History buffs hope to raise CSS Tuscaloosa from watery grave

Last Update: 9/27/2004 1:32:00 PM
Posted By: Devin Walker

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) – A Civil War ship that has sat at the bottom of the Spanish River near Mobile for 139 years could become Tuscaloosa’s newest tourist attraction.

Community leaders say a $3 million plan to recover the Ironclad CSS Tuscaloosa and display it on the banks of the Black Warrior River in its namesake city could bring national attention.

"It’s like a big ripe apple sitting down there waiting to be picked," said Larry Chestnutt, a history buff and president of the downtown merchant’s association. "I can’t think of anything else that could bring so much attention to the town."

Chestnutt said government money, grants and private contributions could pay the recovery costs for the ship, which was built in Selma and launched in February 1863 to defend Mobile Bay.

The CSS Tuscaloosa was one of only about 22 ironclads built by the Confederacy during the way. It saw little action but helped the South keep control of the port.

Historical records show the Tuscaloosa and its twin, the Huntsville, were sunk 12 miles north of Mobile after one of the Civil War’s last battles, the Battle of Blakley in April 1865.

The crew of 120 abandoned the ship with few personal effects. It is believed that archaeologists will find many artifacts once the ship is raised.

One supporter of the idea is Paul Bryant Jr., chair of the Civil War Preservation Trust, a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving Civil War battlefields.

"Thousands of people come to adjacent states to visit battlefields," most of them from outside the South, Bryant said. "If this could be tied into one of the Civil War trails, it could be a wonderful economic boon to Tuscaloosa."

©2004 Associated Press

Link: http://www.wpmi.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id=4E68976C-E234-48CA-B170-84FD2F396AF1