Shells preserved in place where they smashed into Fort Sumter 150 years ago

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FORT SUMTER NATIONAL MONUMENT, S.C. — They are there just where they landed in Fort Sumter a century and a half ago – three Union shells from rifled Parrot guns embedded in the masonry wall of the garrison where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.

Paul Mardikian, with Clemson University's Restoration Institute, applies water to remove salts from a shell lodged in the wall at Fort Sumter National Monument.  BRUCE SMITH/ASSOCIATED PRESS
BRUCE SMITH/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Paul Mardikian, with Clemson University's Restoration Institute, applies water to remove salts from a shell lodged in the wall at Fort Sumter National Monument.

Because removing the shells would damage the fragile walls of the aging fort in Charleston Harbor, they have been preserved in place by scientists from the nearby Clemson University Restoration Institute.

The project not only helps preserve the shells and the wall, but allows visitors to better imagine what it might have been like for the Confederate defenders of the fort in Charleston Harbor. Historians say the city and the fort were the object of the longest bombardment in the history of the Western Hemisphere.

One day earlier this month, institute conservators Liisa Nasanen and Paul Mardikian worked on the shells, first applying deionized water to them and then carefully catching the runoff to test how much salt has been removed from the iron.

The salts remaining can continue to corrode the iron which is exposed to the open salt air.

Then the shells were dried, using a device similar to a hair dryer, before a material was applied to help consolidate the iron on the shell so no more metal flakes off.

Nasanen is heading the project and has worked with Clemson researchers to preserve shells found at Sumter and Fort Moultrie with subcritical and supercritical treatment in the lab.

She said that trying to conserve iron objects outside is not ideal.

“It’s always something we have to battle with outdoor projects,” she said. “We have to look at the humidity and the temperature and things like that. We have to not only look at the artifact itself but the conservation materials to make sure they work.”

The work is being done under a multi-year, $900,000 agreement between the National Park Service and Clemson, said Rick Dorrance, the chief of resource management at the Fort Sumter National Monument.

Under the agreement, Clemson scientists are working with the National Park Service to research the best ways to preserve both the artifacts and the architectural elements of both Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie on nearby Sullivans Island, he said.

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Casting_Fool
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Casting_Fool 12/24/12 - 03:29 am
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Union shells? Confederate defenders?

According to the history books, the defending force in Fort Sumter were Union soldiers. Confederate forces fired on the fort. Those shells would have been from Confederate cannons, not Union.

Did some editor miss the errors?

Casting_Fool
1175
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Casting_Fool 12/25/12 - 02:24 am
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Tried to contact Bruce Smith

Tried to contact Bruce Smith of the AP about the inaccuracy of the article, but he's out of contact until January 3rd.

Hope he gets home soon...

Casting_Fool
1175
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Casting_Fool 12/26/12 - 08:52 am
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I'm amazed that no one else

I'm amazed that no one else has commented on this article's inaccuracies. What's up with that?

Casting_Fool
1175
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Casting_Fool 12/30/12 - 10:16 pm
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4 more days until Mr. Smith

4 more days until Mr. Smith gets home and finds all of those corrections in his inbox...

Casting_Fool
1175
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Casting_Fool 01/06/13 - 12:25 am
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Got an email off to Mr. Smith

Got an email off to Mr. Smith and didn't get an auto response that he's still on vacation. Maybe we'll see a correction soon.

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