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March 19, 1965: The Mystery Ship Is Found

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On March 19, 1965, an underwater archaeologist by the name of E. Lee Spence found the wreckage of the CSS Georgianaa Confederate blockade runner that was sunk by the Union on the same date 102 years before.  

 Ofren called the “mystery ship of the Confederacy,” the ship was scuttled by the captain after failing to break through blockade lines. 

The Log writes, “On March 19, 1863, the steamer attempted to run past the Federal Blockading Squadron and into Charleston. Instead, she was spotted by the America, an armed yacht that alerted the rest of the fleet.

The ship was caught in a chase with the USS Wissahickon, which fired a shot that went through the hull, damaging the propeller and rudder.

Captain A. B. Davidson flashed a white light signaling surrender, fired on the boarding crew (which was considered a gross violation), and then beached the ship in 14 feet of water, scuttled it, and escaped onto land with his crew.

Lieutenant Commander John L. Davis, who was commanding the Wissahickon, then set the ship on fire to prevent troops from coming back for the rest of the cargo.” 

“Today the Georgiana sits on the bottom with her huge boiler only five feet (1.5 m) under the surface. She is now covered with a wide array of sea fan, sea whips, and living corals. Large sections of the hull are still intact. In places the starboard side of the hull protrudes over nine feet (3 m) from the sand,” according to descriptions from Spence.

“The ship’s deck was white pine and has long since been eaten away. Sea urchins and sea anemones abound on the wreck. The wreck is frequented by sea bass, grouper, flounder, stingrays, seahorses, and toadfish.

Near the forward cargo hatch Spence found boxes of pins and buttons. Spence recovered sundries, munitions, and medicines easily worth over $12 million (equivalent to $103 million in 2021) but he never found the 350 pounds (160 kg) of gold believed to be hidden on the wreck.[15] The gold could have a numismatic value of over $15 million (equivalent to $129 million in 2021). Other cargo could bring the Georgiana’s total value to $50 million (equivalent to $430 million in 2021).”

The ship was owned by George Alfred Trenholm, who served as the historical basis for Rhett Butler in Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone With The Wind



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