Civil War cannonballs can still pack a punch

“A unique bit of history occurred at Fort Macon in late 1941. A soldier placed two Civil War cannonballs in a fireplace of the living quarters to serve as andirons. One cannonball was live and exploded into a room of soldiers from the 244th Coast Artillery. Fortunately no one was killed.

 

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“This incident ‘has been remembered ever since as the “last shot of the Civil War,” because the 244th Coast Artillery originally was the Ninth New York National Guard….’ ”

— From “Strongholds of the Coast” by Morgan Jones in Coastwatch (Holiday 2012)

 

“An investigation by federal explosives experts concludes that a Civil War relic hunter killed by an explosion in February was cleaning a 9-inch cannonball when a spark ignited the ancient ordnance.

“Sam White was working on the cannonball in his Chesterfield County (Va.) driveway with a grinding tool.

“The tool ignited gunpowder residue, which exploded the shell. The blast killed White and sent a portion of the cannonball one-quarter of a mile away and through the roof of another home.”

— From  “Spark ignited deadly cannonball explosion in Chesterfield” in the Richmond Times-Dispatch (Aug. 11, 2008) 

 

“Archaeologists who study historic munitions say that if they’re handled properly, they shouldn’t pose much of a risk. Most black powder explosives have been rendered inert by decades and decades of water seeping in. Those that haven’t aren’t prone to go off without the help of a flame — usually a stray spark from a power tool trying to open one up.”

— From “The Air Force demolished 15 Civil War cannonballs in Charleston. But should they have?” by Thad Moore in the Charleston Post & Courier (Jan. 1)

 

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