Archaeologists Locate Confederate Cannons, Naval Yard

June 6, 2009

Archaeologists from the University of South Carolina and East Carolina University have located two large cannon from a sunken Confederate gunboat in the Pee Dee River and have identified where the Mars Bluff Naval Yard once stood on the east side of the river in Marion County, S.C.

State underwater archaeologist Christopher Amer and state archaeologist and research associate professor Dr. Jon Leader began work April 30. The project called for locating and, eventually, raising three cannon, each weighing upwards of five tons, that were once aboard C.S.S. Pee Dee, as well as determining the location of the naval yard where the gunboat had been built.

Amer said the underwater research has been very successful, despite rising waters that have created a higher or more swift-moving current and lower visibility.

“Our underwater work hasn’t been easy,” Amer said. “In spite of high, near-flood water in the river, we have located two of the three cannon and have raised two 7-inch Brooke artillery shells and four 6.4-inch Brooke shells. Water operations also have located pilings from the dock where vessels were outfitted and evidence of post-war logging operations.”

Leader, with the help of eight university students, conducted terrestrial operations using ground-penetrating radar and other remote-sensing technologies to identify where the buildings of the naval yard once stood. The data was used to create a 3-D map for excavation work.

Archaeologists and graduate students are digging pits, measuring 50 centimeters wide down to the Pleistocene layer, so that artifacts can be dated in the soil layers where they lay before they are excavated. A variety of objects, including ceramics, glass and nails, provide clues to the location of specific buildings and activity areas at the naval yard, which operated as a Confederate States of America (CSA) stronghold from 1862 -1865.

“A smoking pipe bowl fragment recovered by the excavation team bears the initials ‘WG,’” Leader said. “WG pipes are known from American Revolutionary War and others sites to ca. 1830. It gave us quite a start, as one of the original owner’s initials was also WG, a remarkable coincidence.”

Among the resources Amer has used in the project is a letterbook kept by Confederate Lt. Edward Means from Aug. 3, 1864, to March 15, 1865 (among holdings at Louisiana State University), which provides valuable information about operations at the Mars Bluff Naval Yard.

Amer says the university’s research findings and the artifacts recovered will help tell the story of the people who worked at the Mars Bluff Naval Yard and how they constructed the Confederate warships.

“The artifacts recovered to date provide us with a tantalizing glimpse into past lifeways at the site,” Amer said, “and remind us of a time in this nation’s history when, in the face of advancing overwhelming odds, the Confederate officers, sailors and workmen at the only inland Confederate naval shipyard in South Carolina, along with the local community, gave it their best shot.”

The Mars Bluff Naval Yard was one of a score of Confederate naval yards that were located inland in Southern states so gunboats and support vessels for the war could be built and protected from Union forces. Mars Bluff was chosen for its inland location, proximity to the railroad, water communication with Charleston via Georgetown and the abundance of ash, oak and pine lumber.

C.S.S. Pee Dee was a 150-foot Macon class gunboat that was built at Mars Bluff and outfitted with two Brooke rifled cannon and a Union Dahlgren cannon and launched in January 1865. The Pee Dee’s career was short-lived. Fearing that the gunboat might fall into enemy hands as Gen. William T. Sherman’s Union troops moved from Columbia northward to advance on North Carolina, commanders ordered the cannons thrown overboard into the Pee Dee River before the ship was scuttled on March 15, set ablaze and blown up.

The project of the S.C. Institute for Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina is funded in part by a $200,000 grant from the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation in Florence. Plans call for the cannon and artifacts recovered from the Mars Bluff Naval Yard and associated with the C.S.S. Pee Dee to be preserved at conservation laboratories at Francis Marion University under the supervision of Leader. They will then be exhibited at the Florence County Museum.

The project includes collaboration with East Carolina University and Francis Marion University. ECU’s Program in Maritime Studies is conducting a field school on the site through June 19, providing support to the SCIAA team’s research and excavation work.

Amer said researchers have been aided greatly by the Pee Dee Research and Recovery Team, which conducted an underwater survey of the site in the 1990s under an intensive survey license from SCIAA, and by the owners of the property on which the site is located. The owners have allowed the university and ECU archaeologists to stage the underwater operations on their property and conduct terrestrial archaeology.

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1 / 5 (1) Jun 06, 2009
i would think the confederate "story" of the US is one that would/should be buried. A bunch of southern idiots who wanted to keep slaves...screw em, they needed to lose.
not rated yet Jun 07, 2009
So much for States Rights and Federalism, dismissed by a dolt.

Brandon, read Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt's education jeremiad.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 07, 2009
State rights and federalism huh. That is simply laughable. You have NO state rights when the federal government can overrule ANY law created within ANY state. So much for your state rights.

Federalism....come on now, we all know this great shotty rapist of a country of ours is a mixed package of socialist and communist, and corporationalist.

I stand by my statement....the south should have fell, and did, and they will never rise again.

Southerners are VERY slow in the head anyways....I know, I've had the advantage of living both up north and down south throughout my life, and I will tell you right off the bat, southern schools are YEARS behind northern schools even to this day. Even daily decisions I see people making I see this...the gears just take longer to grind in most southern heads to find an answer it seems.

So are you actually defending idiots who thought slavery was the thing to do and ok, and whose accumulated IQ throughout entire land masses was about 4?

I'm really just trying to make sure I understood your statement correctly :)

I will give this to southerners, and not in regards to driving because most SUCK at that, but southerners typically are much more courteous/polite in general dealings in my experience, but of course, that does not apply to all, north or south.
not rated yet Jun 08, 2009
This is still history of the United States, albeit a time in some ways should be forgotten. I think the Southern U.S. has been punished enough. They are as intelligent as anyone else. I know I am from Pennsylvania and I live in Alabama. The funds are just not here to bring things up to the level of the Northern states. Time to help out all states in the way of education. Not just blast them for past happenings.

Lucky Brandon, go back to school and study true history, it was not just about slavery. There is more to the reason than that. This is one point from history there was a battalion in the Army of Northern Virginia, their name was Falconers Legion. It was commanded by a young gentleman from Boston. Falconer fought hard against the Union Army.He believed in the right of the southern states to legally secede from the Union. Which was guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Lincoln sent warships to Charleston to try to subvert the will of the people of South Carolina. He was trying to keep them from seceding from the Union. which in fact, having read diaries of Union Soldiers, most said they were not "fighting for darkies" they were fighting to show the south that they could not leave the union the records and writings of all on both sides, they lived it! we did not! and records also show that 98% in the confederate army were non-slave holders. and the emancipation proclamation did not free slaves anywhere except in the southern states, even U.S. Grant kept slaves until after the war was over, because in his words "free labour"...and the 5 civilized (indian) tribes all wore grey uniforms, they were angry about another travesty at the hands of the federal union compact..."The Trail of Tears" You need to study real history...and all of the supreme court justices of that time when asked if they wanted to bring confederate leaders to trial they responded "we are satisfied with the verdict reached on the battlefield, which in fact shows what the Nothern mindset was. and another point, what was Wesley Culp from Pennsylvania fighting for while wearing a grey uniform?
1 / 5 (1) Jun 08, 2009
Actually I care more for my tribe's history than any of the above.

BTW I know it wasn't just about slavery...and history is a HUGE snooze typically (although archeaology on the other hand...), so no desire to go do any more history than I was already stuck doing in my life sorry :)

Schooling is definitely behind in the south (not talking college level here guys talking k-12), I myself have been to school in Michigan and Texas, and know a number of people from Alabama, Georgia, and Florida (was stationed along Alabama/Georgia border), and it all plays the same from what I've seen, 2-3 years behind Michigan schools....
but anyways thats not what my post was meant to convey...and also, I was actually referring more to the people back then (and now) who thought slavery was ok.

It was meant to convey the fact that certain things should just be wiped out of the mind...this country is never going to get over its tensions when reminders pop up all the time...bad enough some have family old enough to still think in old terms.
not rated yet Jun 09, 2009
LuckyBrandon, the thing is this; some people will never let things be forgotten such as "slavery." That is just the way it is. Some will never let the "War" end. Yes the k-12 schools are behind. So how is this changed???? When I moved to Florida I was 16, the work they were doing in 11th grade I had in 7th grade in Pennsylvania. The South was given a raw deal in reconstruction, and it still suffers today for lack of industry and funding where needed. They lost and paid for their beliefs, and they still pay by not being as up to date as the rest of the country. Low wages, no jobs, school not up to date.

I do not find the average Southerner to be "slow." Things are different here as in any place with hot humid weather, the pace moves slower at times. The heat and humidity take a toll on the body.

Anyway, I am always interested in history and archaeology. I have studied on my own regarding many different cultures and times. I am happy to see that you are proud of your Indian heritage. Never let it die.

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