fastenings are also present in association with those elements.”
|Buckles like this were made in nearly all states (USACE)|
On the front side, there is a depiction of an eagle holding arrows of war and olive branches of peace in its talons. On the reverse side, there are two sets of holes for the hooks that were necessary for attaching the plate to the cross-chest lanyard of a cartridge box. These were made by multiple manufactures from the early 1850s to the end of the Civil War. Soldiers often referred to the plate as a “shoulder belt plate.”
Part 2: A conversation with archaeologist, diver Gordon Watts about the wreck
|Jim Jobling sprays down engine cylinders (USACE)|