As Union troops approached a Confederate shipyard near Florence in 1865, sailors from the rebel gunboat CSS Pee Dee knew they had to retreat–without the boat. To prevent its capture, they scuttled the vessel and sank it in the Pee Dee River, where it has sat for over 140 years.
Now an archaeologist from the University of South Carolina says he has found the wreck near an area known as Mars Bluff.
In a statement through the university, Chris Amer said the nature of the wreck makes it difficult to find.
This isn’t a boat resting neatly on the river bottom. The remains are as messy as the history that put it there. Together, the wreck and cannon tell a story about the little known but very important role that inland Confederate naval yards played in the Civil War. Hidden along interior rivers, the naval yards let Confederate forces build and protect gunboats and support vessels.
Since the US Navy controlled most of the Southern coastline within the first year of the war, Confederate shipbuilders often had to use the wide blackwater rivers in the Coastal Plains in order to build their fledgling fleet.
A propellar from the Pee Dee was found in 1925, and currently sits at the Florence Museum. Amer himself found two cannons from the ship last year.
In November, Amer used sonar to find several disturbances along the river bottom that he says are from debris. He cited several magnetic “hits” in straight lines, which may be from iron bolts in the hull, among other finds.
It’s in pieces and buried, although I’m not sure just how deep.
The South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology hopes to raise parts of the wreck. Historians believe the find will provide more information on the fledgling Confederate Navy, about which very little is known.
The entire project is funded by a $200,000 grant from the Dr.s Bruce and Lee Foundation in Florence.