CSS Alabama cannon to be displayed this weekend

Paul Mardikian (left), senior conservator on the H.L. Hunley project, and Christ Watters prepare the Alabama cannon for display.

A cannon from the deck of the CSS Alabama, the famous Confederate raider, goes on display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center this weekend.

The 5,000-pound gun, recovered from the shipwreck in the English Channel, was one of two cannons from the ship that were conserved by the Hunley team in North Charleston. Last year, one of those guns went to Mobile, where it is on display.

The Hunley museum gets the other for its own Alabama exhibit. "This is a beautiful gun with an incredible history," said Paul Mardikian, the Hunley's senior conservator. "We are lucky it survived."

The Alabama, which never visited its namesake state, was built in 1862 in England under an assumed name -- the British did not want a public association with the Confederacy. Shortly after it was launched with Capt. Raphael Semmes at the helm, the Alabama became the most fearsome ship on the high seas. In two years, it claimed 60 ships worth more than $6 million combined.

The end came for the Alabama on June 19, 1864. After pulling out of Cherbourg, France, where it had stopped for repairs, the raider was intercepted by the USS sloop-of-war Kearsarge. The Union vessel sank the infamous Alabama is little more than an hour. It remained lost until a French Navy mine hunter found the wreck in 1984. Hunley scientists began restoration of the cannons in 2004.

The Alabama exhibit opens Saturday. In addition, the Hunley museum will be open Monday through Friday to coincide with Civil War Sesquicentennial events. The museum is usually open only on weekends.