USS Water Witch
Constructed in 1852 in the Washington Navy Yard at Washington, D.C., the USS Water Witch, a wooden-hulled, side-wheel gunboat, spent years surveying South American rivers before being called to duty in 1861 for the Union blockade of the Confederacy. In 1863 the vessel joined the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, which operated mostly in Georgia waters around Ossabaw Island.
During the attack, a former slave in the Union ranks leapt overboard, swam to shore, and warned other solitary blockaders that the Water Witch was no longer a friendly craft. Before the Confederates could pick off the ships one by one in the guise of a Union sloop, the Union mobilized its vessels and went on the offensive, forcing the Confederates to hide their new ship beneath
In 2007 a team of researchers, led by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, found what is believed to be the Water Witch shipwreck off the coast of Savannah beneath approximately fifteen feet of sediment. In 2009 the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus completed a full-scale replica of the Water Witch, which sits anchored in full view along Victory Drive in Columbus.
W. Craig Gaines, Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008), s.v. "CSS Water Witch (USS Water Witch)."
Mills Lane, Savannah and the Civil War at Sea (Savannah: Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum, 2001).
Raimondo Luraghi, A History of the Confederate Navy (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1996).
The USS Water Witch: A Collection of Orders and Reports Concerning the Capture and Destruction of This Vessel (Savannah: Georgia Historical Society, 1974).
Brad Wood, University of Georgia
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