Search for more CSS Neuse parts delayed

Mar. 10, 2014 @ 10:53 PM

KINSTON — North Carolina archaeologists plan to use high-tech equipment in hopes of finding parts of a Confederate ship that sank almost 150 years ago.

The News & Observer of Raleigh reported (http://bit.ly/1h4xRyp) that archaeologists will use sonar waves and a magnetic-field instrument over a half-mile stretch of the Neuse River near Kinston. They hope to find more parts of the CSS Neuse, including a propeller, an anchor and cannon.

"People have been up and down the river bank for years and years searching but things that are underwater, lost in the mud, maybe couldn't be found," said Steve Claggett, state archaeologist for North Carolina.

The search, originally scheduled for Monday, was delayed until Friday because the Neuse River was too high.

It was 149 years ago this month that rebel troops lit the iron-armored gunboat aflame to keep it from the Union. The sunken boat was searched for salvage in 1865, and its hulk was pulled from the river in 1963.

The ship's new home is the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center, a museum that opened to the public last year.

State underwater archaeologists have a small research boat has a side-scan sonar device that will use sound waves to pick out shapes underwater, while its magnetometer will search for traces of iron. They expect to announce early findings Friday afternoon.

Museum officials hope to raise money to pull any artifacts found Friday from the water.

The CSS Neuse already is the most intact commissioned Confederate ironclad around, said museum manager Matt Young. It was the cutting-edge technology of the day, he said. The Civil War represented the first combat deployments of the armored ships and a new era for naval warfare.

"For 150 years ago, they were very revolutionary technology," Young said. "People don't associate the Civil War with advanced technology."

He hopes that the new search will turn up the most revolutionary part of the ironclad — the iron.

The museum has six pieces of armor plate, some weighing more than 1,200 pounds, Young said, but hundreds more have been taken from the boat or sit at the bottom of the Neuse.