The Clotilda: Last American Slave Ship Possibly Discovered

The long-lost wreck of the Clotilda, the last slave ship to bring human cargo to America over 160 years ago may have been found.

The Independent is reporting that the alleged wreckage of the steamboat that unlawfully smuggled humans into the US was discovered on a riverbank in Mobile, Alabama.

According to the story, purported pieces of the wooden ship were found by environmental reporter, Ben Raines. The reporter explained that the wreckage discovery was most likely prompted by the low tides of Bomb Cyclone’s after-weather.

The unusually low tides unearthed rusted metal and charred wood of the two-masted 86-foot long schooner near an island in the lower Mobile-Tensaw Delta, a swampy area a few miles northwards from Mobile.

Presently a team of archaeologists from the University of West Florida are working around the clock to positively ID the wreck and hopefully solve the mystery behind the ship’s disappearance.

The ship has long been a treasure trove for wreckage hunters because of its historical importance. In 1808, Congress abolished the importation of slaves into America.

However, Captain William Foster and Alabama plantation owner, Timothy Meaher took a bet that they could still smuggle a shipment of 110 slaves from the Kingdom of Dahomey into the country. The pair boasted that they could do it, despite federal troops keeping watch in the area.

Ben Raines speaking to Alabama Live said the two men were already wealthy and just wanted to do it to prove a point.

“These were already rich men; they just did this to prove they could do it.”

When Captain Foster returned with his human cargo from where is now established as Benin in West Africa, he transferred the Africans into a different boat and set the Clotilda on fire to conceal the crime.

This was in 1860, a year before the Civil War.

Foster and Meaher would have faced certain death for their crimes. However, they never convicted.

After the Civil War, the Benin people and their descendants lived in an area known as Africatown. Today, they are the only US citizens that have officially traced their ancestry back to Africa. They were added to the National Historic Register in 2012.

Greg Cook, one of the archaeologists from the University of West Florida speaking to the Mail, revealed that by all accounts the wreckage seemed to be a genuine article.

“The location is right, the construction seems to be right, from the proper time period, and it appears to be burnt. So I’d say very compelling, for sure.”

Cook explained that the next step was to collate and coordinate information from the Alabama Historical Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other state officials. The archaeologist said the ultimate goal would be to confirm the wreckage and put the “internationally significant discovery” on display.