Thursday, July 14, 2005


Divers recover main cannon from wreck of CSS Alabama


Montgomery Advertiser
July 13, 2005

The cannon from the Confederate sea raider CSS Alabama
rests on a dock in France after being recovered from the bottom
of the English Channel. Gordon Watts AP/Mobile Register.

The 7,000-pound main battery pivot gun of the Confederate sea raider CSS Alabama has been recovered from the bottom of the English Channel, where the vessel was sunk 141 years ago by a Union warship, a project spokesman said.

The cannon was brought to the surface by the French naval vessel Elan, which had a special A-frame winch on the stern able to bring up such a heavy object, said Gordon Watts, an underwater archaeologist from North Carolina who is overseeing the project.

Watts said French divers and American archaeologists recovered the cannon Saturday about seven miles off the coast of Cherbourg, France in some 200 feet of water.

He said the cannon will be placed in a specially constructed container and shipped back to the United States for conservation. A project supporter in Mobile said it will be taken to the underwater archaeology lab at Texas A&M University.

The divers were faced with dangerous currents while working with the Elan crew to attach a lifting cable to nylon straps on the Alabama's biggest cannon, Watts said.

It took two weeks for divers to remove enough sediment to excavate the old weapon. Project officials said it is the heaviest artifact recovered from the CSS Alabama wreck site. A French mine hunter discovered the ship's site on Oct. 31, 1984.

Robert Edington, a Mobile attorney who is president of the CSS Alabama Association, reported earlier that the French recovered about 200 artifacts from the CSS Alabama in the 1990s. About 200 more were recovered after the Americans took over the project about five years ago with French cooperation.

Edington said most of the artifacts have been turned over to the U.S. Department of the Navy and restored.

A number of them, including the ship's bell, are on display at the Museum of Mobile. The Alabama port city was home to Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes, who was the commanding officer of the CSS Alabama when it attacked Union merchant ships around the world during the Civil War.

Semmes and others were rescued when it was sunk in a battle with the USS Kearsarge off the French coast. About a dozen crew members drowned.


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