Georgia was built in 1862 as the fast merchantman, Japan. The Confederate Government purchased her at Dumbarton, Scotland, in March 1863. On 1 April she departed Greenock, reputedly bound for the East Indies and carrying a crew of fifty who had shipped for a voyage to Singapore. She rendezvoused with the steamer Alar off Ushant, France, and took on guns, ordnance and other stores.
On 9 April 1863 the Confederate flag was hoisted and she was placed in commission as CSS Georgia, Comdr. W. L. Maury, CSN, in command. Her orders read to prey against United States shipping wherever found.
Calling at Bahia, Brazil, and at Trinidad, Georgia recrossed the Atlantic to Simon's Bay, Cape Colony, Africa, where she arrived 16 August. She sailed next to Santa Cruz, Teneriffe, thence up to Cherbourg, arriving 28 October. During this short cruise she captured nine prizes.
Georgia had a round stern, iron frame, fiddle-bow figurehead, short, thick funnel and full poop. Being an iron hull, she was clearly unsuited to long cruises without drydocking during a period when anti-fouling under-body coatings were yet unknown. Commander James D. Bulloch, a key Confederate procurement agent overseas, would have nothing to do with iron bottoms, but Commander Maury settled for Japan because wood (which could be coppered) was being superseded in Great Britain by the new metal; consequently wooden new building contracts were not easy to buy up in British shipyards.
While she was undergoing repair at Cherbourg in late January 1864, it was decided to shift her armament to CSS Rappahannock. The transfer was never effected and Georgia was moved to an anchorage 3 miles below Bordeaux. On 2 May 1864 she was taken to Liverpool and sold on 1 June to a merchant of that city over the protest of Charles F. Adams, United States Minister to Great Britain. The steamer again put to sea on 11 August and 4 days later was captured by the frigate Niagara off Portugal. She was sent into Boston, Mass., where she was condemned and sold as a lawful prize of the United States.
She was documented as a U.S. merchant vessel in New Bedford, Mass., 5 August 1865.
Part of the text is incorporated from the United States Navy's Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, a work in the public domain.