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Listen to new episodes of your favorite Michael Tura shows available on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. Up next, a story from the South Carolina Military Museum in Columbia, South Carolina, the state's capital, about a little bit of maritime history. In particular, one ship called the Georgiana.
Here's John Freeman with the story. It's called the SS Georgiana, not the CSS as Confederate ships were sometimes called, but the SS because technically at the time, technically it was a civilian ship. The Georgiana started getting made in Glasgow, actually in Scotland, because it's a neutral territory and when the South went to war in the Civil War, they didn't really have the industrial base to build a navy that could rival the United States.
I mean, that's a tall feat. So what they did have, though, was money from selling their cash crops overseas. And so they would get some of these ports to build them ships that they couldn't. So this boat started getting made and there was an interesting spy game that happened between United States spies who were over there watching the development of this boat because they had suspicions this boat was going to get sent to the south. And it was it was a decent boat. So it was it was an iron hold, ironclad steamship that still had two masts and it was fairly large.
It was supposed to be pretty fast and they were a little concerned about it. And they kept an eye on it. And sure enough, before they could actually go and seize it, claiming that it was actually going to be delivered to the south, it had set sail with a crew from Britain under the Scottish Isles. And it actually was captained by an ex Royal Navy officer. So their only job was to bring it overseas, delivered to Charleston, that wasn't fit out as a warship yet. It was still just a civilian ship with stores actually in the hold because the person who financed it was a profiteer during the war, a southern profiteer. And he was going to smuggle in buttons, pins, anything he could smuggle in. He wasn't going to send it over empty. So he put all of these resources in it and he was going to smuggle it to Charleston.
And you say, really? Buttons and pins will make you rich? Well, if all the metal for pins is being used for cannons and all the buttons are being used for uniforms, the civilian population has absolutely minimal access to these supplies. So he's looking forward to bringing them in to have a payday and then he's going to transfer ownership of the vessel to the Confederate Navy. And then they can do with it as they see fit, probably be a commerce raider.
It's supposed to be pretty fast. Maybe it would get out and wreak havoc on the whaling fleet or something along those lines. So it's coming across the ocean with no weapons installed. Supposedly it had four cannons in the hull. We have two of them here in the museum. The other two are still mysteriously unknown.
So maybe one day I can find them if I'm lucky enough. So it's got two cannons, at least in the hull, and it's coming across. And what it has to do is it has to break through the blockade. The plan that the North took during the war was called the Anaconda Plan. They're going to choke out the South. And they're going to choke out the South. And they're going to choke out the South. One of those is they can mostly afford a blockade around the bigger southern ports, and then they're going to control the Mississippi River.
And with that, they're going to constrict the South into submission. The harbor at Charleston was blockaded by a sizable fleet, and so they had to sneak through the blockade. Well, the main harbor near Charleston comes from, well, used to come from the South.
You have to set up from the South to get into the city. You'd get over the sandbar and into an anchoring spot called, I think it's called Forest Park, and into an anchoring spot called, I think it's called Five Fathom Hole. So to sneak in, you know, this ship doesn't have a very narrow draft. It's not like it's a paddleboat that can just go over, you know, just a couple feet of water to go.
It needs a decent draft. Well, there's a side channel called Moffat's Channel that runs right along a nice scenic beach, actually. They're going to try to follow the beach down and then take Moffat's Channel and then cut into the harbor right where near Fort Moultrie is. And so the Confederates own the town. They own the forts. So the blockading fleet can't get too close, but once you're inside the system of forts as a blockade runner, you're generally safe.
Well, they're trying to sneak in, trying to stay dark, but there's an issue. They get spotted by a lookout ship. It's not necessarily a military vessel, but what it is, is it's the SS America, I believe is its name. It's actually a famed racing yacht that took place in some of the, some early races in the 1800s overseas and actually won them.
And it was never expected to win because America never participated. Well, it actually gets commandeered by the US Navy and it's a lookout boat in Charleston and it spots the Georgiana trying to sneak into the harbor. And so it raises the lookout and fires with a small gun that raises the guns of the larger ships like the Housatonic and the other ships in the area have huge tenant rounds that they can fire. And pretty soon the Georgiana is getting pummeled because they don't have any weapons on board.
And also this isn't their fight. They aren't a Confederate crew. They're just here delivering the ship. So they summarily turn it towards shore and run it aground. They all get off the boat.
They paddle shore and the cruise gets through relatively safe and unscathed. The problem is you have a boat sitting here now. So the blockade starts shelling the boat to try to destroy it. The forts also on the land start shelling the boat because they don't want anyone to dilute it for what might be on board. So both sides keep shelling the boat, shelling the boat, shelling the boat.
And eventually it burns down about to the water line. And there was a rumor that on board this boat was a box of gold. And it's not treasure or anything like that, but you have foreign citizens delivering this. They have to have some way to pay them.
Paying them your domestic money is not going to be any help. So let's just pay them in gold currency. So they would have had some way to pay the crew. They don't know if that gold was ever taken off the boat or if it may have been left on the boat when both sides started destroying the boats and that neither side could loot it. That's actually what led to the boat's discovery was maybe there's still gold on board.
It hasn't been found to this day, but what was found is millions and millions of buttons and pins and everything just scattered across the sea floor around this thing. And they're still there. We actually have some on display next to our cannons.
There's also jugs with medicine on them, jugs with different various oils or bottles of oil as well. So all of these were intended to be brought into the port and then immediately offloaded. So the Georgiana has unfortunately unceremoniously sunk. The cannons that were supposed to be mounted on the Georgiana stayed in the hull of the ship and there the Georgiana would stay.
It wouldn't say undisturbed because throughout the war multiple ships would actually run into it and crash either on top of the Georgiana or they would get a little bit closer to the city of Charleston and then sink in shore. But Georgiana really did a decent job for the union of actually helping blockade that blockade that little blockade runner channel. So you know a little bit of helping them more than the Confederates, but it's a it's a fantastic history. And great work on the production and storytelling by Monty Montgomery.
A special thanks to John Freeman, the Confederate Mystery Ship, here on Our American Story. Folks, if you love the stories we tell about this great country and especially the stories of America's rich past, know that all of our stories about American history are brought to us by the great folks at Hillsdale College. A place where students study all the things that are beautiful in life and all the things that are good in life. And if you can't get to Hillsdale, Hillsdale will come to you with their free and terrific online courses.
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