Sunday, January 27, 2013
Civil War Sunday - The Uncovered Wreck
The naval aspect of the United States Civil War tends to be ignored by many people, as readers of my Civil War Sunday posts know. It isn't easy to walk on the sites of naval battles, or to visit the sunken results of these battles.
Ships aren't always destroyed in battle. Some sink in bad weather. Sometimes no one knows exactly why.
I am fascinated by shipwrecks.
There is the H.L Hunley, a Confederate submarine wrecked in 1864 for reasons still unknown. I was able to visit what is left of it in North Charleston, South Carolina last year, where the wreckage is being studied and, as much as possible, being restored.
There is the ironclad USS Monitor, a portion of which was built from materials harvested near where I live in upstate New York. (It was the Monitor that started me on this fascination, so many years ago, when I learned about the "Battle of the Ironclads" in elementary school.)
But now, we are being given an unprecedented opportunity, thanks to 3-D sonar, to view the wreck of the USS Hatteras, sunk in the Gulf of Mexico 150 years ago this month. The wreck wasn't discovered until the 1970's. Now, recent storms have shifted the sea bottom mud off the wreck. It could be covered again at any moment. Time is of the essence.
The Hatteras was part of a naval blockade waged by the Union to cut off an important supply chain of the Confederacy. It was unlucky enough to be the only Federal ship sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, much of its crew taken prisoner.
Now, online, we can view a piece of history.
In my youth, I would have said "how cool is that?"