Confederate gunboat C.S.S. Peedee discovered in S.C. river

Navy Historical Center -- In this Matthew Brady photograph, a nine-inch Dahlgren gun on a slide-pivot mounting is seen in operation aboard a U.S. Navy warship during the Civil War. A similar gun, originally mounted on the famous Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, was recently loaned to the Fredericksburg Area Museum, Fredericksburg, Va., for a three-year exhibit. On March 9, 1862, CSS Virginia battled the Union ironclad USS Monitor in the famous Battle of Hampton Roads, an action in which the two ships fought to a virtual draw and revolutionized sea warfare.

Shot of a nine-inch Union Dahlgren gun. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/U.S. Navy/Wikipedia)

Civil War buffs have reason to cheer, reports WISTV in South Carolina. A recent archaeological excavation by the University of South Carolina has uncovered the wreck of the C.S.S. Peedee in an area of the Great Pee Dee River located in the northeastern corner of the state. Notably, historians indicate that the Confederate gunboat was destroyed by Confederate forces so that it could not be captured by the Union.

C.S.S. Peedee’s cannons were discovered 18 months before

Underwater archaeologist Chris Amer told local media that the discovery of two of the C.S.S. Peedee’s three guns – a Confederate Brooke rifled cannon and a nine-inch Union Dahlgren – suggested that discovery of the wreckage of the ship couldn’t be far behind. As it stands, the archeological team did indeed discover what remains of the C.S.S. Peedee near an area that was the Confederate Mars Bluff Navy Yard. Now Civil War experts can work to piece together the vessel’s history.

Piecing together a history in pieces

Amer candidly proclaimed that the remains of the C.S.S. Peedee are “as messy as the history that put it there.” As it stands, naval historians have learned more about the role inland Confederate naval yards played in the Civil War. The yards provided the Confederacy with protected areas along interior rivers where they could build and house gunboats and support ships.

What Amer and crew learned regarding the location of the C.S.S. Peedee, they gleaned from records of past salvage operations. There were several, but one was of particular use to the search team. According to North Carolina archeologist Michael Hartley, a boiler and other parts were salvaged at Mars Bluff in 1954. At that time, the water was low, which made it possible for Hartley to make a detailed map of the former gunship’s location. Based upon Hartley’s research and magnetic readings, Amer was able to locate the C.S.S. Peedee.

Raise the guns, find the lost cannon

Raising the two cannons that have been discovered and discovering the missing cannon are next on Amer’s agenda. He believes that a field of logs taken directly from Mars Bluff Navy Yard that carpet the river bed may be covering the cannon from view. Thus, Amer will be enlisting the assistance of local loggers for the task ahead.


A day on the Pee Dee River

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