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Union Dahlgren smooth-bore, 9-inch shell cannon, from C.S.S. Peedee
Union Dahlgren smooth-bore, 9-inch shell cannon, from C.S.S. Peedee.

Archaeologists locate wreck of Confederate gunboat

By Peggy Binette, peggy@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-5400

A University of South Carolina archaeologist has found the wreck of C.S.S. Peedee, a Confederate gunboat that was destroyed by Confederate forces so it would not be captured by Union forces, in the Pee Dee River.

The discovery comes 18 months after underwater archaeologist Chris Amer confirmed the presence of two of three cannon from the gunboat in the river: a Confederate Brooke rifled cannon and a Union Dahlgren smooth-bore, 9-inch shell cannon near the Confederate Mars Bluff Navy Yard.

“This isn’t a boat resting neatly on the river bottom,” Amer said. “The remains are as messy as the history that put it there. Together, the wreck and cannon tell a story about the little known but very important role that inland Confederate naval yards played in the Civil War. Hidden along interior rivers, the naval yards let Confederate forces build and protect gunboats and support vessels.”

Amer said that after an unsuccessful three-week search in July to determine whether the elusive third cannon was hidden under the Dahlgren or under a handful of artillery shells on the river’s bottom, he returned in September to follow up on clues about the Peedee’s location.

The clues included some data from downstream that he gathered in 2009 and a personal account by a man who claimed that he witnessed a salvage operation of the Peedee in 1954.

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