SAVANNAH, Ga. – The British are coming … or they already came … to view a collection of Revolutionary War-era cannon that army archeologists are caring for in Savannah, Georgia.
Commodore Philip Nash, Royal Naval attaché to the U.S. at the British Embassy in Washington D.C., visited Savannah District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers April 28 to view 19 cannon and various other artifacts that the Corps found during its Savannah Harbor Expansion Project.
“It’s amazing isn’t it?” said Nash. “Some of these pieces are in amazing condition and I’m sure could tell some stories. So, the team here, obviously doing great work to recover those and preserve them for the future.”
Corps archeologists believe the artifacts originate from HMS Savannah, which the British sunk in 1779 to block French forces and protect Savannah during the Revolutionary War. However, it’ll be difficult to prove where the artifacts came from unless researchers can located the ship’s inventory or other first-hand accounts from the time that can provide a direct link between the artifacts and a specific vessel.
“The team are working hard at that,” Nash said. “We’ll help where we can with our records and of course that makes the story so much more interesting, doesn’t it?”
Nash did caution not to underestimate the challenge of solving this jigsaw puzzle.
“It has been both frustrating and rewarding trying to locate all of the pieces and match them together to find out more about this site,” said Andrea Farmer, Savannah District archaeologist. “There are still many pieces missing. A majority are probably lost to history, but there are a few that we believe are still out there.”
Historical analysis confirmed the cannon were manufactured during the mid-1700s, but a definitive conclusion on their origin is still pending further investigation and future conservation. Research indicates the British Royal Navy sunk the HMS Savannah, HMS Venus, and other British troop transports with their armaments intact in an area called Five Fathom Hole.
“The Commodore’s visit was beneficial in that it provided an opportunity for him to see the artifacts and the proposed exhibit space firsthand, which will aid future discussions regarding an agreement to ensure that the artifacts remain in Savannah,” said Farmer. “We appreciate the support and encouragement from the British Embassy, as well as our other partners including the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia and South Carolina’s State Historic Preservation Offices, South Carolina’s Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, Commonwealth Heritage Group, and Coastal Heritage Society.”
Officials with the Savannah District continue to coordinate future actions in accordance with applicable laws. All artifacts removed from the river bottom remain under the care of the Corps.