Suwannee steamboat skeleton: is it the Madison, scuttled in 1863?





In the crystal-clear waters of a Florida spring, decades-old remains are defying identification, tantalizing experts who are trying to solve a Suwannee River mystery.

Local legend has it that the remains are all that's left of the steamboat Madison, a floating general store that chugged up and down the Suwannee in the mid-19th century...

The river touches eight Florida counties as it meanders from its source in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico...Suwannee River steamers brought mail, supplies, and a few luxuries to backwoods residents during the 19th century.

When the U.S. Civil War began in 1861, the Union Navy imposed a blockade of southern ports that gradually eliminated steamboat traffic on southern coastal rivers.

By the fall of 1863, as the fighting got closer to the Suwannee region, [owner James] Tucker decided to scuttle his ship to prevent it from falling into Navy hands...

Whether it's actually the Madison, though, remains to be seen.

So far state archaeologists have found and are working to identify the remains of at least ten steamboats in the Suwannee River, three of which are accessible to divers.

In addition to the ruins in Troy Springs, divers can visit the David Yulee near the Suwannee's mouth, as well as the well-preserved ruins of the City of Hawkinsville, the last steamboat to operate on the Suwannee.


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