EXCLUSIVE: First look at CSS GA artifacts

EXCLUSIVE: First look at CSS GA artifacts
Published: Mar. 4, 2015 at 7:22 PM EST|Updated: Apr. 3, 2015 at 10:05 PM EDT
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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - WTOC got the first look at the Civil War artifacts divers have recovered so far from the CSS Georgia, the iron clad vessel that's currently sitting on the bottom of the Savannah River near Fort Jackson.

The vessel that was scuttled in the harbor by the Confederate Army, but it must be brought up so crews can begin deepening the river as part of phase one in the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.

So far archaeologists have brought up more than 400 artifacts which are being stored at the Army Corps of Engineers on Hutchinson Island. When the project is done, they expect to house thousands of artifacts.

Parker Brooks is a conservator from Texas A&M, he's conducting an initial assessment of all the artifacts recovered from the CSS Georgia. Divers are in the water every day, bringing up not what they see, but what they can feel.

"It's all by touch, we have an electronic grid, we have a tracker on the diver and we put them down in unit because it's zero visibility," said Stephen James of Panamerican Consultants Inc., the marine archaeology group the Corps has contracted for the project.

But even in these conditions, divers have found more than 400 artifacts in less than a month. Some of the items include leg irons that would have been used to hold prisoners, a trunnion cap from a cannon and even a trigger guard from a musket.

Divers will recover only what they can carry until June when the Navy will bring in cranes to do the heavy lifting. Then everything will make its way to Texas A&M to be restored.

"From here, we are going to take the iron and brass artifacts and put them through a treatment to restore the metal to close to its original state," said Brooks. 

A process Brooks said will take several years to complete but the goal is to use what they have to recreate what the vessel looked like. The challenge will be filling in the blanks with pieces that are missing and archaeologists said there's a big piece to this puzzle that can't be found.

"We do not know where the lower hull of this vessel is at," said James.

Archaeologists said they've surveyed the entire river and the belly of the vessel is nowhere to be found, a mystery they hope other artifacts may be able to answer.

"It's a big mystery," said James.

Once Texas A&M completes the restoration, the goal is to bring the vessel back to Savannah and find a place to put it on display.

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