Pee Dee River unveils Civil War gem - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Civil War discoveries tell our history

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Cannon decommissioned from Charleston after the Civil War (Source: WMBF News Reporter Will Whitson) Cannon decommissioned from Charleston after the Civil War (Source: WMBF News Reporter Will Whitson)
Source: WMBF News Reporter Will Whitson Source: WMBF News Reporter Will Whitson

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - During the Civil War, the Pee Dee region was home to the CSS Pee Dee, a Confederate warship thought to be lost in the sands of time.

That ship was built along the Pee Dee River. Mr. Ted Gragg, a Conway native, grew up hearing stories about the famous boat which had been rediscovered once or twice.

"When I was 8 years old, Dr. Frank Sanders of Conway regaled me with stories of the CSS Pee Dee," Gragg said. "I was fascinated by it."

And even when the propellers were found in 1925 and placed in the Horry Co. Museum, the location of the cannons remained a mystery, a mystery Gragg has spent a portion of his life trying to solve.

Gragg says there was even a failed attempt in the 1950s to raise the warship from the banks of the Pee Dee River.

In the 1990s Gragg and his friends nearly absolved their quests to discover the three very large cannons aboard the sunken the ship, until one day Gragg sat on a piece of driftwood far from the ship's location and realized he was perched on a lifeboat.

"I said 'That's it, we're not going to search anymore,'" he said. "This boy that was with us went over to the water and washed his hands, and he screamed. We ran over to him and he had a 7 inch Confederate cannonball in his hands."

After eighteen years of searching, the cannons had been found. Diagnostics have been run on those cannons thanks to the funding from the state, which remain underwater to this day. When they are soon excavated, two will be placed on display in a museum in Florence, The other one will proudly display in the Horry County Museum.

But as WMBF News Reporter Will Whitson found out, those aren't the only Confederate cannons discovered underwater recently.

Mr. Rufus Perdue was fishing for grouper off the coast of McClennanville when he discovered the sunken USS Philadelphia. The ship sank under the weight of cannons decommissioned from Charleston after the Civil War, being transported north.

"This is one of about 25 cannons," Perdue said. "They were shipped out of Charleston at the end of Reconstruction."

Mr. Perdue unearthed those cannons, which he now proudly displays outside his Murrells Inlet home.

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