Preserving history: The Adopt-A-Cannon cause

  • Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cannons at Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter are in dire need of restoration. STAFF PHOTO BY SULLY WITTE


Some of the most rare war-time relics sit right here in the Lowcountry at Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. They’ve weathered many storms - from the bumps and bruises of war to Hurricane Hugo.

And they won’t last forever in the elements, which is why an effort is under way to properly and proactively preserve them.

Rick Dorrance, chief of resource management, is spearheading the effort.

“This was long overdue,” he said. “We asked ourselves what was the most important thing we have here beside the brick and masonry forts. And certainly what is unique is the one-of-a-kind artillery.”

The park has the most important collection of American seacoast artillery in existence, including rare examples made by the Confederacy.

These cannons are located in a marine environment which is especially hard on historic iron. The park needs assistance in conserving these very important artifacts.

Dorrance coordinated a highly beneficial partnership with the Warren Lasch Conservation Center (the Hunley laboratory) several years ago. Using state of the art science and technology that the organization has gained over the 13 years of their research on how best to preserve the Hunley submarine, the partnership has conserved eight cannons on Fort Moultrie’s Cannon Row and two Endicott period guns inside the fort. All eight have been equipped with monitors that measure moisture, temperature and humidity to protect the cannons from the inside out and the outside in.

At Fort Moultrie a cannon dating to 1830 and a Columbiad cannon made by the Confederacy are in the process of being conserved during the fall of 2013.

At Fort Sumter, four “witness guns” (present during the Civil War) will be conserved in late 2013.

The park still needs additional assistance with this important project. The Fort Sumter Trust, made up of citizens from across the Lowcountry, has begun the Adopt-A-Cannon initiative. Jim Thompson, a member of the trust, has already pledged enough money to preserve one cannon. Others are urged to make a donation as well.

The trust supports Charleston’s national park sites at Liberty Square, Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie and the Charles Pinckney site. The overview of the trust is to support the park service like a three legged stool. “There is education, where we bring kids to park, there is the preservation aspect and commemoration of special events,” said Thompson.

At Fort Moultrie there will be three cannons in need of immediate conservation, and at Fort Sumter there will be three witness guns requiring the same attention.

State of the art conservation of a cannon at Fort Moultrie is about $4,000, while conservation at Fort Sumter is about $6,000.

Superintendent Tim Stone is proud of the work that has taken place thus far.

“A year ago we saw the cannons on the ground on four by fours. Rick led the restoration work with Warren Lasch and the techniques are cutting-edge.”

According to Dorrance, almost all of the cannons are original to the fort. Some were found scattered along the island; many buried in the sand.

Agencies, clubs and individuals are encouraged to adopt a cannon or donate toward the effort, There can be no permanent tag to recognize donors but during restoration a recognition placard will be put into place. “People can get behind an effort when they can see actual results,” said Dorrance.

Donors can request that their funds go toward a specific cannon as well. Personal tours are available, both before and after restorations so that interested individuals can see why the restoration is so crucial.

The fundraising being done by the trust will allow restoration to get underway immediately. This effort is crucial due to the fact that special project funding money has dried up. And according to Stone, the costs for restoration is above and beyond what the park service can fund.

If you have questions about the project, please contact Superintendent Tim Stone at 843-883-3123 ext. l4, or timothy_stone@nps.gov.

For more information on the trust visit www.fortsumtertrust.org or email Trust President Doug McIntire at dougmac@mindspring.com. donations can be mailed to 40 East Bay Street, Charleston SC 29401.

Staff conservators from the Warren Lacsh conservation lab will be performing work at Fort Moultrie starting this week. Interested donors are encouraged to visit the fort to see the work firsthand.

For information about our local National Park sites, please call the National Park Service at 843-883-3123.

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