Hurricane Matthew unearths Civil War-era relics


FOLLY BEACH, S.C. (WIVB) —The lowcountry beaches of South Carolina carry plenty of secrets, given their place in the history of the Civil War.

Hurricane Matthew happened to reveal just a few of those secrets, some 150 years later.
“This side of the island faces east, north east, and that’s the direction of the wind blew for about 20 hours,” said Richard Beck, the former mayor of Folly Beach. “So I just wanted to see what it happened to the island since I live not far from here.”
Beck has a love of history that becomes obvious after a short conversation. He’s sort and energetic, and passionate about saving lighthouses and memorizing his community. He took a walk Sunday afternoon to survey the damage. It turned out to be one he’ll never forget.
“And I came across this collection of things that were obviously round, obviously metal and probably cannonballs,” he said.
Realizing at least one may be armed, he called for backup.
“When we arrived on the scene, we saw the ordinances,” said Maj. Eric Watson, of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office. “At that time, high tide was coming in around 7 o’clock, so we had to back off and wait for the tide to recede to evaluate it even more.”
Residents of Folly Beach likely heard a few small explosions as the armed Civil War relics were detonated.
“So it’s well known that this end of the island had thousands of troops stage, federal troops, as the land forces to take Morris Island and then to be able to bombard Charleston,” Beck said.
That means these cannonballs were from the north.
“They would’ve been union cannonballs, yes,” he said.
Watson said large construction projects or extreme weather has a tendency to reveal Charleston’s deep history.
“It’s intriguing, and at the same time, we’ve seen it quite a few times, before so it’s not that unique,” he said. “But the actual artifacts itself, it is historical. So we can’t just not overlook that. It’s just a reminder how far we came.”
Beck said it’s not the first time, and it likely won’t be the last such artifacts are found on Folly Beach.
“It was just delightful to find something here, but not surprising,” Beck said. “I’m so sorry that it turns out that they were armed.”
Some of the 16 cannonballs were detonated on site. The rest were taken to the nearby U.S. Air Force to be detonated. Officials said residents were not in danger, and detonating the devices was done as a precaution.
Although the find was a surprise, and could have been dangerous, Beck said he kept his cool.
“I figured they had been there for 150 years, and I’m 70 years old, and I didn’t think a federal cannonball was going to take me out at this point,” he said chuckling. “I really didn’t.”
Beck said he had to laugh remembering a party to celebrate a new light in their historical lighthouse that now overlooks the beach. He said more than 1,000 people were walking and having picnics on the very sand that would be washed away a week later, no one the wiser. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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