In June 1862, the Confederate blockade runner the Modern Greece was attempting to evade a ring of Federal ships while entering the Cape Fear River. The USS Cambridge and the USS Stars and Stripes opened their guns on the Confederate ship. That heavy fire forced the Modern Greece ashore. Rather than have the cargo fall into Union hands, Fort Fisher fired on the stranded vessel, causing it too sink.
What Was Blockade Running?
The Modern Greece was one of my blockade runners during the Civil War. Blockade runners were built as swift, sleek and shallow boats so that they could bypass the Union blockade of the North Carolina coast and deliver vital supplies to the Confederacy.
North Carolina is home to more Civil War shipwrecks than any other state, and its through recovered artifacts from wrecks like that of Modern Greece tell the adventurous story of profit, loss and what those goods meant to the home front, as well as to the front lines.
A Pioneering Archaeological Project
In 1962 a storm uncovered remains of the ship, which had been assumed totally destroyed. During the next two years, researchers from what's now our Office of Archives and History and the U.S. Navy recovered 11,500 artifacts from the Modern Greece shipwreck site.
Work at the site led our agency to establish one of the nation’s first underwater archaeology programs. While a number of artifacts were conserved and sent to museums, you can still see many of the Underwater Archaeology Branch offices at Fort Fisher. Work on conserving the artifacts is still underway. In addition to our professional staff and divers from the Navy, graduate students from East Carolina University’s Maritime Studies Program and interns from UNC-Wilmington have worked on the project.