Today (March 19th) in 1863, the SS Georgiana, reportedly the most powerful cruiser built for the Confederate Navy, failed to make it past the Federal Blockading Squadron and into Charleston, SC.
The ship’s desperate crew was forced to beach the Georgiana and flee, after which the Union forces set the wreck on fire. As this was the ship’s maiden voyage, the Confederate forces were less than encouraged by this outcome.
By all accounts, the Georgiana was a beautiful ship, outfitted not only for war but for the raiding of enemy merchant vessels (a practice known as privateering).
She was 226 feet long, with space for up to 14 guns, and powered by a steam engine that turned a propeller 12 feet in diameter. Her cargo holds were extra roomy, able to accommodate more than four hundred tons of cargo.
For her maiden voyage today in 1863, the Georgiana was loaded up with merchandise, munitions, medicines, and (supposedly) 350 pounds of gold. None of the cargo made it to its intended destination, with everything but the gunpowder sinking to the bottom of the sea along with the Georgiana.
The gunpowder, as you may imagine, was consumed when the ship was set on fire by the Union forces. There was so much gunpowder on board that the Georgiana burned for three days (punctuated by intermittent explosions) before it finally sank.
Exactly 102 years later in 1965, 18-year-old E. Lee Spence discovered the sunken Georgiana while diving. He didn’t have to go very deep – the ship’s boiler is a mere five feet under the surface.