Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Brooke Rifles, Dalhgren Recovered from Pee Dee River

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on September 29, 2015





For 20 years, amateur diver Bob Butler searched the murky waters of the Pee Dee River for cannons he knew had been jettisoned from a Confederate warship shortly before it was scuttled in advance of surging Union troops at the end of the Civil War

He found one in 1995 as he dove near U.S. 301 on the Florence-Marion county line. He discovered another in 2006. He was on hand seven years later as a member of the Pee Dee Research and Recovery Team when the third cannon was located.

On Tuesday, Butler watched with quiet satisfaction as a team from the University of South Carolina raised the cannons from the muddy bottom of the river, some of the final remnants of Union Gen. William Sherman’s march through the Carolinas in 1865.

“We brought a little bit of South Carolina history to the surface today,” Butler said. “This closed the book on a lot of history. It’s really special.”


Kudos to all involved.


6 Responses

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  1. Damian Shiels said, on September 30, 2015 at 4:22 am

    Absolutely! Fantastic discovery.

  2. Leo said, on October 8, 2015 at 8:26 pm

    Is that a parrot gun?

  3. Reed (the original, accept no substitutes) said, on October 9, 2015 at 3:00 am

    So here are a few technical questions, if you have the time & inclination to ponder…

    According to the linked article, the ship, the CSS Pee Dee, was 150 feet long and 25 feet at the beam. The three recovered guns weigh a total of almost 35,000 lbs. and there were also a steam boiler, masts, etc., which must have added substantially more additional weight. So what kind of draft would a boat of those dimensions and weight need just to float? Was it stable? Top heavy?

    I’ll confess, I don’t know much at all about the Pee Dee River. The linked videos suggest that, at least at the point on the Pee Dee where the guns were retrieved, it might be pretty hard to maneuver a 150 foot long, 25 foot wide. ship. Was the river even dependably deep enough to float such a ship? In your estimation, how practical would the CSS Pee Dee have been for its assignment, if it had been finished and ready sooner?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

    • Andy Hall said, on October 9, 2015 at 10:07 am

      Thanks for your question. Honestly I’m not very familiar with naval operations in that area, or C.S.S. Pee Dee (PeeDee, Pedee, etc.). She is considered to be a Macon-class gunboat, in Paul Silverstone’s reference measuring 170 feet x 26 feet x 10 feet depth of hold. That last number is not specifically the amount of water she drew, but it’s a ballpark indicator. So I think she would draw about 10 (-ish) feet, depending on her loadout. That would probably be somewhat limiting in the rivers, but so would her length. I imagine she was limited in her operating area according to the season and the stage of the river.

      The reconstructions I’ve seen are generally in line with this illustration. On thing to keep in mind is that, as an inland vessel, Pee Dee would not be required to have the stability or seakeeping qualities of a blue-water, sea-going warship.

  4. Reed (the original, accept no substitutes) said, on October 9, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks for the info and the link. The illustration shows a handsome ship, and a profile that’s closer to the waterline than I would have guessed. Very interesting.

    One of my areas of interest is Chicago history, and like anyone with any Chicago connection, when I think of heavily laden river ships, I remember the 1915 SS Eastland disaster. As one eyewitness described it: “And then movement caught my eye. I looked across the river. As I watched in disoriented stupefaction a steamer large as an ocean liner slowly turned over on its side as though it were a whale going to take a nap. I didn’t believe a huge steamer had done this before my eyes, lashed to a dock, in perfectly calm water, in excellent weather, with no explosion, no fire, nothing. I thought I had gone crazy.”

    Of course, the Eastland was a much longer, taller (and apparently poorly designed and top-heavy) ship compared to the C.S.S. Pee Dee, but I still wonder at all that weight topside (and those masts, under full sail) on a ship with a 10-ish foot draft. But I’m a complete amateur regarding ships and nautical design, so I may be way off-base here.

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