Fort where key Revolutionary War battle was fought finally has a period cannon


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SULLIVANS ISLAND, South Carolina — The fort where a key Revolutionary War battle was fought just days before the nation declared its independence finally has a cannon from the period to put on display.

The cannon, cast sometime between the 1690s and the early 1720s, recently arrived at Fort Moultrie from Florida. Until now, the fort had only three reproduction cannon.

The gun arrived in time to be put on display for Saturday's commemoration of Carolina Day - the anniversary of the 1776 battle where Col. William Moultrie and his band of patriots who were manning a palmetto log fort turned back a British fleet intent on capturing nearby Charleston.

The British would eventually capture Charleston, but only four years later and after a siege. Six days after the Battle of Sullivans Island, the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia.

Rick Dorrance, the chief of resource management for the Fort Sumter National Monument which includes Fort Moultrie, said the cannon was found buried in a vacant lot in Jacksonville, Florida, back in 1988.

It was later housed at the Fort Caroline National Memorial Florida. But since it wasn't really appropriate for that site dealing with the French presence in 16th century Florida, the cannon was brought to Moultrie.

The history of the cannon is still being researched, but Dorrance said it might be one of 300 sent to Charleston in the mid-1700s when the South Carolina colony requested guns from the king.

When Charleston fell in the Revolution, "we know that the British collected all 300 cannon and took them away as a penalty for the patriot insurrection. We can hypothesize they went to Florida because the British controlled all of Florida after Sullivans Island and the fall of Charleston."

So, Dorrance said, "hypothetically this gun could have been one of the 300 that originally came to Charleston."

The Battle of Sullivans Island is celebrated in the South Carolina state flag with its white crescent and palmetto tree against a blue field. Cannon balls from the British Navy generally bounced harmlessly off the spongy palmetto logs during the fight.

On Saturday, 46 South Carolina flags - one for each county in the state - will be raised one after the other over Moultrie.

Before an evening band concert 11 flags will be given to families of state National Guard members killed in action in recent wars. The others will be presented to living Guard members.

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