Experts detail likely origin of cannons found in Savannah River

More than a dozen cannon have been brought up from the river since 2021
Published: Feb. 16, 2022 at 3:33 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 16, 2022 at 6:28 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A year after discovering three cannons while dredging the Savannah River, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers have now brought more pieces of Revolutionary War history to the surface, including a dozen more cannon.

“The Savannah River has a ton of secrets. There are probably thousands of shipwrecks in this river,” said U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Savannah Archaeologist Andrea Farmer.

“You know you think of cannons and pirates when you think of a shipwreck,” added Commonwealth Heritage Group Director of Maritime Division Stephen James.

Well, maybe not pirates, but the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has found their fair share of cannons recently.

“All archaeologists, maritime archaeologists, shipwreck archaeologists, we all love cannon,” said James.

After somewhat stumbling upon the first three last year during dredging.

“We realized there had to be something down there because it’s so rare,” Farmer said.

So, they spent the past year out at a location near Fort Jackson called Five Fathom Hole.

“It was kind of a pivotal point in protecting the city in both the revolutionary and civil war. So, they preformed a series of sonar investigations,” Farmer said.

“We had to send divers down to investigate every target. Among those targets, we had 12 other cannon,” added James.

12 more cannons and a variety of small artifacts, like cannon balls.

So, where did they come from?

“There was initially some thought that the cannon could be from the HMS Rose,” James said.

But as they now know the Rose had its cannons removed before it was sunk.

So, if not the Rose?

“We suspect that the cannon are solely, or predominantly from His Majesties Ship the Savannah,” says James.

The HMS Savannah was scuttled in the river back on September 20, 1779 to block French attempts to help Americans recapture the city from the British.

“We do know that the Savannah had 14 guns, we recovered 15 guns, so there’s a discrepancy in the records,” James said.

The extra cannon, possibly from the nearby HMS Venus, or maybe it was used as a ballast on the Savannah.

But they likely won’t know for sure for a few more years as they continue the conservation process which will reveal more clues to their past.

A past they’re excited to bring to the surface.

“It’s been incredible to be able to shine a light on this part of Savannah’s history,” said Farmer.

If you’d like to learn more about the discovery and see some of the artifacts for yourself, they are hosting a public presentation Thursday at the Savannah History Museum.

Refreshments begin at 6:30 p.m. and the presentation goes from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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