A Civil War-era cannon that has spent the last 136 years on the ocean floor saw dry land over the weekend in South Carolina, and it could be headed to Southport permanently in the future.
The cannon salvaging operation was successfully completed 25 miles of the coast of Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, by Long Bay Salvage LLC.
Local representatives who traveled to observe the salvage efforts are working hard to add it to the historic grounds of Fort Johnston, a process that is at least two years away from becoming reality.
The gun, a ten-inch Columbiad, was the largest of its kind, made for the Confederacy by Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia, during the Civil War. When active, the 13,000-pound cast-iron gun could fire a 100-pound shell more than a mile.
For about ten years, Long Bay has held salvage rights to the wreck of the schooner Philadelphia, which sank on its way to its namesake city on February 28, 1877, carrying a heavy load of about 25 tubes and old railroad iron on board.
Now that the cannon has been brought to the surface, the real work of fundraising and getting final approval from several agencies will begin in Southport, while south of the border the spoken-for gun will undergo a thorough and lengthy restoration process that is expected to last from 18 months to two years.
Rufus Perdue, owner of Long Bay Salvage, has successfully raised five other cannons from the wreck site, with plans to collect the other 19 or so on the ocean floor.
“We marked this particular cannon with a buoy about a month ago, then just had to wait until the conditions were right. We were looking for a flat ocean,” Perdue said. “So far I have been pleased with the condition of all that we have brought up. This one looks great.”
Perdue, who is a Civil War enthusiast, began his salvage business of the back of the discovery of the wreck site ten years ago by a fisherman.
“It kind of just fell into my lap,” Perdue said. “I felt obligated to bring these up and back to life so that people could enjoy them.”
The Foot Soldiers of Fort Johnston, a group lead by Don Parker and Joni Schinske, is proposing to bring the cannon to the lawn of Fort Johnston after its restoration. The group has recently won the support of the Southport Historical Society. First and second readings of the proposal have passed through the Southport Board of Aldermen, with approval from state and federal agencies, as well as a third city reading, pending. After that, the next step will be fundraising.
“We hope that the tube will serve as a symbol of the fort’s long military history, to better illustrate its use as a fort,” Schinske said. “It is going to cost about $75,000, and we are looking at potential fundraising opportunities, including a engraved brick initiative that would serve as the foundation of the installation.”
Those costs include the salvaging, restoration and transportation fees. Perdue also said he has contact with a craftsman in Georgia who builds cypress gun carriages to scale.
Read more about this story in this week's edition of The State Port Pilot.