SULLIVANS ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — A nonprofit group is urging people to lend a hand to help conserve pieces of history: the guns at the South Carolina forts where the Civil War began.
Jim Thompson of the Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Trust said Friday that the group has started an Adopt-A-Cannon drive to help the National Park Service conserve the guns at Sumter, which is in Charleston Harbor, and at Moultrie, on nearby Sullivans Island.
The trust assists the National Park Service in its work by helping with education, preservation and staging commemorations.
"This will appeal to people who have the history bug like I do," Thompson said. "People love stories, and when people come in and touch the guns when they are conserved, they'll say that's great, I want to be part of the next one," he said.
The group has a goal of $30,000, but Thompson said the group would really like to raise $50,000. That money would help conserve a total of nine guns in a year's time.
Earlier this year, the park service finished conserving 10 large siege and garrison guns, some of which were used by Confederates to lob shells from Moultrie into Sumter in Charleston Harbor in 1861 when the war erupted. Union forces surrendered 34 hours after the bombardment started as the nation plunged into a bloody war.
That conservation work was done under a multiyear, $900,000 agreement between the National Park Service and the Clemson University Restoration Institute.
But help is now needed for remaining guns.
Conservators were busy at Moultrie on Friday using a new high-tech method of conserving guns.
The method uses water heated to about 300 degrees sprayed at high pressure — 3,000 pounds per square inch, or about twice the pressure of a commercial pressure washer — to peel off layers of paint applied to the barrels over the years.
Liisa Nasanen, a conservator from the Clemson institute, was using the method on a gun dating to 1830. She said about 12 coats of paint had been applied over the years. Before the new method, gun barrels would have to be lifted by a crane and taken offsite to be sandblasted. Now the conservation can be done on site.
The machine is the only one being used in the United States, said Rick Dorrance, chief of resource management at the Fort Sumter National Monument.
"It's been used extensively in Great Britain, but it hasn't made its way over here. We were able to get one of these units," he said. "The goal is to remove most of the paint coatings and some of the corrosion."
Thompson said the fund drive will raise money just to conserve the barrels. Adding new carriages, some of which are wood, will require thousands more.
Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie Trust: http://www.fortsumtertrust.org/