Conserving CSS Jackson

Archaeological CSI on a Civil War Gunboat
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CSS Jackson is a Confederate ironclad built in 1862-1864 using enslaved labor.
The ship was burned and scuttled at the end of the war. Its remains were raised from the Chattahoochee River in 1961.
A highly sophisticated and complicated wooden “fantail” at the stern survived. It was unique and may have been built by a highly skilled, formerly enslaved master builder, Horace King.
Stored outside the National Civil War Naval Museum, the fantail was badly damaged in an arson attack in May 2020.

SEARCH investigated the fire-ravaged armor-clad stern of CSS Jackson, currently housed at the National Civil War Naval Museum in Columbus, Georgia. Together with Terra Mare Conservation, SEARCH systematically disassembled and documented the fantail to “reverse construct” it and learn the secrets of the Civil War gunboat’s construction.

Archaeological research and photogrammetric modeling have served as the basis for professional papers and an upcoming virtual tour.  

“Artifacts as complex as ships often have many stories to tell. CSS Jackson’s story is yet another example of often uncredited, exceptional architects and builders like Horace King. Slowly taking the crumbling and charred timbers apart was an emotional and powerful experience. I felt as if he was almost looking over our shoulders as we marveled at his skill.”

Dr. James P. Delgado, Senior Vice President, SEARCH, Inc.

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