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    Civil War-era Wine, Cologne Found | National Geographic

    By Willie Drye

    Shipwreck picture: an archaeologist recovering a paint can in the Civil War-era Mary Celestia shipwreck off Bermuda

    Sunken Treasure?

    Photograph by Tane Casserley, NOAA

    Off Bermuda, archaeologist Jim Delgado examines fragments of a paint can found in the wreck of the paddle wheel steamer Mary Celestia, a Civil War-era blockade runner that sank 147 years ago.

    After storms this past winter had swept silt from the wreck, a Bermudan government expedition discovered newly exposed artifacts, including fragrance bottles and unopened—but strong-smelling—wine.

    On September 6, 1864, pilot John Virgin was at the helm as the Mary Celestialeft the harbor at Southampton, Bermuda, which was then, as now, a British territory. The Civil War was in its third year, and the fast vessel—bound for Wilmington, North Carolina—was loaded with rifles, ammunition, and other supplies desperately needed by the Confederate States.

    Virgin raced the roughly 255-foot-long (68-meter-long) Mary Celestia toward the open Atlantic, only to hit rocks and reefs. Within minutes the Mary Celestia and its cargo were on the bottom of the ocean.

    Salvagers quickly recovered the war supplies from the smashed ship, but the bow, or front, of the wreck was soon covered with silt and lay undisturbed, some 60 feet (18 meters) down,  until the recent tempests.

    (Read the official blog of the Mary Celestia project.)


    Shipwreck picture: crate of wine found in the Civil War-era Mary Celestia shipwreck off Bermuda

    Aged to Perfection

    Photograph by Tane Casserley, NOAA

    Archaeologists examining the wreck of the Mary Celestia found a crate containing four corked bottles of wine (pictured) "standing lined up in their wooden crate as if they were waiting for their owner to return," Philippe Rouja, Bermuda's custodian of historic wrecks, said in a statement. Packed with straw, the crate had been stashed in a crew member's locker in the bow.

    The wine is currently being analyzed in Bermuda, but archaeologist and team member Dominique Rissolo said it's probably a sweet, white wine, perhaps a fortified wine like Madeira.

    The wine could be smelled through the bottle's cork, and it had "a pretty strong odor, said Rissolo, of the Waitt Institute, which, along with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), assisted the Bermuda Department of Conservation Services in the recovery of the newly revealed atifacts.


    Cologne picture: bottle found in the Civil War-era Mary Celestia wreck off Bermuda

    Civil War-Era Scent

    Photograph by Tane Casserley, NOAA

    NOAA archaeologist Wayne Lusardi measures a 19th-century cologne bottle found in the Mary Celestia wreck. The bottle contains Florida Water, a citrus-scented cologne still made today. The cologne was found in the Mary Celestia's hold, along with the four bottles of wine, a perfume bottle, a hairbrush, and some shoes.

    Delgado, also of NOAA, said the discovery of these personal items is "evocative of the human side" of the Civil War. "We think of this as a big picture, and keep forgetting that this is the story of people," Delgado said.

    "What I gained was a very intimate reminder of the human side."


    Shipwreck picture: an archaeologist measuring a tin basin found near the Civil War-era Mary Celestia off Bermuda

    Uncovering History

    Photograph by Tane Casserley, NOAA

    To the right of a large lump of coal, Delgado measures a tin basin found in theMary Celestia shipwreck.

    There were strong Confederate sympathies in Bermuda during the Civil War—so strong that U.S. consul Charles Allen couldn't fly the Stars and Stripes to celebrate the Fourth of July, because someone had cut down the flagpole, Delgado said.

    After the sinking of the Mary Celestia, rumors circulated that Allen had paid John Virgin, the Bermudan pilot responsible for guiding the ship out of harbor, to drive the ship onto the rocks.

    Allen never denied the bribery charge, and he wrote to his superiors in Washington, D.C., only that there was no evidence to connect him to such a plot, NOAA's Delgado said.


    Shipwreck picture: a paddle wheel and ship machinery of the Civil War-era Mary Celestia off Bermuda

    All That Remains

    Photograph by Tane Casserley, NOAA

    A paddle wheel and mechanical remains are most of what's left of the Mary Celestia after about 150 years underwater.

    Soon after the ship had wrecked in 1864, salvage divers pulled away the ship's sides to recover its cargo of rifles, munitions, and canned meat intended for the Confederate port of Wilmington, North Carolina.


    Photograph by Chris Burville, LookBermuda

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