The Houston Chronicle reports the Union Navy's USS Hatteras was sent to the bottom on January 11, 1863, about 20 miles from Galveston. The Hatteras went down while the rest of the Union fleet bombarded the Confederate Garrison on Galveston Island.



The USS Hatteras was a passenger steamboat that had been converted to a gunboat. She was sunk by the CSS Alabama, a highly successful Confederate commerce raider, and she was the only Union ship to sink in the Gulf of Mexico during the entire Civil War.

She went down in about 50 feet of water, and until recently she was buried in the sand on the bottom. Recent hurricanes have caused the sands to shift and the ship has been uncovered.  Scientists and divers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have rushed to the scene, and are using high-resolution 3-D sonar to study the ship's shape and design.

The sonar images show a shipwreck in remarkably good condition. They say she's about 80 percent intact.  Scientists and historians hope to learn how ships were built in those days, and more about the battle for control of shipping in the Gulf of Mexico.

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