Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 10-11-2017


During June and July 2001, the American CSS Alabama Association and the French Association CSS Alabama carried out an archaeological investigation of the remains of the Confederate commerce raider CSS Alabama. Under the direction of Dr. Gordon P. Watts Jr., American and French archaeologists, French volunteer divers and French Navy personnel cooperated in an examination of the wreck that took place between 6 June and 4 July. Objectives for the investigation included video and 35mm photographic documentation of the wreck, limited test excavation in the officer’s quarters and recovery of selected artifacts exposed on the bottom surface. Unfortunately the most important objective, video and 35mm documentation of the wreck site to generate data that would generate data for the production of a site mosaic and computer model was compromised by unsuccessful efforts to obtain French authorization for use of the U. S. Navy research submarine NR-1 or a U. S. Navy remote operated vehicle. On site research was limited to test excavation in the officer’s quarters and recovery of selected artifacts including one of the two Blakely patent British Royal Navy Pattern 32-pounders carried by the CSS Alabama. Test excavation reached a stratigraphic level within the hull that has been undisturbed since the CSS Alabama filled with silt in the years following her loss. Below that level of sediment both the wreck structure and associated cultural material appear to survive in an anoxic environment. A number of intact artifacts were recovered including glass storage bottles, ceramic tablewares and a decorated pipe bowl. This limited testing suggests an exceptional degree of preservation below the dynamic layer of shell hash and sand that covers most of the CSS Alabama’s remains.