Archaeologists Lift 3 Civil War-Era Cannons from Pee Dee River

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – Three heavy cannons from the Civil War-era were removed from the Pee Dee River on Tuesday.

The Civil War weapons were strapped up Tuesday morning by an underwater dive team so they could be lifted 8-10 feet from where they were resting in the river.

Archaeologists say the three cannons weigh anywhere from 9 to 15 thousand pounds each, some have the exact number engraved on them.

According to archaeologist James Spirek, they came from the Civil War-era gunboat CSS Pee Dee. He said confederate forces dumped the weapons into the river and set the boat on fire in 1865 to keep it from being taken over by Union forces under General William Sherman. These three cannons were the complete armament of the boat.

Spirek was the archaeologist in charge of recovering the cannons from the Pee Dee, he said he’s excited there is now visible evidence of what happened during the Civil War in our state community.

“Through the archaeological record, now we got these three cannons here that are visible proof,” he said. “We have the remains of the Pee Dee down the way, so it just sort of gives people authentic history of what happened here during the Civil War.”

Spirek has been leading the project since 2012, but he said research and recovery efforts have been underway since 2009 by the CSS Pee Dee Research and Recovery Team and researchers from the University of South Carolina’s Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology.

“Even back in the 90’s people have been looking for these cannons,” Spirek said.

Now the cannons are on their way to North Charleston, to the same place where the confederate submarine HL Hunley is undergoing refurbishment.

Spirek said after 2 years the cannons will be on outdoor display in the Florence area.

He said community funding has helped with the recovery and conservation of the cannons.


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