(Elizabeth City, NC) After nearly tens years of searching, a team of divers located the remains of the Civil War gunboat CSS Appomattox, and a sample of some of the artifacts are now on display at the Museum of the Albemarle. The small Confederate steamer was lost in February 1862 while escaping Union navy ships after the Battle of Elizabeth City. Trapped in the upper Pasquotank River, and too wide to pass through the locks of the Dismal Swamp Canal, the Appomattox’s crew destroyed the vessel and escaped to Norfolk. Most of the crew, including seaman James Skerritt, returned to service aboard the ironclad CSS Virginia. Less than a month later, the Virginia fought the USS Monitor to a draw in one of the pivotal battles of naval history.
Working under a permit from the Department of Cultural Resource’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, the dive team, headed by Philip Madre, searched the dark waters of the Pasquotank River near South Mills. In August 2007, Madre and his partners — Jason Madre, Eddie Congleton, and Jason Forbes—descended to a newly discovered site. Although the machinery had been salvaged, they could tell by construction features that the new wreck, like the Appomattox, had been equipped with a screw propeller. Soon they found Civil War vintage artifacts such as musket percussion caps and friction primers used in firing a cannon. Two weeks later, Jason Madre recovered the defining artifact — a silver plated spoon crudely engraved with the name “J. Skerritt.” In July 2008, staff from the Underwater Archaeology Branch visited the shipwreck with Madre and his crew and confirmed the dive team’s findings. This spoon, as well as other important artifacts can be viewed through this summer at the Museum.
The Museum of the Albemarle is located at 501 South Water Street, Elizabeth City, NC. (252) 335-1453. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm, Sunday 2:00 pm - 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays and State Holidays. Serving Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington counties, the museum is the northeast regional history museum of the North Carolina Division of State History Museums, Department of Cultural Resources, State of North Carolina. Treasure NC Culture. www.ncculture.com