You’re probably thinking of the Fanny and Jenny, a side-wheeled steamer that sank off Wrightsville Beach on Feb. 10, 1864, while on its maiden voyage as a blockade runner. Its engines used to be visible at low tide.
Crystal Pier, at the Oceanic Restaurant, was deliberately built over the Fanny and Jenny wreck, according to Mark Wilde-Ramsing of the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Branch at Fort Fisher. Old blockade-runner wrecks were once valued as exceptionally good fishing sites.
Builders dynamited part of the Fanny and Jenny wreck in 1938 while extending Crystal Pier to a length of 901 feet, noted Chris Fonvielle, a historian with the University of North Carolina Wilmington. (Hurricanes have since sheared off much of the old pier.) Divers excavated a number of artifacts from the Fanny and Jenny site in the 1960s, including the ship’s anchor, which was displayed on shore.
At least one possible artifact, however, has eluded searchers so far. The Fanny and Jenny’s manifest listed a cargo of bacon, coal and liquor. Legend has it, however, that the blockade runner also carried a gold sword with inlaid jewels, to be presented to Gen. Robert E. Lee by British admirers. William Keeler, paymaster of the USS Florida, wrote that he’d heard from a sailor that the Fanny and Jenny’s captain had been seen carrying the sword off the vessel, but as he was being rowed ashore, the captain’s boat was swamped and the sword was lost.
The wrecks of two other blockade runners, the Emily of London and the Dee, are located off Wrightsville Beach between Crystal Pier and the jetty at Masonboro Inlet. These have been sanded in and are not visible on the seabed.
More about the Fanny and Jenny can be found in Ray McAllister’s book, “Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island.”
Date posted: September 24, 2012
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