Bomb Squad Conducts ‘Emergency Disposal’ of Civil War Cannonball Discovered by Maryland Homeowner

by Josh Lanier

Talk about a blast from the past. A Maryland bomb squad disarmed a live but unexploded Civil War-era cannonball earlier this month that a man found near his home.

According to the Frederick News Post, a man was using a metal detector on the property line at Monocacy Battlefield when he came across the cannonball. The man dug out the cannonball and took it home.

What he didn’t realize was that the explosive charge was still active and could have exploded. Thankfully, there were no injuries.

“The unexploded military ordnance was determined to be a live cannonball round used during the Civil War. Bomb technicians conducted diagnostics and determined the fusing mechanism was still intact,” said a statement from State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci.

A family member noticed the cannonball on a visit to the man’s house earlier this month. He told him to call the police immediately, NBC News said.

“It would have caused significant damage” if it went off, said Oliver Alkire, senior deputy state fire marshal. The man had it at his home for “quite a few months,” he said.

Police do not plan to charge the man. He found the cannonball just outside the battlefield’s property line. Bomb technicians defused the cannonball.

Oddly, this isn’t that uncommon an occurrence in Maryland, Alkire said. Tourists and area residents often visit the major Civil War battlefields in the state and find these types of devices.

“Our bomb squad stays busy responding to these type of calls for service,” Alkire said.

Unexploded Cannonballs Have Killed Years Later

Civil War relic hunters have died when trying to dig up unexploded ordinances. In 2008, Sam White of Richmond, Virginia, died after a cannonball exploded 140 years after it was fired.

It’s unclear exactly what happened, but experts believe White was trying to disarm a 9-inch, 75-pound naval cannonball when it exploded, Fox News said at the time. The explosion sent shrapnel more than a quarter-mile away.

Authorities found dozens of restored cannonballs inside his home after the explosion. Police evacuated his neighbors until they could remove all of the bombs from his collection.

Experts believe there are hundreds if not thousands of unexploded cannonballs and artillery shells littering Civil War battlefields. Relic hunters highly prize them.

“There just aren’t many areas in the South in which battlefields aren’t located. They’re literally under your feet,” said Harry Ridgeway, a former relic hunter who has amassed a vast collection told Fox News. “It’s just a huge thrill to pull even a mundane relic out of the ground.”

And while explosions are incredibly rare, police ask that you contact authorities immediately if you find any unexploded ordinance.