Colonial-era cannon pulled from the Cape Fear at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson

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This Colonial-era cannon will go through years of restoration and research at the site. (Photo by Christina Haley.)
This Colonial-era cannon will go through years of restoration and research at the site. (Photo by Christina Haley.)

BRUNSWICK COUNTY — A piece of history and a bit of a mystery has been pulled from the Cape Fear River at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site. The historic site announced Tuesday that a Colonial-era cannon was pulled from the river in late December.

The cannon was pulled from the river Dec. 21 by a dredging company under contract with the Army Corps of Engineers, according to Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Site Manager Jim McKee. The cannon was recovered near the property boundary between Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson (BTFA) and the Military Ocean Terminal, Sunny Point (MOTSU).

“After consultation with the Underwater Archaeology Branch, NC Office of State Archaeology, it was decided that it would be in the best interest for the cannon if it was to be taken to BTFA until arrangements could be made to begin conservation,” McKee said in a news release.

In an interview with Port City Daily at the historic site, McKee said the cannon was found in the river, about a mile and a half out from the site. 

The cannon currently sits, wrapped in burlap and under a light water spray to keep it wet, at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson, until efforts can be made towards conservation.

“It was logical that it should stay here,” McKee said. “But what is going to be so unique about this, is this is the first opportunity that an artifact like this is actually going to be conserved on site. Now that the gun is here … there’s no reason for it to ever leave again.”

The cannon is awaiting conservation efforts. McKee said the cannon will be visible to the public during that time. It’s the first of its kind at the site and could take several years before the restoration is complete.

Little is known about the cannon, which has no visible markings, measures 93-inches long and “appears to have burst, possibly caused by a casting flaw,” the release states. The bore is 80-inches and 4-inches in diameter, which could equate to a 6- to 9-pound gun, according to McKee. It appears to have been in use prior to 1756.

As the restoration process gets underway, McKee said they will be looking for any identifiable marking on the cannon that could give archaeologists an idea what kind of nationality it is. 

“We’ve found a few features on it,” McKee said. “There’s a nice little chunk of the muzzle missing. Any number of things could have happened … I kind of lean toward the ‘bursting while being fired’ theory just because of the concretion that is around the seam.”

The gun was also found empty, which is another indicator that the cannon could have burst while being fired. McKee said a lot of the old cannons that are found, such as those found on the Queen Anne’s Revenge, many of the guns are still loaded. 

“This one had already been fired or it had been cleaned,” McKee said.  

For more information about the cannon and its restoration process watch the full video interview:

A pre-Colonial cannon recovered from the Cape Fear River at Brunswicktown/Fort Anderson.
A pre-Colonial cannon has been recovered from the Cape Fear River at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson.

A pre-Colonial cannon, seen here being off-loaded at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site, was pulled from the Cape Fear River on Dec. 21.
A pre-Colonial cannon, seen here being off-loaded at the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson Historic Site, was pulled from the Cape Fear River on Dec. 21.