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Hidden History: Inside the wreck that could help find last US slave ship

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) – The remains of what was thought to be the last known ship to bring slaves from Africa to America were discovered in the Mobile Delta.

News 5’s Bill Riales spoke with the man who found the ship, Ben Raines, an environmental and investigative reporter who believes this was the resting place of the Clotilda.

While waiting for the find to be verified, Raines says he definitely believed it is the Clotilda. Researchers later determined it was not, in fact, the Clotilda, but say this discovery could help them find it. 

In a story for, Raines said he took a shipwright and two archeologists to the site he discovered about two weeks prior to the report, when a cold north wind brought an extremely low tide, exposing the wood and metal indicative of the mid-1850’s, the year when the Clotilda was made. 

Raines believes there may be much more of the ship preserved in the mud. 

“You might still have all the inner construction down there which would include the pens where they had the captives, manacles–casks of different supplies.”

The Clotilda arrived in Mobile in 1860 with as many as 160 slaves aboard. But federal authorities caught wind of the illegal venture. The captain offloaded his cargo onto a riverboat and set the Clotilda ablaze and adrift. 

The Africans went into slavery in various locations, but after the Civil War, they were freed. A group asked one Mobile landowner, Timothy Meaher, for some land.  That group settled then settled in what they called “Africatown.”

While the discovery was determined not to be the Clotilda, it has researchers looking deeper into area along the Gulf Coast for the ship.