Arts and Culture 2011

Amy Holtcamp



The Harvest Moon: Georgetown’s sunken treasure

Posted 7/21/2011 3:59:00 PM

One of Georgetown’s most fascinating sites is not in a museum. In fact, most of the time it is completely invisible.

You see, the USS Harvest Moon was a steamship built in 1862. During the Civil War, she was purchased by the Union Navy and served as part of the South Atlantic Blockade Squadron, which patrolled the coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

On March 1, 1865, the Harvest Moon was struck by a Confederate torpedo, shattering the bulkhead and blowing a huge hole in the ship’s hull. The breech meant that the ship took on water and soon sank in Winyah Bay. Although one member of the crew was lost, most made it to safety aboard the gunboat USS Nipsic.

The Harvest Moon’s wreckage was abandoned where it lay off the coast of Georgetown. A group in the 1960s hoped to raise the ship from the bay’s muddy depths, but their effort was unsuccessful. Today visitors can see the ship’s smokestack poking out of Winyah Bay.

Make sure to stop by the Georgetown Visitors Center and take a look at the scale model of the Harvest Moon on display there. It will help you visualize what the steamship must have looked like out on the water before it was destroyed.

The helpful staff also can assist you in finding the ship’s remains and with tide schedules. The ship’s smokestack is only visible at low tide. The rest of the time it’s hidden in its watery grave.