Charleston Harbor to be mapped for war wrecks


One of the nation’s last great unexplored battlefields will soon be a little less mysterious.

The SC Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of South Carolina has been awarded a grant from the National Park Service to map the wrecks hidden beneath Charleston Harbor, according to The Charleston Post and Courier.

State archaeologists will use a $28,000 grant, part of the American Battlefield Protection Program, to begin mapping the shipwrecks and torpedoes left behind after the War Between the States.

The information will be used to protect the wrecks from dredging and development, and give historians a more complete scope of the site where the conflict began, a harbor that endured a years-long blockade, the paper reported.

Among ships in the harbor

  • The Keokuk, a 677-ton Union ironclad allegedly buried in the sand off Morris Island;
  • The blockade-runner Mary Bowers, a side-wheel steamer that sank off the Isle of Palms late in the war; and
  • The Patapsco, a Union Monitor-class ironclad, sunk by a Confederate mine in the channel between Forts Sumter and Moultrie in the final months of the war.

Interestingly, the Confederates at one time knew exactly where the Keokuk lay. Working at night over the course of three weeks, they managed to extricate the ship’s dual 15,700-pound Dahlgren guns.

Once ashore, one Dahlgren was mounted at Fort Sumter and later moved to Battery Ramsey at the eastern end of White Point Gardens in Charleston. It was either destroyed somehow or sold as scrap after the city’s evacuation.

The other was mounted at Battery Bee on Sullivan’s Island and was used to guard the harbor until the evacuation. It was eventually abandoned by the Confederates and one day overturned, where it was buried in the sand near the beach.

In 1898, the gun was found by troops stationed at Fort Moultrie and a year later it was mounted on The Battery, where it can be seen today at the corner of East Bay and South Battery.

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