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"Blockade runner, iron steamer, chased ashore by Union ship, June 9, 1864. Remains lie offshore, 220 yards SE." The SS Pevensey, blockade-runner serving the Confederacy, was lost on June 9, 1864, run aground by the Union supply ship New Berne. The Pevensey’s crew caused the ship’s boilers to explode and then escaped to shore, where they were captured and taken to Fort Macon. One crewmember was apprehended aboard the doomed vessel. The Pevensey had successfully run the blockade at Cape Fear four times before she was lost. On the day she ran aground, the ship’s crew was disoriented, thinking they were much closer to Cape Fear than they actually were. The ship grounded about nine miles west of Federal-held Beaufort, at present Pine Knoll Shores.
The Pevensey, an iron-hulled sidewheel steamer, was typical of the type of vessel used to run the Federal blockade during the Civil War. The Pevensey had one deck, two masts, and was schooner rigged. She was built by Charles Lungley of London circa 1863 or 1864. Her machinery was manufactured by Northam Iron Works of Southampton, England. The wreck currently lies about one hundred yards off the beach. The remains of the hub of the portside paddlewheel are visible above the water at low tide. Consequently, the wreck has captivated beachgoers for years. Known locally as the “Iron Steamer,” the wreck gave name to the nearby Iron Steamer Pier and Motel (since demolished).
The NC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) examined the wreck site in November 2000. The UAB noted that much of the ship’s machinery is visible underwater, but that more of the vessel could be buried beneath the sand bottom. It was also noted that Pevensey is less well preserved than other blockade-runner wrecks at Cape Fear due to its closer proximity to shore and exposure to stronger currents. It was determined that there was interest in preserving the pier (which had been damaged by recent hurricanes) as a platform for public observation of the wreck. The pier, however, has since been removed. The UAB recommended further study and collaborated with an avocational underwater archaeology group called Surface Interval Diving Company (SIDCO) on further study of the wreck.
The Pevensey site is similar to the wrecks of the Beauregard at Carolina Beach and the Ranger at Holden Beach. The Pevensey wreck also compares favorably with the clusters of wrecks off Cape Fear that were studied by the UAB and placed on the National Register in 1985. That people can actually see a portion of this Civil War relic from the beach makes it a special curiosity.
William Frederick Keeler Letters, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland
Richard Lawrence, “Examination of the Pevensey Site, 0001BBB,” North Carolina Underwater Archaeology Branch
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, Series 1, Vol. 10. pp. 136-138; Vol. 27, p. 700
SIDCO Pevensey Site Online: http://www.computer-therapy.com/sidco/pevensey.html
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.