Wrecked US Civil War steamship discovered on Atlantic floor (PHOTO)

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A Civil War era steamship, thought to have been used to break enemy blockades and deliver vital supplies to Confederate forces, has been located at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The rusting heap of iron was found during a sonar sweep off the coast of North Carolina on February 27, not far from a former Confederate army stronghold.

Experts from the North Carolina Office of State Archaeology and the Institute of International Maritime Research have now released an image of the large shipwreck, which lies 27 miles from Oak Island’s Fort Caswell.

The exciting discovery is the first vessel of its age to be uncovered in the area for decades.

Archaeologists are now speculating whether the remains are that of a Confederate gun-runner or cargo ship, wrecked while trying to break through the Union’s ring of steel around the southern coast.

“A new runner is a really big deal,” said Billy Ray Morris, director of the Underwater Archaeology Branch. “The state of preservation on this wreck is among the best we’ve ever had.”

In 1861, the order was given by President Abraham Lincoln to suppress the insurrection in the south by blockading key trading ports. The strategy became known as the Anaconda Plan, since the goal was to place a stranglehold on the Confederate army’s means to wage war.

Many of the iron-hulled steam ships used by the South were supported by British businesses, keen to continue lucrative trade in goods such as tobacco and cotton. Thousands of them were either captured or destroyed by the Union navy.

Vessels named the Spunkie, Agnes E. Fry and the Georgianna McCaw were lost off North Carolina during the years of the blockade.

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According to Wrecksite, a database of sunken ships, the Spunkie PSS ran aground off the coast of Wilmington, North Carolina in 1864. It had reportedly been carrying supplies such as shoes for soldiers.

Meanwhile, the Agnes E. Fry was destroyed whilst trying to outrun a Union ship on its way to Fort Caswell.