Cannons reveal a clue about a centuries-old shipwreck site

Archaeologists unveiled a four pound long gun and a carronade, or gunnade, next the St. Augustine Lighthouse on Friday night.

By Sheldon Gardner - The St Augustine Record

Archaeologists unveiled two centuries-old cannons, one with a very important inscription, at the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum Friday night.

“It’s been hidden away for centuries,” said archaeologist Chuck Meide, director of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Progam (LAMP), as he awaited the unveiling.

“It hasn’t been touched for centuries.” The cannons rested under a tent Friday night in the courtyard under the towering St. Augustine Lighthouse.

They were unveiled amid a crowd historians, archaeologists, professors and others at an invitation-only event.

Sam Turner, director of archaeology at LAMP, found the cannons in December at a shipwreck site off the coast of St. Augustine that archaeologists discovered two years ago.

“That was wonderful,” Turner said. “I wasn’t expecting to find a pile of cannons.” After a summer filled with careful cleaning and removal of concretions, the guns were ready to be unveiled.

One cannon is a four pound long gun, named because it could fire cannon balls that weighed up to four pounds. The second cannon, the shorter one, is a more powerful carronade, also referred to as a gunnade.

Carronades were invented in Scotland during the time of the American Revolution.

The shorter cannon has the date 1780 inscribed on its side.

From the cannon’s date and other artifacts found at the site, LAMP archaeologists believe that the cannons could belong to one of a series of loyalist transport ships that wrecked in the area.

Around 16 loyalist ships sunk as they were seeking refuge after the British evacuated Charleston in 1782. At the time, St. Augustine was a British-occupied city.

That is just a hypothesis at this point, Meide said. The shipwreck could be also merchant ship.

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