This morning I learned of the passing of Dr. Charles Peery of South Carolina, on October 6. He was 71. Perry needs no introduction to those interested in Civil War naval history or archaeology, as he was heavily involved in (and a contributor to) both those areas. It was an inquiry from Peery in 1995 that was the catalyst in locating, identifying and excavating the wreck of the blockade runner Denbigh, a project that continues to be a focus of research today. Peery was a surgeon, specializing in obstetrical and gynecological surgery, but Civil War history and shipwrecks were always the things he was most passionate about:
Peery graduated from Davidson College and earned an M.D. from Duke University. “Yet even while he was in medical school, he would find time to break away on weekends and come down to the coast,” Bright said.
Active in North Carolina diving groups, Peery was one of the young divers who aided in the excavation of the blockade runner Modern Greece in the early 1960s. He later joined work on other wrecks, including the Ranger and the Condor.
Later, with friends, Peery formed a maritime archaeology firm, MARS, to explore and excavate the wreck of the Ella, a blockade runner that was sunk off Bald Head Island in December 1864.
“It was more than just a hobby for him,” said Gordon P. Watts Jr., a marine archaeologist with Tidewater Atlantic Research of Washington, N.C. “He loved history.”
Peery’s work helped lay the foundations for underwater archaeology research in North Carolina, Watts said.
I only met Peery once, when he made a quick visit to Galveston, the one that touched off the research on Denbigh and finding her wreck. When we parted that evening after dinner, Dr. Peery handed me his business card, with his office telephone number on it. “Now if you call that number,” he said, “they won’t let you speak to me directly. But if you tell them it’s about the Civil War, they’ll come get me out of surgery for that.”
Goodbye, Dr. Peery, and thanks for all you’ve done for the rest of us.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to:Wounded Warrior Project
P.O. Box 758517 Topeka, KS 66675
or to:Friends of the Hunley
P.O. Box 21600
Charleston, SC 29413