Dive team to search river for Civil War artifacts

Published 11:06 pm Friday, October 20, 2017

The Alabama Historical Commission has contracted an archaeological dive team to search the Alabama River in Selma in hope of finding artifacts from the Civil War.

According to the AHC, SEARCH Inc. will conduct surveys on four different sites in the river that were previously identified in past studies.

“Selma was one of the last places where one of the biggest battles took place during the Civil War,” said Mayor Darrio Melton. “It was told that many of the arsenal and other war material was dumped in the river, and of course, as time passed we’ve had people that have come to Selma to dive to try to recoup some of that history.”

Melton said if artifacts are indeed discovered, it could lead to potential funding for the city to protect the river and help tell more of the city’s history.

In 2004, the city hired someone to conduct a magnetometer survey of the river to locate and assess the condition of artifacts. Approximately 10 years later, the city and AHC conducted an underwater maritime study to locate artifacts from the Selma Arsenal.

During the Civil War, Selma was one of the largest manufacturers for the Confederacy.

The Selma Ordnance and Naval Foundry, which is also known as the Selma Naval Foundry and Ironworks and the Selma Arsenal and Gunworks, was located along the Alabama River.

The facilities manufactured heavy weaponry, field artillery, small firearms, ammunition and other goods.

According to the AHC, during the height of its existence, the arsenal employed as many as 10,000 people and stretched across 100 different buildings.

When the Union Army came to Selma, the arsenal was destroyed, and many of the weapons and ammunition were dumped into the river, which was in April 1865 during the Battle of Selma.

Those artifacts have remained in the river, and Melton said they are working to protect them.

“There’s some history that’s still left in that river, and I just think it can give us more opportunities to get more funding and also to even display more of our history,” Melton said. “It will help out tremendously with people coming here not just to learn about Selma’s history but United States history.”

Melton said the survey has not started yet, but he is hoping it begins by the end of the month or during November.