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Civil War cannons get protective coating

SULLIVANS ISLAND, S.C. — Preservationists are using computer sensors and other high-tech methods to protect Civil War cannons at a fort in South Carolina that fired on Fort Sumter to open the war in April 1861.

The sensors and modern rust-fighting epoxy coatings are being used to preserve historic siege and garrison guns, some of which were used to lob shells at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor when the war erupted.

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Union forces surrendered 34 hours after the bombardment started as the nation plunged into a bloody, four-year war.

Ten massive iron cannons from Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island, which is part of the Fort Sumter National Monument, were recently conserved as part of an ongoing program to protect the historic pieces from the salty, humid air. The guns were cast in foundries in the North and South a century and a half ago.

The last of the guns, a 7-ton Union rifled Parrott gun suspended in a yellow sling held by a crane, was slowly jockeyed into place onto a new concrete base last week. It completes what the fort refers to as Cannon Row, where seven of the heavy guns are lined up next to each other.

The conservation work is being done under a multiyear, $900,000 agreement between the National Park Service and the Clemson University Restoration Institute, said Rick Dorrance, chief of resource management at the national monument.

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