Hurricane Matthews exposed a trove of Civil War cannonballs in South Carolina

Hurricane Matthews unearthed an unexpected trove of Civil War cannonballs on a beach near Charleston, South Carolina when it hit the state. An US Air Force Explosive Team was deployed this weekend to dispose of an unexpected threat.

On Sunday morning, a Charleston local reported finding 16 Civil War cannonballs on a Folly Island beach near Charleston, South Carolina which were exposed by the passing of Hurricane Matthews. The site lies just 20 km (12.8 miles) off of Fort Sumter in Charleston, a place of historical significance. This is the place where the fist recorded shots of the Civil War were fired, at the First Battle of Fort Sumter on 12 April 1861.

An US Air Force team was dispatched to the area and detonated most of the 150-year-old ordinance on-site with a small amount of explosives. The rest was transported to a local navy base for disposal.

“We had to wait until after 7[pm] for the tide to go down,” Watson told Mary Bowerman at USA Today. “When the tide receded, our guys and members of the US Air Force explosive team used a small amount of C-4 to detonate the cannonballs.”

“We call it ‘rendering safe’, and we did that right there on the beach front,” Eric Watson, a spokesman with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office told the press. “They’re putting the dirt from the detonation back in the hole and they’re transporting the device to [Joint Base Charleston].”

Folly Island is an 18-square-kilometer (7-square-mile) stretch of land which was used as a Union fort and staging area for attacks on Confederate strongholds during the Civil War. So it’s not surprising to find artifacts from that era here — in fact, in 1987, construction workers stumbled upon the remains of 14 people here. They were later identified as soldiers from the 55th Massachusetts regiment of the US Coloured Troops. What was most disturbing about the find was that most of them were missing their heads.

“What was odd about the bodies discovered on the island was that 12 of them didn’t have skulls and were also missing other body parts,” says Wheeler.

“And, more importantly, they showed no signs of battle injury, according to an account in an official history of Folly Island. What happened to these men was then and still is a mystery.”

So Hurricane Matthews has been doing some archaeology itself. Who knows how many other artifacts are waiting to be found, unearthed by the storm?


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