USS Cambridge

Students help preserve history of Modern Greece warship

Laurel Seaborn, from the East Carolina University Program for Maritime Studies 
Photo Mike Spencer

By Amy Hotz - Star News Online

For a ship that’s been sunk 150 years, the Modern Greece has impeccable timing.

On the morning of June 27, 1862, the 210-foot blockade runner slipped through a ring of Federal warships to enter the Cape Fear River.

Its hold was filled with goods from England for the industry-void Confederacy.

Before the Modern Greece could pass under the protection of Fort Fisher, which guarded the route to Wilmington, the USS Cambridge caught a glimpse of it and opened fire. Soon, the USS Stars And Stripes joined in.

The Modern Greece’s captain made a difficult decision. To prevent the goods from falling in to the hands of the North, he drove the ship aground. And the guns of Fort Fisher were able to finish it off, making sure nothing was left behind for the enemies.

Or so everyone thought for almost exactly 100 years.

Right around the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking, and while the nation was in the midst of commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Civil War, divers discovered that the Modern Greece had not, in fact, been completely destroyed.

It was still filled with its original cargo.

Thousands of artifacts were recovered by Navy divers and the N.C. Department of Archives and History. Much of their preservation techniques were the first of their kind and amounted to the beginning of underwater archaeology, not just in North Carolina, but in the United States, said deputy state archaeologist Mark Wilde-Ramsing.

Over the next four years, Civil War sites and museums across the nation will honor the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with elaborate commemorations. And here, the state will also honor the 150th anniversary of the sinking of the Modern Greece and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of underwater archaeology.