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Time ideal to reclaim Alice Dean steamship

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Clarence Merk

Hello to my friends and neighbors in Harrison County and Meade County, Ky. I am Clarence Merk from Laconia and, like many of you, my family goes back four generations and remembers when Gen. John Hunt Morgan crossed the river, tales handed down from generation to generation.
Many of you know about the Alice Dean steamship and my efforts to have it officially recognized as a casualty of the Civil War and posthumously recognized as a naval vessel, entitling the Alice Dean to special rights of protection and preservation under the law.
I discovered that the Dept. of Navy and Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources have always known about the Dean but have chosen to forget her and let her rot away. They have had no interest in memorializing a Civil War Union naval loss and have chosen to spend no money to preserve this national treasure.
My efforts to raise the Alice Dean and claim salvage rights have created quite the buzz in Washington, D.C., and Indianapolis.
Until I filed for salvage rights, the Navy and DNR did not have to take responsibility for conserving and preserving the remains of the Alice Dean, but, because of my determination and perseverance in this matter, the GSA has informed me that the Navy will now take the lead and claim the Alice Dean as a naval vessel after 151 years of denial and wrongful neglect.
Question: What is the U.S. Navy going to do to preserve the 1863 steamship as a national treasure now?
The Civil War naval battle near Mauckport, where the Dean was captured, pirated, forced to transport Confederate troops, betrayed, burned and scuttled, became a casualty of an expurgated, intentionally-forgotten, never-happened historical event. The victors write the history and the Union took a whoopin’ that day.
The Alice Dean was left behind, abandoned to an unmarked watery grave to be desecrated, scavenged and ravaged by man and time without the recognition or the protection as a national treasure for 151 years. Even my sister has thought I lost touch with reality, to think the Navy should build a memorial museum to this national treasure.
But is it so far-fetched?
There is a precedent for the U.S. Navy to create the Alice Dean Museum, a ship sunk by the enemy, in an unanticipated attack, in a losing battle, in a winning war, to be recognized and protected and memorialized as a national naval treasure. Does Pearl Harbor ring a bell? Our war was a war amongst ourselves, and we came out the stronger, more united; there was no loser. We all won!
Now that the U.S. Navy has graciously agreed to take responsibility and custody of the Alice Dean, what are they going to do differently? The D-on (Navy) is officially exerting jurisdiction under The Sunken Military Craft Act (articles unknown) and has its own budget and guidelines for dealing with this ‘Unanticipated Archaeological Discovery.’
My research on the remains of the Alice Dean concludes and documents with visual proof that the hull of the Alice Dean is 75 percent intact. Side scan sonar images obtained in May by the DNR, confirmed by divers from the Louisville Dive and Rescue Team, at my request, clearly shows the hull intact.
‘A significant find with a substantial portion of the Alice Dean intact,’ Professor Charles Beecker of Indiana University said.
The hull and hold of the Alice Dean came to rest on the floor of the Ohio River. The hull has filled with mud and has preserved the shape of the hull. Anything in the hull made of wood or metal would still be there.
In 1965, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal ran a story on local divers who dove on the Dean and claimed the ship to be intact. Also, in 1965, the Alice Dean was torn apart by a clamshell crane in an unsuccessful effort to raise the Dean by concerned citizens of Heth Township. Twenty-six truckloads of wood were certified to be removed from the Alice Dean.
The question to you, my friends and neighbors, should the Navy raise the Dean and should the Navy build a monument and museum to preserve, conserve, protect and display this historic national treasure in our backyard?
The fact that the Dean is intact is the real treasure. In other cities, the USACE is spending money resurrecting Civil War ships that are in bits and pieces. We have a large section of the hull intact, a substantial portion, a significant archaeological discovery and sonar measurements indicate 42 feet by 60 feet by 7.5 feet. This is almost one-third of the ship.
The history of Indiana can be traced to the Ohio River where the buffalo would ford the Ohio River in southern Harrison County near where the Alice Dean uneasily rests today. The bicentennial of Indiana statehood is in 2016, and this is an ideal time ‘ and probably our last chance ‘ to finally claim our heritage and be proud to tell the tale of the Alice Dean.