Thursday, November 17, 2016

Salt's mostly gone from shipwreck's 20 Enfield rifles, but intensive conservation awaits

(Photos courtesy of Sweetwater Creek State Park)

Twenty Enfield rifles recovered from Charleston (S.C.) Harbor and on display in a freshwater tank at a Georgia state park remain in a “holding situation” until funding is procured for complete conservation.

“At this point, the crate of rifles is pretty well desalinated,” said Josh Headlee, curator with the Historic Preservation Division. “The conservation is a process that will take a good while to complete and the cost could be considerable. Furthermore, once that process is started, it can’t be stopped without irreversible damage to the rifles.”

The British-made weapons, which have been on display for three years at Sweetwater State Park west of Atlanta, were intended for the hands of Confederate soldiers.

But they never made it ashore in Charleston. The CSS Stono, a blockade runner laden with precious arms, munitions and goods from Europe, in 1863 ran aground on a submerged sandbar off Fort Moultrie while trying to evade Federal ships.

An archaeological diver pulled up the crate in the late 1980s.  Georgia later acquired the guns from South Carolina.

The rifles rest in crate at the bottom of the large tank maintained by park staff. Visitors at Sweetwater often ask about the rifles and can read about them.

The Picket first spoke about the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-muskets with Headlee in December 2013. That post ranks second of the most-popular articles on this blog.

“While they are in freshwater, (the rifles) are in a relatively safe environment and can be kept stable,” Headlee said this week.

Visitors to Sweetwater often walk down to the ruins of the New Manchester mill, which produced textiles for the Confederacy before it was burned by Union troops in 1864.

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