Historic cannons from Civil War ship returned to the Pee Dee

Historic cannons from Civil War ship returned to the Pee Dee

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - After four years of conservation in North Charleston, the three massive cannons of the Confederate Cruiser CSS Peedee ship have been returned to Florence County.

The cannons were installed at the Florence County Veterans Affairs Center on Tuesday, adding to the area’s rich history of artifacts from the Civil War.

“This is pretty unique. You know, where else do you have two Confederate war cannons and one Union cannon?” said Randy Godbold, director of Florence County Veteran Affairs.

In 2015, the cannons were resurrected from the bottom of the Pee Dee River at Mars Bluff in Marion County after 150 years.

“It’s an effort that really goes back to the 1950s and even 1920s, when pieces of the gun boat Peedee surfaced during a drought when the river got low,” Ben Zeigler, president of the county’s historical society, said.

As Union forces advanced into South Carolina, confederate soldiers of the CSS Peedee threw the cannons overboard and destroyed the ship to prevent the Union from using the guns against them.

Zeigler said the massive artifacts paint a bigger picture of the time period.

“It can help tell you a story of the Union blockade, the Confederacy’s effort to break that blockade and the larger geopolitical context that it comes from,” he said.

Zeigler said other areas like Marion and Horry counties also had their eyes set on housing the cannons, but Florence County offered more resources to preserve the artifacts.

Their recovery and conservation was funded by a grant from the Drs. Bruce and Lee Foundation in Florence.

“That took several hundred thousand dollars in resources - in fact even more - and Florence County was able to bring that to the table,” Zeigler said.

Now, the area has another piece of Pee Dee history to help tell the complex history that has defined the South and country as it is known today.

"Everyone worked together and got them here to Florence and now we got another piece of history here in Florence," Godbold said.

“Having those cannons at the veterans center I think are a tangible reminder of that sacrifice and the efforts that go into keeping the order and liberty we enjoy,” Zeigler said.

The cannons, which are owned by the federal government, have been leased to the county for 30 years.

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