Scientists Preserve Cannons That Started The Civil War

Civil War
National Park Service

Historic cannons from Fort Moultrie, South Carolina, that date to the Civil War have been meticulously conserved and returned to the fort, the National Park Service announced. Some of these big guns, weighing up to 15,000 pounds each, were used to fire on Fort Sumter just across Charleston Harbor. It was this attack on a federal fort that was the official start of the Civil War.

Scientists removed several layers of old paint from the 17 cannons and applied a coat of epoxy to protect them from rust. They also applied a durable coat of fresh paint. The cannons are exposed to the elements as well as salty, humid sea air, so choosing the right coating can make the difference between an evocative, educational exhibit and a rusting heap of trash.

Fort Moultrie is part of the Fort Sumter National Monument and has the world’s largest collection of American seacoast artillery from the 19th century. Last year a team of conservators visited Fort Sumter and treated several artillery shells from these cannons, many of which have been stuck in the fort’s walls since the day they were fired.

Civil War
Billy Hathorn One of the cannons prior to conservation.

Smithsonian Relocates Slave Cabin To Be Centerpiece Of Upcoming Exhibition

Smithsonian
Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Smithsonian Institution has received a unique donation – an intact slave cabin from a plantation in South Carolina. The cabin, which was on the grounds of the Point of Pines Plantation on Edisto Island, was donated by the current landowners.

For the past month a Smithsonian team has been meticulously dismantling it and removing it to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The reconstructed cabin will be the centerpiece of the “Slavery and Freedom” exhibition when the museum opens on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 2015.

While it will certainly make an interesting display and attract lots of attention, it’s a shame that it wasn’t left where it was. Historic homes and artifacts have a more immediate impact on the visitor when they’re left in the original location. The move has taken away the cabin’s context. It’s no longer in the area where the slaves worked, lived and died. Instead of experiencing the landscape – the heat, the insects, the thick undergrowth the slaves would have known – we’ll now see it in a modern museum thronging with tourists.

Perhaps it was impossible for the cabin to remain where it was. Perhaps the Smithsonian had to move it to save it, but we’ve still lost something.

Pro Cycling Legend George Hincapie To Open Boutique Hotel In South Carolina

George Hincapie's new Hotel Domestique in South CarolinaFormer professional cyclist George Hincapie, who rode in the Tour de France an impressive 17 times, has announced plans to enter the hotel business along with his brother Rich. Their small boutique hotel, which is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina, promises to mix old world charm with contemporary sophistication.

The aptly named Hotel Domestique is set to open in August and will feature 13 rooms each with their own individual style and flair. The hotel will showcase French and Mediterranean influences and the comfortable rooms will include designer furnishings, flat-screen TV’s and their own fireplaces. The intention is to provide travelers with a sophisticated and unique place to stay that is also warm and inviting.

Domestique is located near Traveler’s Rest – just 20 miles north of Greenville, SC – and is situated atop a lovely hillside that provides spectacular views of the surrounding region. The hotel includes a fantastic patio that overlooks the 29-acre grounds and vineyard, with the beautiful Blue Ride Mountains offering a dramatic backdrop.

True to his cycling roots, Hincapie hopes to make the Hotel Domestique a popular place to stay with active travelers. The winding country roads that surround the place make for fantastic cycling and running, and a fleet of road and mountain bikes will be available for guests. The hotel will also keep a bike mechanic on staff to adjust bikes to the proper fit and assist riders with all their cycling needs. Additionally, a new 25-meter swimming pool will provide a refreshing dip following an energetic ride or allow the traveling-triathlete to maintain his or her training in style.

For further information and to get a glimpse of this fantastic new hotel, visit
hoteldomestique.com.

[Photo Credits: Hotel Domestique]

George Hincapie's Hotel Domestique

New Clues To The Sinking Of A Confederate Submarine

Confederate SubmarineThe Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley may have been sunk by its own torpedo, researchers say.

The cause of the Hunley’s sinking has been a mystery since it sank the USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864, and then the Hunley itself mysteriously sank shortly thereafter. This submarine, which had a hand-cranked propeller and a torpedo set at the end of a 16-foot pole, was a desperate attempt by the Confederacy to destroy the Union blockade on Southern harbors that was strangling the economy.

A press release by the Friends of the Hunley, the organization that raised and is conserving the Civil War sub, says that archaeologists have discovered part of the torpedo still attached to the end of the pole. The jagged metal shows that the torpedo exploded its charge of 135 pounds of gunpowder as planned.

Historians used to think the plan was to ram the torpedo into the ship’s side, and then pull away, detaching the torpedo from the pole and then pulling a rope trigger that would explode the torpedo from a safe distance.

Now we can see this didn’t happen. The question remains whether the release mechanism was faulty or if the plan was much cruder – simply ramming the torpedo into the side of the ship and hoping for the best.

It remains unclear if this explosion is what actually sank the Hunley. The submarine’s hull is encased in hardened rock, sand, and silt that the archaeologists are still removing. Only when their job is done will they get a clear idea of how the brave crew of the Hunley met their end.

You can visit the lab where this historic sub is being studied; the Warren Lasch Conservation Center is located in North Charleston, SC. You can also see a different Confederate submarine at the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge.

[Top photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Bottom photo showing the sub being raised courtesy Barbara Voulgaris, Naval Historical Center]

Confederate Submarine

Folly Beach, South Carolina: The Country’s Greatest Fourth of July


This most recent Fourth of July, on a beach in South Carolina, a guy named Freddie handed me a beer after I took his photo in front of his American flag. He’d just done his best Iwo Jima pose, and as I tapped his email address into my phone, promising to send him the pictures very soon, he insisted I take a turn hoisting the stars and stripes. Road trip tip: Do whatever a beer-toting, banner-flying patriot asks on Independence Day and you’ll be handsomely rewarded.

Two months ago, I couldn’t have guessed where Folly Beach might be. Now, I’m singing its praises to anyone who will listen. I never thought I’d be planning my first trip to South Carolina, but after a short stay in Folly, I’m already thinking about my second.

Traveling the American Road – Folly Beach Fourth of July


The stay: I was staying at the Tides at Folly Beach, a converted Holiday Inn that enjoys an enviable position on the sand, right next to the fishing pier at the end of Center Street. Balconies look over the water. The beachfront bar bustles with activity as the sun goes down–a fantastic live act was jamming on July 4, and other combos are frequently on stage.

The crowd: These people are here to have a good time. That doesn’t mean getting sloppy drunk–though there’s some of that!–but rather that the crowds at Folly have a vacation mindset. Watches aren’t necessary, and what kind of appointment would you have anyway? Rita’s, an outstanding restaurant across the street from Tides, serves food all day, with the bar open until late. When that closes, head to Surf Bar, a pitch-perfectly themed spot just off Center Street that goes even later.

The vibe: On a scale of one to comatose, Folly is laid back, a step shy of vegetative, even after the morning’s hangover has worn off. No shirt? Not a problem. Barefoot treks to the breakfast food truck? Sure. Drinking a beer on the beach? Just keep it in a plastic cup. Riding motorcycles without helmets? Wait, how do you do it where you’re from?

The beach: It’s enormous, particularly at low tide. On what has to be one of the busiest weekends of the year, I had no problem finding a patch of sand not just for relaxing but for frisbee tossing. The one knock could be that the water approaches bathtub temperatures, but that’s actually a plus if you plan to spend all day swimming. (You should plan to spend all day swimming.)

The show: The night of July 4, I grabbed a bunch of sparklers and headed for the beach, where explosives experts were setting up the night’s show. The casualness about the fireworks was amazing, as families set up towels and beach chairs right below the blast zone. Before the official show started, we were surprised by random flashes and bangs, as people lit their BYO fireworks.

The departure: Perhaps the best thing about Folly is that it feels so removed from real life–while being just nine miles from Charleston, a city well worth seeing in its own right. That makes the beach accessible but at a small remove, a short drive that lets you mind decompress and switch into surf gear. A couple, fellow hotel guests, told me they could see the bridge back to the mainland from their room. That’s not a good thing, they said. It reminds them that the real world is just a few miles away.