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Hurricane Matthew Unearths Civil War Cannonballs

  • VOA News

A cluster of Civil War-era cannonballs was unearthed by the powerful hurricane Matthew. (Charleston Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

A cluster of Civil War-era cannonballs was unearthed by the powerful hurricane Matthew. (Charleston Co. Sheriff's Dept.)

Hurricane Matthew unearthed several Civil War-era cannon balls on a U.S. beach near Charleston, South Carolina.

Most of the cannon balls were detonated by authorities, but some were transported to a nearby naval base, the USA Today newspaper reported.

A picture of the 16 rust-encrusted cannon balls was posted on the official Folly Beach Facebook page Sunday after the giant storm swept through the area.

The first shots of the Civil War were fired from nearby Ft. Sumter in 1861.

During the war, both exploding and non-exploding cannon balls were used.

High tides initially prevented officials from reaching the balls, but once the tide went out, bomb disposal experts from the U.S. Air Force detonated most of them.

“We had to wait until after seven for the tide to go down,” said Maj. Eric Watson, public information officer for the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. “When the tide receded our guys and members of the U.S. Air Force explosive team used a small amount of C-4 to detonate the cannon balls right there on the beach.”


Finding Civil War ordnance in the area is not uncommon, Watson said.

"Charleston played a major role in the Civil War, so whenever we have construction or a natural disaster like a hurricane it's more than likely people come across some old Civil War ordnance," he said.

He warned people not to touch any other ordnance that might be found.

"The ordnance are old, mixed with black powder which is unstable if handled the wrong way, so we encourage them when they come across ordnance to reach out to the proper authorities," he said.

In 1863, Folly Beach Island was home to 13,000 Union troops who built roads, forts and an artillery battery, according to the city. The island was a strategic point for the Union as it attempted to take over Fort Wagner, which was key to protecting Charleston.

In 1987, 14 bodies from the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment were unearthed during a construction project. The unit was featured in the popular movie, Glory.

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