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Christopher Amer (left), Joe Beatty carry artillery shell recovered from Pee Dee River.
Underwater archaeologist Christopher Amer (left) and archaeological assistant Joe Beatty carry an artillery shell from a Confederate Brooke rifled cannon recovered from the Pee Dee River.

Archaeologists locate Confederate cannon, naval yard

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.

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.”

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History in the Pee Dee

  • What: Discovery of remains of the Confederate gunboat C.S.S. Pee Dee and Mars Bluff Naval Yard
  • Who: State underwater archaeologist Christopher Amer, state archaeologist and research associate professor Dr. Jon Leader, and research collaborators from East Carolina University and Francis Marion University
  • Where: Marion County, on the east side of the Pee Dee River

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