Archaeologists from the University of South Carolina will pull three cast iron Civil War cannons from the bottom of the Great Pee Dee river Tuesday.
In 2009, the university team began its search for the 150-foot Confederate gunboat and the cannons, which were scuttled when Sherman’s Union troops advanced northward.
The cannons came from the gunboat CSS Pee Dee, and Confederate forces reportedly dumped the weapons in the river and set the boat on fire in 1865 to keep it from falling into the hands of Union forces under General William Sherman.
“These guns are in remarkable, pristine condition”, state archaeologist Jonathan Leader said in a telephone interview after the recovery operation.
The heaviest of the three cannons weighed 15,000 pounds. That is the same lab where the Civil War-era CSS Hunley – the first submarine to sink a ship in combat – is being restored. 301 at the site of a former Confederate Naval Yard.
State underwater archaeologist James Spirek said the cannon range in length from 9 to 12 feet.
One of the cannons, known as a smoothbore Dahlgren, was forged in Pennsylvania.
Archaeologist Jon Leader and USC students were working along the banks and fields near the river and excavated artifacts from the Confederate Mars Bluff Navy Yard. They were built on inland waterways so they could construct gunboats, yet be protected from the forces of the Union blockade. Their efforts were greatly facilitated by earlier work conducted at the site, particularly by a private research group, the CSS Pee Dee Research and Recovery Team, operating under an archaeological license issued by SCIAA in the late 1990s.
The project was funded in part by a grant more than $200,000 from the Drs.