Who can resist amazing coincidences? An astonishing find by the then teenaged diver E. Lee Spence happened on this day in 1965. The shipwreck of the SS Georgiana was discovered off the coast of South Carolina near Charleston.
The Georgiana was destroyed exactly 102 years before then, March 19th, 1863. The Confederate ship was sunk on her maiden voyage while trying to sail past the Union’s Blockading Squadron into Charleston harbor. The Georgiana was to be outfitted with guns in Charleston, but never made it.
Solid shot from the USS Wissahickon’s cannons passed completely through the Georgiana’s hull. Confederate Captain A.B. Davidson flashed a surrendering white light. Then, about three quarters of a mile from shore, Captain and crew scuttled the ship and then escaped from Union forces. Lieutenant Commander John Davis of the Wissahickon ordered the wreck of the Georgiana set ablaze. The destruction was performed in order to prevent any Confederate militia from salvaging the ship and her cargo.
Yet another shipwreck is at the site of the SS Georgiana. The Confederate’s sidewheel steamship Mary Bowers sunk after sailing into the wreck of the Georgiana. The Mary Bowers was attempting to run another Union blockade into Charleston harbor.
If, by chance, the SS Georgiana would have completed her voyage to shore, she would have been the most powerful, dangerous blockade runner or cruiser in the Confederate Navy. She was ready for 14 cannon and was large enough to carry 400-tons of cargo. At the time of her demise, the Georgiana carried 140 crewmen. Captain of the ship, Davidson, was a retired British naval officer. There were also arms and explosives being carried to Charleston.
Underwater archaeologist Spence is certain the ship was intended as a privateer or cruiser because of the naval gunnery aboard. The construction of the ship’s deep draft hull was heavier than normal.
Spence’s discovery and recovery efforts yielded him various products, armaments and supplies worth more than twelve million dollars. 350 pounds of gold were rumored to also be hidden on the ship, but no gold was ever found. Still, tens of thousands of items have been recovered from the site of both the Georgiana and Mary Bowers.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that the Georgiana’s cargo was worth more than $1,000,000 in 1863 dollars. A great loss to the CSA’s forces and a boost to the USA’s war efforts.