Civil War cannonballs surface on Folly Beach after Hurricane Matthew

Civil War cannonballs surface on Folly Beach following Hurricane Matthew
Published: Oct. 9, 2016 at 4:59 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 11, 2016 at 12:15 AM EDT
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FOLLY BEACH, SC (WCSC) - By Raymond Rivera

Civil War cannonballs surfaced on the Lowcountry coast Sunday morning after Hurricane Matthew's trek through South Carolina.

Joint Base Charleston officials said the Civil Engineer Squadron Explosive Ordnance Disposal along with local bomb squads responded to "16 unexploded munitions" on Folly Beach.

In addition, the Charleston County Sheriff's Office officials said their bomb squad also responded to the area for a discovery of what appeared to be an "old Civil War ordnance."

Authorities announced Sunday night that a number of the cannonballs, which were located several yards on the beach portion of East Ashley Avenue, were detonated by the Air Force and a small amount of them transported to the Naval Base.

Witnesses reported hearing at least two loud booms and seeing smoke in the area Sunday evening during the detonation of some of the cannonballs.

According to residents, a phone alert by law enforcement was sent to Folly Beach citizens regarding the detonation.

On Monday, Air Force officials released pictures and video of technicians transporting the cannonballs to a safe location.

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Former Folly Beach mayor Richard Beck discovered the cannonballs as he was walking along the beach to take pictures of Matthew's impact.

"I knew they were cannonballs," he said."One of them had a very distinct hole in it that went directly into it. Just knowing a little bit about the Civil War, I know that they put fuses in cannonballs for them to explode when they desired them to."

According to Beck, there were around 15 cannonballs most of which were welded together by rust.

Beck said Folly Beach Public Safety and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office initially responded after he alerted police to his discovery.

"One of the officers was a Civil War re-enactor, and so he knew pretty quickly that they were cannonballs," he said.

Beck said he wasn't necessarily concerned about his safety; responding officers told him to leave as soon as they realized what they were dealing with.

"It's just interesting," he said."Everyone knows this tip of the island has fortifications and there was a lot activity during the Civil War. It didn't surprise me really, but delighted me."

Beck, who served two terms as Folly Beach mayor in the 1980s, says it wasn't the first time or perhaps the last time that cannonballs would be found on Folly Beach.

"I remember we found that they were excavating the basement of a house and they found a cannonball and they got the bomb disposal squad to come get it," Beck said. "They asked the owner of the house if he was worried and he said he didn't think God would let him live 80 years to be taken out by a Union cannonball."

Bomb technicians had been unable to access the cannonballs earlier in the day due to the tide.

The sheriff's office said if crews were to detonate the cannonballs it would not pose any immediate threat to the residents or the community.

"However, if the ordnance have to be rendered safe, residents in Charleston, James Island, and on Folly Beach will hear what will sound like an explosion," authorities said.

Members of the United States Air Force Explosive Ordinance Team, Folly Beach Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office responded.

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