Mobile County

HIDDEN HISTORY: Inside look at wreck discovered in the Mobile Delta, could be last US slave ship

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) - The remains of what could be the last known ship to bring slaves from Africa to America is believed to have been discovered in the Mobile Delta. This discovery could be one of the most significant historic finds along the Gulf Coast in many years. 

News 5's Bill Riales spoke with the man who found the ship, Ben Raines, an environmental and investigative reporter who believes this is the resting place of the Clotilda.

While waiting for the find to be verified, Raines says he definitely believes it is the Clotilda. 

"It's circumstantial at this point, we won't know anything concrete until they dig in, literally dig it up," says Raines. 

In a story for AL.com, Raines said he took a shipwright and two archeologists to the site he discovered about two weeks ago, when a cold north wind brought an extremely low tide, exposing the wood and metal indicative of the mid-1850's, the year when the Clotilda was made. 

Raines believes there may be much more of the ship preserved in the mud. 

"You might still have all the inner construction down there which would include the pens where they had the captives, manacles--casks of different supplies."

The Clotilda arrived in Mobile in 1860 with as many as 160 slaves aboard. But federal authorities caught wind of the illegal venture. The captain offloaded his cargo onto a riverboat and set the Clotilda ablaze and adrift. 

The Africans went into slavery in various locations, but after the Civil War, they were freed. A group asked one Mobile landowner, Timothy Meaher, for some land.  That group settled then settled in what they called "Africatown."

"What I hope is finding the ship, if this is it, gives people a reason one to investigate a little more, to pay attention to Africatown," Raines says. 

Raines hopes archeology work on the ship can begin soon. 

 


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