Hurricane Matthew has battered the coast of South Carolina and caused a lot of damage, but it has also succeeded in revealing secrets from the past, shedding a light into the area's tumultuous Civil War history. Indeed, as powerful winds and high waves eroded the beach on the east end of Folly Beach Island, South Charleston, a pile of Civil War-era cannonballs emerged from the sand.
When the storm calmed on 9 October, a resident went for a walk by the coast. During his excursion, he came upon 16 corroded cannonballs lying on the wet sand. These were impressive weapons, the size of bowling balls, and covered with rust.
The resident quickly contacted local authorities, whose first reaction was to assess whether the weapons could be retrieved in order to be put on display in the town as a testimony of its Civil War past.
However, analysis revealed that most of these weapons potentially contained old and unstable gunpowder.
For safety reasons, it was decided the weapons would be destroyed. Local officials, assisted by the US Air Force Explosive Team, detonated the ordnance on site, although a small number of weapons were carried to a Navy base to be destroyed there. Residents were warned to expect noises of explosions and not to worry about it.
The discovery was a reminder that Folly Beach Island has a rich and diverse history. It has been shaped by stories of pirates, shipwrecks, and hurricanes. People who survived the wreck of their ships were often washed ashore on the island.
During the Civil War, the area was occupied by Union troops in the middle of the conflict, in 1863, and remained in their control for the duration of the war. It eventually became the strategic base to take Fort Wagner at the end of 1863.