FLORENCE, S.C. – Three Civil War cannons were raised from the muddy water of the Pee Dee River on Tuesday, remnants of Union Gen. William Sherman’s march through the Carolinas in 1865.
The cannons were thrown off the CSS Pee Dee as Sherman’s troops approached after the burning of Columbia. The recovery was made at the site of a former Confederate Naval Yard near Florence, S.C.
A crowd of scientists, Civil War buffs and other onlookers cheered when the cannons were raised by a large yellow backhoe from the bank of the river. Scuba divers had attached lines to the more than 150-year-old armaments.
The cannons will be taken to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston for restoration. That is the same lab where the Civil War-era CSS Hunley — the first submarine to sink a ship in combat — is being restored.
The effort was headed by archaeologists from the University of South Carolina.
The cannons will go on display at the new U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs building in Florence.
The cannons may spark curiosity about the Civil War in the Pee Dee, said Steve Smith, director of USC’s archaeology institute. During the war, the Florence area was most known for a large prison camp, now the site of a national cemetery.
Underwater archaeologists raised the three cannons — each weighing upward of 15,000 pounds. They include two Confederate Brooke Rifle cannons and one captured Union Dahlgren cannon.
The team began its search for the 150-foot Confederate gunboat and the cannons in 2009, which were scuttled when Sherman’s Union troops advanced northward. The naval yard on the Pee Dee River was destroyed on March 15, 1865.
The Pee Dee, or Mars Bluff, Navy Yard was built in 1863 when the federal naval blockade and the capture of many of the state’s coastal areas drove the Confederate Navy’s shipbuilding efforts inland.