Environmental clean-up set to reveal US Civil War-era weapons trove

The capital city of South Carolina, Columbia, and an allied stronghold was sacked by the Union army on 17th February 1865. William Sherman, the General in the Union Army during the American Civil War along with his capacity of 60,000 soldiers set the city of Columbia into fire and also attacked the Confederate army.  General William and his army took the armaments they could manage and dumped the rest into the Congaree River in Columbia which came on their way when they left the city. Ammunitions like rammers, cannonballs, ball cartridges, sabers and knapsacks were thrown into the river.

Now those dumped weapons which have turned into waste materials are causing a lot of trouble to the city of Columbia. With the passing years, some parts of ammunitions have been derived from the riverbed. This indicates that there might be a chance of getting more of it.

Now with the help of the science of sonar and metal detection, historians and researches could have easily detected that where exactly the armaments were thrown close to the Gervais Street bridge in downtown Columbia. To recover the artefacts from the riverbed, planning for the excavation has started.

When asked about the excavation work, Joe Long, curator of the S.C. Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, said, “It’s really going to help us interpret what was a defining point for Columbia’s history, and, really, South Carolina’s history.”

There is one hindrance which is standing against this excavation work. The ammunitions which are under the riverbed are covered with 40,000 tons of tar. Until the tar is not removed from the river, the excavation work cannot be started. In fact, there is a two foot layer of tar. This tar came out as a result of leakage caused in a long-closed gas-making plant, The Independent reports.

An energy firm, SCANA Corp, has taken an initiative to remove these tons of tar from the river with a project of $18.5m.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE