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Indiana man wants to raise sunken steamship

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — In 1863, Confederate troops led by Gen. John Hunt Morgan seized the Alice Dean, a steamship traveling on the Ohio River near Indiana.

“It was used to transport his troops across the Ohio River. When he was finished, he scuttled the boat and burned it to the deck,” Clarence Merk, a southern Indiana man who wants to salvage the ship, tells News 8.

Once Morgan crossed the Ohio River in the Harrison County town of Mauckport, he launched several raids on towns throughout Indiana.

After the Civil War, the ship was left unclaimed for 160 years; during that time, looters picked it apart.

“In 1959, one of the dams broke at English and the boat was exposed and people were actually able to walk on the ship and gather artifacts,” Merk said.

The U.S. Navy eventually claimed ownership of the Alice Dean, but raising and relocating the ship would cost millions. Merk says it might be years before the Navy could work the project into the budget.

In the meantime, Merck’s nonprofit, The Steamboat Alice Dean, is trying to raise money to help defray some of the costs.

“(We want to) purchase a piece of property out of the flood plain, within a mile or two of the Alice Dean, where that building is specifically designed by an architect to house, design, preserve and protect, freeze, reassemble, and display the Alice Dean,” Merk said.

Divers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and Louisville Metro Police spotted the wreck in 2014, but since then, there have been few efforts to recover it. Merk urges the government and those who care about history to expedite the process.

“This is a national treasure very few people know about; they’ve been to Gettysburg, they’ve been to Valley Forge, but they’ve never been to the largest submerged Civil War Navy sanitary ship in Indiana history.”

The Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004 makes it illegal for anyone to disturb a sunken vessel that is property of the federal government. The Alice Dean is covered under this law.

For more information on Merck’s nonprofit group or to make a donation, send Merck an email at steamboatalicedean@gmail.com.