The Navy is sending one if its premier diving teams to salvage a Confederate warship from the depths of Georgia's Savannah River. Before it ever fired a shot, the 1,200 ton ironclad CSS Georgia was scuttled by its own crew to prevent its capture by Gen. William Sherman when his Union army took Savannah in December 1864. Today, it's considered a captured enemy vessel and is property of the US Navy. The shipwreck is being removed as part of a $703 million project to deepen the river channel so larger cargo ships can reach the Port of Savannah. Before the harbor can be deepened, the CSS Georgia has to be raised. "The desire to maintain the ship in somewhat of a conservable state is one of the primary concerns," says the on-scene commander for the operation. "These artifacts will be preserved for future generations."
Archaeologists have been able to bring smaller artifacts to the surface, but the Navy is raising the 120-foot-long ship's larger sections and weapons. Navy divers are scheduled to arrive at the site near downtown Savannah about 100 yards from the shore on June 1. The Navy's Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2 has had some of the military's highest profile salvage operations: the ironclad USS Monitor, TWA Flight 800, Swiss Air Flight 111, as well as the space shuttles Challenger and Columbia. In Georgia, Navy divers will pull up the ship's armor systems, steam engine components, and small structure pieces. They'll eventually be sent to one of the US Naval History and Heritage Command's repositories and Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University. (The CSS Georgia, meanwhile, was the subject of a hoax photo.)