tv Laura Lawfer Orr Discusses Civil War Naval Engagement CSPAN August 12, 2017 6:55pm-7:53pm EDT
films, and more. next, the hampton roads naval museum, a discussion on civil road -- civil war shipwrecks and hansen roads, virginia. -- in hampton roads, virginia. she gives details of the sinking's of the ships and problems with the plunder of the artifacts from the wrecks. this talk was that gettysburg college. it is just under an hour. good afternoon, everyone. .mp carmichael it is a pleasure
>> graduate of penn state university. during her summer, she spent time as a seasonal historian. greensboro on to unc were laura and i spent some time for year before i moved on to west virginia university. andcompleted her masters has had a very -- her first job was at stratford and hall, the birthplace of robert e lee. recently, she is the deputy education director at the hampton roads naval museum. she works as an educator and does special event. she also worked at fort munro museum.
today, she will be speaking to shipwreck.vil war in my seven years here, i don't think we have done any naval operations. she will be talking about shipwrecks of the uss cumberland before she comes on page. note that laura and her husband have recently published a book. you can see a copy of it just in front of the podium. the title of the book is never .all me a hero me introduce laura lawfer. [applause]
afternoon. how is everybody? good. they went after lunch. i have to start out with a matter of disclosure. at the united states naval museum, everything here is my opinion. it is not endorsed by the u.s. navy. i think you see why as we go to this talk -- through this talk today. things we will focus on his civil war battlefields in a different way than you usually do. we are losing the fight to preserve some civil war battlefields. you might not know it where here in gettysburg over 6000 acres have been safe. on a front, civil war preservation is failing. maybe next have been plundered, abused to see
underwater wreckage as salvage. u.s.problem shadows all naval wrecks around the world. , then ships and planes final resting place for many u.s. sailors. direct said unprotected -- sit unprotected -- the wrecks sit unprotected. they are victims of diverse and plunderers who seek to take pieces of the wrecks for themselves. many said on the bottom of vast oceans. need specialized diving equipment to get to them, but civil war navy wrecks are whereularly vulnerable they said in shallow waters. the story i would like to tell , the ussabout toots
cumberland and florida. --ope by the end of us individual appreciate these two. many years, these ships since the end of the civil war, the u.s. navy had claimed and held official ownership of both wrecks, but over the passage of time, we have lack the necessary resources to protect these aquatic graveyards. in the 20th century, virginia watermen looted and pillaged these shifts under the guise of claiming and fishing. today, we are on the verge of losing the wrecks, i think on -- wiping from the face of the earth, the last vestiges of this crucial naval action in the atlantic. the story of the uss cumberland and cs as florida is the story of the civil war. plunder of the wrecks was allowed by the organizations
entrusted to their care, the u.s. navy. before i tell this sad story, let me introduce you to these two ships. it is logical to begin with the uss cumberland. the fabled ship sunk during the battle of hampton roads. prior to destruction, cumberland was one of the finest vessels in the federal fleet. built at the boston navy yard thelaunched in may 1842, 175 foot long frigate served in the navy for two decades. in the 1840's, cumberland took part in three mediterranean cruises. served as the flagship of the u.s. navy's home squadron during the mexican-american war. in 1856, the navy sent cumberland to the new york navy yard, where workers copyrighted it into a ship of war by cutting the next. refitting, for years, it cruised off the coast of
africa as a flagship of the african squadron patrolling the , african slave trade. by the time the civil war began in 1861, cumberland boasted -- pivot guns. these monster guns wade 12,000 pounds each. at the time, there are some of the largest pieces of naval artillery in the world. the beginning of the civil war, cumberland was moored in portsmouth, virginia. the ship was towed to safety when the confederates took over the shipyard. for the next year, cumberland participated in the north blockading squadron. it captured a small number of ships in the harbor. additionally, cumberland was part of a force that came -- captured the forces at cape hatteras. it may -- met its match on march
eighth, 1862. of many months, the men cumberland had been aware of the construction of the virginia made from the catcher hall of the uss merrimack when it was burned at the beginning of the war. they drilled in preparation for this inevitable encounter. all the training did nothing to help them. that fateful morning as cumberland opened fire with her forward guns the confederate , ironclad responded with a shot that burst through the starboard side, killing or wounding nine right off that that. the second shell from virginia took out an entire gun crew, except for the powder boy. the ironclad maintained a position of the bow. they kept up firing at cumberland, as the ship lay helplessly at anger, unable to -- anger, unable to bring the broadside against the attacker. virginia moved away from the
victim's bow. for several moments, the ironclad could not extricate itself. as cumberland began to sink, it appeared that the vessels might sink together. fortunately for the confederates, the ram broke off and freed the virginia. exposeding, its actions the ship to the cumberland's broadside. the union ship was doomed. all aboard knew it. amazingly, no uninjured gunners left their station. they realized they had an opportunity to retaliate. despite their losses, the union sailors intensified their efforts. the dead were thrown to the port side and the wounded trade -- carried below. the remaining gun crews fired three broadside, but none of
ironclad'sd the armor. someone on the virginia yelled to the cumberland's commanding officer, lieutenant george morris, asking if cumberland would surrender. morris replied, "never. we will sync with our colors flying." finally, the bow submerged. morris gave the order to abandon ship. breach,ured through the causing the warship to lurch forward and the ship plunged, bow first, to the bottom of the river, carrying 121 men down with her. in the aftermath, cumberland became famous. most importantly the ship had snapped off virginia's ram, weakening the ship, enabling the uss monitor to pummel it and eventually drive it back. , the virginiaer
was intentionally destroyed by confederate forces. throughout the rest of the civil war, u.s. soldiers and sailors routinely visited the site of cumberland, easily accessible at that point by its mast sticking out of the water. u.s. troops recognized the sacrifice of the cumberland crew dead,id homage to the recognizing that section of the james river as hallowed ground. two years and eight months later, another important warship joined at the bottom of the james river. the confederate commerce raider, the css florida. it was constructed in secret in a liverpool shipyard under the edo, a ruse that it was intended for service in the italian navy. using a british dispatch gunboat, the vessel is designed for speed and maneuverability.
it could under -- upright under sales and steam. on march 22, 1862, sent to the bahamas, where a confederate state navy captain assumed command. he christened the vessel css florida. meanwhile, his crew loaded ammunition and a battery of guns on the ship. as a reader, florida was incredibly successful. during the first cruise, it captured 25 merchant ships, including the jacob bell, and he and i. the cargo values on the ships were at $1.5 million. this is civil war money. that was a huge capture for css florida. the extra ships accounted for an additional 22 she dashed seizures. after an extended layover in
france, they captured 13 more merchant ships in 1864. that year, the new york times printed an editorial, accusing the navy of a lack of diligence in catching this troublesome raider. without calling them out my name, he blamed the united states secretary gideon welles. he believed that wells had not sent enough ships out catch raters like the florida. inrida's career ended october 1864 when it was rammed and hijacked. they were in the neutral brazilian port of -- port. the captain spotted the raider there, was anchored under the cover of darkness. he ordered them to ram the ship. when that failed, he decided they would seize the ship and
tell it out of point -- port and take it all the way to hampton roads. the union crew towed the confederate vessel back to the u.s. they anchored it off of newport news, virginia. , the ship sank under mysterious circumstances on the morning of november 28, 1864. although a government investigation concluded the loss of the vessel is because of mechanical failures, specifically blaming leakage because of the ramming, most likely the crew of the uss wat chuset deliberately scuttled the ship. all, florida's objection from a neutral port had created a bit of an international dispute and the navy had been required to apologize publicly for the incident. years later, the florida's captain reported that in a conversation, porter admitted giving the order to sink the
ship, which he called "that rebel craft." hampton roads became the final resting place for two famous warships from the federal -- civil war, one union and went confederate. it did not take long for questions to a rise of preservation. after the battle of hampton roads, the federal government expressed interest. was neverof the wreck in dispute during the war. the territorial clause of the u.s. constitution made it clear that all u.s. naval wrecks around the world remain property of the navy. it did not matter if that was on the bottom of the marianna's trench or had run aground in cape may. if it once along to the navy, it always belonged to the navy. immediately after the battle of hampton roads, and the navy expressed interest in bringing up cumberland and seeing if it could be reused.
in may 62, gideon welles hired a massachusetts salvage diver to conduct a preliminary survey of the wreck. accountrt, the earliest of the conditions of the sunken warship, was not optimistic. he wrote that it lies in 66 feet of water, deeply embed it in the mud, at an angle of 45 degrees. the water is very thick and with some difficulty, we could get it -- a bout. everything appears in confusion down there. they concluded the damage sustained by the vessel was too extensive to justify the cost of raising it. however, the u.s. navy continued to find ways to recover reasonable property, such as loose cannon barrels that they reused. for the next decade, the government sold the rights of recovery to a succession of salvage firms. incidentally, this created issues in later years, because
in the 19th century, they sell salvage rights, and in the 20th century, it comes up as a question for divers i will talk about in a little while. although the u.s. government received $8,000 for the rights to dive on the ship, nothing less than a congressional act can remove the ship from the ownership of the u.s. government. even a philadelphia inquirer article from 1864 noted that the navy would retain all rights to the ship, including everything of both military and historic value. the article reminded potential divers that nothing they found on the ship was theirs, stating "bidders will take into consideration that the government requires the frigate cumberland and whatever may be on board her, either public or private property, will be delivered to the navy yard in gosport, virginia." however, such restrictions about artifacts did not deter daring divers. more than anything, they wanted
to retrieve the paymasters safe , which reportedly contained a minimum of $40,000 in gold. it turned out to be something of a hoax. in 1875, a detroit company claimed to have found the paymasters safe and found no gold in it. george west was a newport news resident, and he wrote memoirs talking about the salvage activities in the post-civil war era. he said that no one ever knew what was done with the safe. it was never reported that any gold was taken from it. nevertheless as years passed, divers continued to believe a mysterious yankee treasure lay on the bottom of the river. during the depression of the diving on the cumberland became 1870's, something of a get rich quick scheme. 19th century salvage diving was not easy. a host of dangers surrounded anyone who attempted the 60 foot dive.
a german salvage diver had a plan to reach the suppose it safe by putting dynamite under the stern of the rack and blowing a hole into the paymasters cabin. today, we could only marvel at the daring and probably the stupidity as well. he handled explosives and murky water without even a portable underwater lamp. they didn't have underwater lamp set this time. he groped in the darkness, risking mechanical failures with crude and cumbersome breathing apparatus. newport news reported that the german diver was brought up unconscious several times. he observed, "though he was a splendid looking fellow when they first met, the deep water dive injured his health and he reduced rapidly and did not live long." meanwhile, as divers went to work, the u.s. navy expressed equal interest in the ccs florida.
as the cumberland, there was never any doubt who owned css florida. at the conclusion of the civil war, all confederate war the u.s.reverted to government, specifically to the department of the treasury. the government services administration was created in the 1950's, the organization took hold of confederate artifacts, including shipwrecks. , the navy wishes to study any confederate vessel, and the needy has to officially request the gsa turnover those ships to the navy one at a time. the navy began diving on css florida after the civil war ended, so the transfer of control from the treasury to the needy occurred shortly before that. in any event although ownership , of the wreck was questionable in 1864, by 1865, it was not. regrettably, official reports
concerning the progress and extent of postwar salvage operations in florida, both government and private, are pretty much nonexistent. only george west's account shows that the commerce raider was stripped by hired neighbors after the war. unfortunately, west, who witnessed much of the operation , declined to elaborate on the nature of the activities except to say that florida must have been magnificently built for the divers, because the state rooms were handsomely decorated. truly, if they could see the decorations through the floating silt and aquatic life, the florida must have sunk in excellent condition. documentary evidence shows all efforts concluded within a decade after the end of the war. from that point on, the memory of cumberland and florida quickly failed, except for brief periods of revived interest in the 1920's and 1930's, both the
union worship and confederate raider remained out of sight and for the most part, out of mind. the only major recovery occurred in the 1920's when the government hired salvage divers recovered the anchor chain, sending it to the museum of the confederacy in richmond. for the next 60 years, no documented activity took place. that is not to say no one dove on the shipwrecks or plundered them for artifacts. in fact, many watermen did just that. the decades of the 20th century became something of a heyday for the plunderers. many owned the technology that they needed to dive in these waters. it is important to remember that historic reservation in the united states really did not take hold until the 1960's and shipwrecks were not at the top of the list for preservationists. at the same time, many important artifacts may have been lost during the decades because of ignorance and outright vandalism. for instance, the ram from the
css virginia which was lost in cumberland in 1862 has never been found. currently, it does not show up on any sonar ratings or any of the areas around the ship. the question remains, did an enterprising waterman find that significant artifact and bring the ram up? the answer may never be known. official interest in the wreck s didn't occur again until the 1980's. so many years had passed that actually had to be relocated. still, the navy expressed no interest in underwriting a sittingtion campaign, that -- assuming that locating -- wrecks would a popular novelist led the effort. at the time, he served as the chairman of the national underwater marine agency.
it is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of maritime heritage. in 1980, he decided to pursue his long-standing interest in the ships. he believed both ships held an important story about the civil war navy, and leaved both ships had a number of artifacts on them that should be brought up and preserved. he hired a washington-based researcher and contacted a local historian who calculated the probable location for the sunken vessel. entered into a cooperative agreement with a virginia state-based archaeological agency, which offered to supply divers to search for the local wreck sites. the one thing that cussler failed to do was make any contact with the owners of the wrecks, the u.s. navy, a decision that ultimately set in motion and led to a bitter rivalry between his group and the navy. the archaeological work -- networking working with
established survey area in the lower james river which according to the research offered the greatest potential for retaining the remains of the sunken ships. even using all the available technology to detect different anomalies in the water, they initially could not find the wrecks. another year went by. he went back and contacted with the archaeological underwater joint ventures at this time. the joint ventures firm reached out to local watermen and they contacted local watermen who finished and tried to obtain the location of the ship or any location about the recovery of artifacts in that area. eventually, they found a man named wilbur riley, a veteran clamor of the york and james river, and reportedly knew the location of a wreck off newport news. he admitted he had retrieved a number of objects already.
archaeologists,, reports regarding shipwrecks and treasure in the virginia waters had usually proved to be without foundation. but this time, he described how he first discovered the wreck after four or five years of planning and then lost pair of i am tall in the days -- of clam tongs in the james river. he tried to retrieve them. he discovered a sword hill and handle decorated with a design emblematic of the navy during the civil war. he also pulled from the site a large copper cylinder that bore a striking resemblance to a section of bilge pump types depicted in the plans from the uss cumberland. furthermore, he thought the wreck was about 65 feet below the surface, which is about what was expected of the uss cumberland.
his artifacts and location warranted a first-hand investigation. he offered to help find the ship. several days later, he shortened his workday and transported a dive team to the site. without the benefit of instrumentation, o'reilly marred the clam boat over the side, where there is an indication that the wreck was lying. it was suggested that riley had probably taken artifacts several times before since he was able to find it so quickly. in any event, the divers soon appreciated his accuracy. as they extended the search like to begin a systematic sleep of the riverbed, they encountered an area of wreckage. massiveominated by wooden timbers, protruding he really out of the mud at odd angles in the murky gloom. they collected some artifacts
that helped identify the ship. ,ne was a white ironstone plate a little fragment that had a manufacturer's name and mark on it. that it was aed product of stepford child products of england. staffordshire products of england. they also found a well preserved hair of brass gunners calibers to measure projectiles. finally, divers found a solid cylinder composed of a single block of wood. it was used to ensure a ball was seated in the bottom of a canyon, with a few is facing the muzzle to prevent an exclusion -- exclusion when the tube was fired. it was a most intriguing figure to these divers, the nine inch diameter, which corresponded to the size of the 22 smoothbore cannons from the uss cumberland. though by no means definitive, the evidence suggested this was the final resting place of cumberland.
with cumberland's location known, the dive team went looking for css for another next day. while offshore from the shipyards of newport news, the divers found an underwater anomaly and dropped the buoy. a pair of divers descended and found concentrated debris showing there was a ship there . they got a few artifacts -- a liquor bottle dating to the correct time, a leather bayonet scabbard, and a copper alloy hoop of unknown function but which was probably one of the brass ornaments in the florida stateroom. as the salvage divers noted in 1865, reaching the wreck of cumberland in florida was not an easy task. environmental conditions post formidable obstacle. currents and poor visibility hindered all aspects to the operation. water depths over 60 feet at each site restricted ailey -- daily bottom times without
decompression stops to barely over one hour for each member of the dive team. the holes in propeller blades and tankers and barges that made their way up and down the river represented a constant source of concern to divers during their ascent and descent. by far, the greatest cause of consternation was the frequent disappearance of site marking buoys, which were inadvertently dragged away every night as vessels passed by the two wreck sites. the two ships sat in very different states of reservation. florida was in an essentially undisturbed condition consistent , with the ship's more peaceful demise while the cumberland was there -- was barely held together. the damage sustained with the violent encounter with the virginia subsequently compounded with all the destruction efforts of the salvage divers and passing ships over the decades, it accounted for the vessels shattered state.
furthermore at some point, an enormous quantity of dredge spoil, basically piles of dirt dredged out of the river for the shipyards nearby, were dumped on top of the wreck, prompting george west, the early memoirist to conclude that no doubt now, the boat is entirely covered over. even so, cumberland possessed unique artifacts that invoked a sense of drama. cussler's crew recovered a small wooden frame, custom fitted with a broken piece of mirror glass, fashioned by a common seamen. they also recovered a magnificent ships bell, one and a half feet high cast in bronze. ,this was the bell that rang on the morning of 1862 to send the march 8, crew to general quarters as css virginia came up
the river. diving permissions on cumberland and florida prompted a protracted legal battle. after all, the team have brought up artifacts without turning them directly over to the navy, and admirals in the u.s. navy were not happy about it. when the first dives on cumberland and florida ended, cussler's people first turned over the artifacts to the college of william and mary. under the expectation they would eventually go to some agency associated with the college of -- commonwealth of virginia, but officially, as we spoke about, both racks are owned by the u.s. navy. at the time, the navy did not have a permit in process, which meant they had no way to educate historians about the ships and their ownership. thus, cussler expressed surprise at finding out the navy wanting -- wanted the artifacts back. when he was informed of this matter it became a bitter , battle. for months, he refused to turn over the artifacts.
much like a plunderer, he argued that because he was the one to get the artifacts, they were his and he could give them to do -- whoever he wanted to. only through the intervention of the navy's judge advocate corps and the navy museum did those artifacts eventually go back to the navy. cussler never forgave the navy for its intervention. he wrote a dyspeptic account of the seizure of the artifacts. , tinged withook vitriol, he blamed the navy for all his misfortune. he wrote, "it seems the judge advocate of the navy had a dream. he envisioned my two years of research, the small fortune i spent on the project, and the indefatigable efforts of the dive team were for the navy 's sole benefit. he sanctimoniously claimed the department of the navy owned both ships and all bits and
pieces thereof. demonstrated a definite lack of style and sophistication, and maybe threatened to go to court to claim the antiquities news recovery they contributed zilch. and because they stoked the economy of the virginia tidewater area with nearly 30,000 jobs, the commonwealth of virginia rolled over and threw in the towel. the artifacts are now on display." cussler had a point in some ways. the u.s. navy was not terribly communicative, it failed to give him any specifics are provided any security for those ships. it had created a situation where a well-meaning diver went down on behalf of presentation, but failed because the navy kept him ignorant of the rules. in the end, cussler and his team did the work and the navy reaps the benefits. even in the end, even in defeat, cussler believed he was always in the right, lamenting that the
"not a peg leg," as he put it, to stand on. in truth, the law cited with the navy. the property clause followed by the abandoned shipwreck act lays the ownership of the vessel firmly in the navy's grip. however selfless their intent, legally, cussler and his team of underwater archaeologists were no different than the looters who had plundered the racks. cussler believed the navy no longer owned the racks. in his 1996 look, he argued the navy had sold the rights to cumberland in 1862 when the navy hired sellers. -- divers. he believed no confederate ship could be owned by the government. his argument held no legal standing but underscored a larger problem. most virginia waterman believed as cussler did that the navy did --t own the racks -- racks
they were free to be looted. once the cat was out of the bag and location became public, a frantic feeding frenzy occurred as they tried to seize as many artifacts as they could. for the next 10 years, the cumberland in florida shipwrecks possessed no protection from looters who went after the ship s with a vengeance. mostly, clappers and fishermen began looting the artifact from the wreck. the local waterman was that many of them had their own private collections and materials from the two wreck sent probably from others in the area that were not civil war shipwrecks. for generations, they had adopted a pirate mentality, if they had the means to haul something off the bottom, it was theirs. currently, this mentality forms the greatest threat to naval battlefields of the civil war. locals continue to see the ships as salvage, not as hallowed ground. residentsn roads
remember that 121 men went down with the ship when cumberland sank in 1862. those men are still buried with the ship. when looters go through it, they disturb military graves at the same time. luckily, the civil war is blessed with an active community of private preservationists. it was a member of the confederate naval historical society who brought the issue of looting to the governments attention. in 1989, this private citizen found an advertisement boasting of artifacts from cumberland and florida and they formed the government of this important find. he sent in a copy of the north-south traders civil war magazine, which advertised limited-edition brass buckles made from the c.s.s. florida. been hugging had brass and gave it to a collector who mounted it down and gave it reenactmentut --
belt buckles. the government deployed in --ring organization, the magazine with breast buckles made from the css florida. clearly, they had been hooking brass and gave it to a collector who melted it down and made it into reenactor belt buckles. the government responded by deploying two important organizations -- the naval criminal investigative services and the fbi. in 1990, the fbi won a big victory when it rated the williamsburg artery factory outside of fredericksburg, virginia. a search warrant filed in u.s. district court noted u.s. property stole from cumberland's wreckage and brass and copper spikes taken from the florida and melt down into belt buckles. the fci recovered the artifacts, but it left some unanswered legal questions. the defendants included four people -- larry stevens and gary williams who owns the artifacts that had been given them. the men challenged the fbi, saying that the looting was accidental. they tongs the artifacts from
their oyster boats but said they did not know the oven on to of the artifacts and did not know trading and selling them was wrong. one of the accused said we are just out there trying to catch clams. i would have thrown the stuff act overboard if i would have known they were government property. however, many historians doubted the sincerity of the looters works. -- words. someone from the virginia war museum believed the oyster men deliberately disturb the ship for the sole purpose of taking artifacts. historians agreed, from the newly created underwater archaeology branch, david cooper argued these waterman were not prosecuted for casual and unintentional recovery of artifacts in the course of normal shell fishing activities. they were prosecuted for deliberate and unauthorized trafficking in antiquities that -- exploitation of a navy rack ck, and antiquities that
were property of the federal government and are in violation of federal and state law. the accused claimed they didn't know they were not allowed to take artifacts and sell them, arguing there should have been security to prevent them from their trade. they say they needed a sign to tell them that looting was illegal. it resulted in ridicule from the historical community. as one noted, someone wanted to dig up the gettysburg battlefield because no one was doing anything about it, would that make it right? the u.s. special assistant attorney in charge of prosecuting the men did his best to caution against the argument. saying ignorance of the laws no excuse for taking items from the ship which are listed among the virginia historic landmarks. you could blow up the world trade center and say you did not know what was wrong.
this was in 1993, the same year the world trade center was attacked for the first time. ultimately, they pleaded guilty to the charge of pillaging $40,000 in relics. they faced up to two years in prison and $250,000 in fines. they ended up getting a felony conviction but the court allowed , them to go free while paying minimal fines under the understanding they would return all artifacts to the u.s. navy and never do this again. the two men to whom the oyster men gave the artifacts pleaded guilty to misdemeanor crimes and also paid fines for their transgressions. the 1993 prosecutions of hastings, stevens and williams caused the navy to take naval preservation more seriously. the underwater archaeology branch lobbied congress for additional protection measures for the shipwrecks.
the archaeologist argued that the property clause of the constitution was not enough to protect the ships indefinitely and neither was done 1987 abandoned shipwrecks act. it did not specify the artifacts from military from military from -- military ranks meant to the u.s. navy and focused on civilian shipwrecks. after 14 years, lawmakers corrected this problem. in 2004, president george bush signed into law the sunken military craft at. -- act. while no single action made it happen, several court cases, many involving sunken foreign craft off the coast of the u.s. eventually led to passage of the act. the sunken military craft act -- protected ships and planes belonging to the armed services disturbancerized
and included all vessels in american letters, including all foreign military craft. snca, theto the navy's sunken military craft remained property regardless of location or the passage of time. they cannot be disturbed without permission from the navy. they also allow the heads of each military service to begin a permitting program that allowed people to dive for archaeological, educational, or historical purposes provided they do nothing to disturb the rack. the fines for violating the act are incredibly high. the government can charge by leaders $100,000 per day for violating by diving without a permit. they can fine them for any damages to leave to be incurred on the on the to be incurred on -- at this time.
finally, the divers research vessel can be confiscated by the government. with this act, the navy has a stronger mechanism to protect the ship, but still relies on educational outreach to teach potential divers about the consequences of looting. they strengthened the ability to looters. if looters had any knowledge of the existence of the law, someone probably not care. in reality, plundering has died down for a reason. after the war on terrorism began in 2001, newport news shipbuilding and posed higher -- imposed higher security measures preventing unauthorized voters from getting near the shipyard. the ships lie just off the shipyard, just off shore. it is of tremendous benefit to the shipwrecks, because they are in the security zone. i know it doesn't take more than a few minutes for a police boat to accost any craft anchored above these shipwrecks. in 2001, i accompanied and
-- an authorized expedition to conduct the latest surveys of these shipwrecks. police boats came by to ensure we were of no threat, and during the expedition, we found the shipwrecks to be in poor condition. both are covered over with large piles of silt, which is to be expected. nowadays, it's difficult to identify the exact shape of the uss cumberland. the ship is little more than an insignificant lump on the bottom of the river. probably there are no artifacts left to be found, but one wonders how many are still out there in the museums of looters? at some point, the war on terror will come to an end and waterborne measures of shipbuilding could cease. on that day, the ships will no longer be protected as they are
now. divers will be able to plunder them with impunity once again. it goes without saying that one day, the passage of time will completely obliterate these wrecks. we cannot preserve them in the water forever. however, it seems abstractly wrong to hasten their destruction through these means. for the past 150 years, humankind has allowed the corrosion to occur. the uss cumberland and florida are on the verge of extinction. the u.s. navy needs a plan to preserve these ships. the methodology to collect artifacts for recovery and material and human resources to carry it out. it would be incorrect to say the navy does not care about these vessels. on the contrary. the navy cares about them a great deal. after all, these are the final resting place for those who gave their lives that our nation might live. as rear admiral sam cox said
last year, if we expect sailors to fight and die for our country, the least we can do as a navy and the nation israel -- is to remember them. we make the promise to those lost at sea that we will never forget their loved one's sacrifice. i believe the u.s. navy has a moral obligation to keep its word. in the case of the uss cumberland, those sailor's lives happen to have been given out on the water. naval shipwrecks need to have the same legion of defenders as land battles do. the ideal if some consider metal detecting at gettysburg a form of heresy would also stand against those who wonder bells, -- plunder bells, plates and salvos from civil war show -- shipwrecks. it's not the failure of one
institution but, unfortunately, , the failure of a community to protect our nation's naval heritage. if we do not act, will lose the fight to preserve naval battles. and if we lose this fight, we will lose that history forever. thank you. [applause] i have a few artifacts i brought along to show you as well. i'm holding a piece of uss cumberland. this was part of the loot plundered in the early 1990's by the men i talked about. one of the reasons i can stand here and hold it without gloves on is because they shellacked it. they put shellack all over it, so it is not a museum artifact. at the same time, that helps us out because it means it part of our educational collection. we can take it to schools and kids can hold a piece of the uss cumberland when they are doing their battle of hampton roads program. this is something you don't get to do most places.
if you would like to come up, i have a couple of pieces of the cumberland which you are welcome to touch. i have some of the copper spikes i talked about. i even have some of the evidence took.that the fbi there is a glass that was found the brass reenactor built buckles as well, so you are welcome to come and look at this and i can talk to you one-on-one. in the meantime, let me take a couple of questions. >> thank you so much for your fascinating talk. you have talked about what can be done by the navy and the government to punish those who do this. is there much that can be done to really protect? i suppose some elements of the monitor have been brought up and -- as safely as they can be, and the very special tanks in museums -- is that a solution
for some elements on this? is there more that can be done beyond war on terrorism levels of security over some of these places? laura: i think that's probably the best way to preserve, bringing up what you can. at this point most of the artifacts have been brought up from these shipwrecks, but taking it to monitor it and from the museum. the problem is the cost. the navy, even though they owned the shipwreck, they could not bring up the monitor because they did not have the money. luckily noaa and the mariners museum stepped in. that is absolutely what needs to be done to preserve these shipwrecks. when we find them we need to do , what we can to preserve them. it depends on whether it is a grave. if it is a grave, that's one of those big questions -- do you bring it up? probably not.
i know sometimes they don't expect to side bodies and skeletons inside, but they did. i think the best way to preserve these shipwrecks is completely leave them alone or bring up what you can and bring them to museums. it is difficult to teach naval history because you don't have the place like you have with the land battlefields. you come to gettysburg and stand on the fields, and you can envision what happened. but when you are teaching the battle of hampton roads, you are just looking at water. it's hard for people to envision that. the best way is to have those artifacts. >> thank you. -- lee fisherd from oxford, ohio. being in the archaeological community, i understand all the issues, but do you think the navy will ever put the money out to do the preservation? if no is the answer to that question, what about out public-private partnerships that
have preserved land sites and maritime sites all over the world? are they sitting there saying we don't want you to do that? that we are not going to put the money up to help you? what is going on there? laura: i will say the navy will probably never have the money for this. in the past 20 years, they have gotten better. they have funded the underwater archaeology branch of the naval history and heritage branch and , they go out and do sonar readings, they do protection of wrecks around the world, not just the u.s. but they are never , going to have the money. i think public-private partnerships would be a great plan. the difficulty is the federal government is creating that public-private partnership, getting through the red tape to get all of that done. but i think that's the way we have to go to be able to preserve these. not just the ones we talked about today. maritime people,
cussler was a visionary. thesee enactment of all laws scare people away from entering into agreements with the navy? laura: i don't think so. in what i understand from talking with underwater to do this, they created regulations in partnerships with people like cussler who dive on wrecks. obviously he doesn't do it anymore, but is organization, so they worked with them on creating the regulations. now they can get a permit and dive for historical information, information, and educational as well. it makes it a lot easier. it's harder for people who get caught without a permit and get find and thrown in jail for it, but for people like
cussler who really did try to do the right thing, now, they know at the right thing is. they know we have to go to the navy and get a permit and it makes it little easier. if i was paying attention closely enough, the first couple of attempts to find out what happened to the cumberland was 1870's? laura: right after the civil war, yes. >> my question is this -- i don't think scuba gear was invented. how long could they stay down and what apparatus did they use to stay down? laura: i don't know the specifics of what kind of apparatus they could use, but i know they could not stay down for more than 30 minutes at a time. i'm not sure what apparatus they had. it's definitely not my expertise, but they did have some sort of cumbersome breathing apparatus that i'm sure we could do some research on and find out what it was, but
it did allow them to dive for about 30 minutes at a time. >> thank you very much. [applause] announcer: next week at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3, a civil war special featuring american history tv highlights. on monday, we are at the emerging civil war blog symposium, where we look at the great defenses of the civil war, including gettysburg, antietam, vicksburg.ge of tuesday, we focus on civil war leadership at the longwood university civil war seminar with talks on generals robert e lee, ulysses s. grant, and confederate colonel john mosby. wednesday through friday, we are at the gettysburg college civil war institute conference.
wednesday features lincoln scholar harold osler. on thursday, more speakers. on friday we conclude the conference. american history tv's civil war special all next week, beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span3. announcer: sunday night on "q and a." >> the social and legal response to the issues that black men had this to lock us up and put us in cages, to stop and frisk us, to treat us as citizens whose rights other people don't respect. we are not full citizens of the united states. another: georgetown university law school professor paul butler takes a critical look at the u.s. justice system and its impact on african-american men in his book, "chokehold: policing black men."
>> there's never been a time where community relations have been anywhere near good. for a long time, if you are a black person, you called police to report a crime. if you were the victim, the police just didn't take -- pay them much attention. is that these police are overwhelmingly in african-american communities but not to protect, the communities, but to lock people up. announcer: sunday night on c-span's q and a, at 8:00 p.m. eastern. announcer: you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook on c-span history. --ouncer: this year, suspend c-span is touring history is across the country. next, a look at our least -- recent visit