J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

Archive for the tag “CSS Hunley”

Civil War Cannons Raised

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Last week, more artifacts from the Civil War era were recovered. Several cannons from a Confederate warship were brought up from the murky waters of the Pee Dee River in South Carolina. Amateur diver Bob Butler had been searching the river for 20 years in search of the cannons. In 1995, he found one, and in 2006, he discovered another. In 2013, he watched as the Pee Dee Research and Recovery Team located a third cannon. He also watched last Tuesday as a team from the University of South Carolina raised the cannons from the river bottom.

The cannons were dumped into the river in 1865 as a precautionary measure to avoid their capture by Union General William T. Sherman during his march through the Carolinas.

“We brought a little bit of South Carolina history to the surface today,” Butler said. “This closed the book on a lot of history. It’s really special.”

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The USC team started its search for the 150-foot Confederate gunboat, the CSS Pee Dee, in 2009. The cannons attached to the gunboat are especially significant because their service has been well documented. The cannons are also special because they were a new invention at the time and could swivel 360 degrees. Prior to this, mounted cannons remained in a stationary position.

The cannons were recovered at the site of a former Confederate inland naval yard. The CSS Pee Dee had sails, a boiler and giant twin propellers. It was once referred to by the Confederate Navy Secretary as “the finest ship ever built by the South.” The gunboat’s career didn’t last long. Once it was built, it steamed up the river to head off Sherman and his troops, then returned to Mars Bluff and was burned.

“The war would have been over before it stuck its nose out of the inlet,” Leader said of the CSS Pee Dee’s future as an ocean-going commerce raider. “They basically finished it, ran it up the river, ran it back and that was it.”

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The three cannons include two Confederate Brooke Rifle cannons and one captured Union Dahlgren cannon. They will be taken to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston for conservation. It is the same lab where the CSS Hunley is being restored. Once their restoration is complete, they will be on permanent display at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs building in Florence.

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CSS Alabama (And Other Civil War Battleships)


(Above: photos of USS Cairo at Vicksburg National Military Park)

On July 29, 1862, the CSS Alabama departed the shores of England where it had been constructed. The ship’s career was short-lived, however, because she was sunk in 1864. Originally launched as Enrica, the ship never anchored in Southern waters. She was dubbed the Alabama in August of 1862 to the jaunting melody of “Dixie” following President Jefferson Davis’commission of the vessel as read by the captain.

In 1865, the USS San Jacinto was wrecked. What remained of the vessel was sold at auction, and added to the US Treasury. The total sum was $224.61.

Many ships have survived the ages throughout history, and new wrecks are being discovered all the time. It wasn’t long ago that the turret to the USS Monitor was discovered, still containing the remains of the Civil War soldiers inside. The same goes for the CSS Hunley, one of the first submarines ever used, which vanished off the coast of South Carolina in 1864 after torpedoing the USS Housatonic.

I have seen a few remnants of boats during this era that still remain. One interesting artifact is located at Desoto Bend, near Omaha, Nebraska. Here, a museum houses what remains of a riverboat that sunk in the Missouri River around the time of the Civil War. There is also a wildlife refuge there where you can see a wide variety of water birds as they migrate during the fall.

Another fascinating relic resides at the National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The USS Cairo was sunk into the murky waters of the Yazoo River during the siege of Vicksburg, but all of the occupants managed to escape before she went down. Nearly a century later, the boat was retrieved, and artifacts are on display at the museum inside the park.

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