Monday, January 26, 2015

Urban Archaeologist Solves Mystery of Missing Civil War's Submarines?

""A local historian and urban archaeologist thinks he's solved a mystery: What happened to four Confederate submersibles known to be in Shreveport the last two years of the Civil War, but missing in action since then.

Marty Loschen, director of the Spring Street Museum in downtown Shreveport, thinks he's found remnants of the hand-propelled craft in the banks of a branch of Cross Bayou about a half-mile west of where the Confederate Navy had a shipyard. At Cross Bayou's mouth on Red River it was home to the leaky ironclad CSS Missouri and a fast packet, the Webb, whose presence overshadowed the humbler underwater vessels.

Several months ago, before recent rains raised water levels on Cross Bayou and its feeder streams, Loschen and his brother found decades-old rusted metal and some oddly formed tree roots whose shape suggested they had grown over something curved that had long rotted or rusted away. The site was on a bank revealed by low water on Bowman's chute, near Bowman and Dowling Streets in Allendale north of the Canaan Village apartments.

"It's breathtakingly beautiful out there," says Loschen, who spends much of his time exploring the more remote, forgotten and forbidding parts of old Shreveport. He points to the 1864 Venable Map of the defenses of Shreveport which shows several small buildings near where he found the artifacts.

"There's your sub base," he said. "On the Venable map there's an island out there. My theory is if you're going to have a clandestine sub base, you're going to put it out there. Look, there are structures out there, near what I found out beached — it has to be."

He's waiting for another period of low water.

"It's under at least 10 feet of water now," he said. "I'm trying to wait for the water to go down to go see those subs."

Famed diver Ralph Wilbanks, who found the wreck of the submarine CSS Hunley off Charleston Harbor in 1995, visited Shreveport twice in the last 15 years to search for the local submarines at the behest of best-selling author Clive Cussler, who also drove the search for the Hunley.

Wilbanks and a team of well-known fellow diver-researchers performed sonar and magnetometer searches of Red River and parts of Cross Bayou and Cross Lake, finding traces of old trucks from the flapper era, a dock that once served as a ferry link between Shreveport and Bossier City before bridges were built across the Red, and the remains of a Civil War gunboat, the Iron Duke.

But Wilbanks never went as far back into the murkier and shallower waters of Cross Bayou near where it traces its way through Ledbetter Heights and Allendale on its way to Cross Lake. Loschen's sub site is just west of where Wilbanks' surveys stopped.""

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