Locations of the Shipwrecks Found During the Mississippi River Expedition

Map of Mississippi River

Map of Mississippi River (click to enlarge)

Manassas

Her suspected hulk (It was not dug up to be absolutely certain) lies a half a mile above the Boothville High School on the southwest bank of the river. Note: a mag survey done later by Texas A & M University shows her to be almost completely under the levee. It’s best to look during low water. There is a flat reef-like barrier edged with a small rock breakwater that extends into the river from the base of the levee about fifteen feet. If you walk this area, you can easily detect her iron mass. From a boat you can only pick her up by running parallel to the breakwater. She is buried nine feet under the silt and is probably very well preserved.

Louisiana

She lies deep under the shoreline mud a hundred yards in front of the southeastern embankment of Fort St. Phillip. You can easily walk the area during low tide.

Varuna

This durable little gunboat rests against and under the northeast shore about a mile above Ostrica Canal.

Governor Moore

After a courageous fight she ran aground and burned a few hundred yards above the VARUNA. Kids used to swim off both wrecks as late as the nineteen forties. They can be easily located, and as of the time of the expedition, bits and pieces of them still protrude from the shoreline.

Arkansas

She rests deep under the levee on a north/south heading about a mile and four tenths south from the auto/railroad bridge just below Free Negro Point. 230 yards below river mile 233.

All the above wrecks are easily accessible and would lend themselves to a core or casemate method of excavation. NUMA would especially like to see work done on the Manassas and the Arkansas. Clive has, in the past, offered to fund an exploratory dig on the Manassas, but no one has yet stepped forth from Louisiana.

More on the U.S.S. MISSISSIPPI

Search for the famous navy ship, Mississippi. Blown up on Mississippi River during the Civil War somewhere above Baton Rouge. May, 1989.

The Mississippi was the navy’s first ocean sailing steam ship. She served with distinction for twenty-three years and established an incredible history, which is described in the listing from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships on a later page.

Her end came when she tried to pass the guns of Port Hudson along with Farragut’s fleet that had successfully taken New Orleans. She ran aground and was abandoned by her crew, whose executive officer was Thomas Dewey, later of Manila fame. Set on fire and blazing from bow to stern, she slid off the sand bar and began drifting down the Mississippi, ultimately blowing to pieces when the 24 tons of gun powder in her hull exploded. She then sank out of sight in deep water.

There was no recorded attempt to salvage her and descriptions of her resting place were incredibly skimpy.

She was known to have drifted for 2 to three hours under a current recorded by Farragut himself at 4 miles an hour. These figures would put her roughly somewhere between 10 and 12 miles down river from Port Hudson and well below the tip of Prophet Island. Some reports put the site of her explosion close to the Arkansas, but this has to be an exaggeration. The Arkansas was destroyed by her crew a good sixteen miles below Port Hudson just at the bend of the reach dropping toward Baton Rouge.

In May of ’89, Craig Dirgo and Clive Cussler ran search lines beginning two miles below Prophet Island and ending one mile north of the bottom tip. Using the EG&G sonar and Schonstedt gradiometer, nothing resembling a shipwreck was discovered and no targets of any consequence worth investigating.

We weren’t overly optimistic of finding the Mississippi because the stretch of river where she most likely sank is now a giant swamp. As you can see by a copy of the included chart, the new course of the river is considerably to the east of the old. Three wrecks are noted on an old chart in the general area. The one to the north that appears to be grounded on a bar just below Prophet Island was dredged away many years ago, and our instruments no longer picked her out. The two that are farther south are already marked on the encroaching swamp ground and by now must be a good half mile from the river.

The Mississippi would be a fascinating wreck to survey. Not being salvaged, much of her must still be intact. She might possibly be located with a mag trailed behind a helicopter, but even if her final resting place is found, the remoteness and bog conditions would make any excavation extremely difficult if not next to impossible.



Categories: Expeditions, Ships