Beginning itâåÛåªs journey to the Pamlico Sound at the Falls of the Neuse just north of Raleigh, the Neuse River twists and turns its way for almost 250 miles. It would hardly seem to type of body of water that would harbor a warship, yet during the Civil War, the Confederate Navy created an ironclad river boat, the CSS Neuse, in the hopes of thwarting Union advances.
It was not to be. Lack of materials–primarily iron, the South had no iron mines, unreliable transportation, miscues and lack of trained men pushed the construction schedule back and back until by the time it was ready to float down the river in 1864 it was too late.
When work was completed in April of that year, the Neuse steamed out of Kinston planning to attack Union positions in New Bern. A half a mile later it ran aground on a sand bar and remained there for a month. By the time the waters rose enough for it to float free, General Lee had recalled most of the crew to defend against the onslaught of northern forces in Virginia.
It was not until March of 1865 that the ship fired any rounds in battle of its two rifled cannon at Union calvary forces. After firing the shots, the crew set fire to the ship and abandoned it to prevent General ShermanâåÛåªs forces from seizing it.
The ship sank clearly in sight of the city of Kinston, but it was not until 1969 that salvage operations were able to lift it from the muck of the river bottom. Although considerable salvaging of the ship had occurred over the years, the hull and deck are still considered the most intact confederate ironside ship in existence.
Recently the NC Office of Underwater Archeology offered to work with local official to find some of the missing pieces of the ship using a side-scan sonar device that can detect anomalies on the river bed.
The two largest pieces of the ship that have never been recovered are the propellers and the casemate that sat on top of the deck.