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arcticap
August 3, 2010, 08:26 AM
http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/cumberlink.com/content/tncms/assets/editorial/5/8a/a99/58aa993e-999b-11df-9951-001cc4c002e0-revisions/4c4f0819c486b.preview-300.jpg

Posted: Monday, July 26, 2010 3:53 pm

Civil War shell causes lockdown at AHEC [PA]

The Army Heritage and Education Center in Middlesex Township was under a lock down for about an hour Monday after a local resident inadvertently brought what may have been a live Civil War era shell to the campus. [more]

http://www.cumberlink.com/news/local/article_86a1a136-98ef-11df-9aa9-001cc4c03286.html

c.robertson
August 3, 2010, 08:43 AM
Never ceases to amaze me just how paranoid and nutty so many people are, especially police and their political handlers.
For crying out loud, the cannon ball was 150 years old. Hardly a nuke.

Noz
August 3, 2010, 09:05 AM
Not a nuke but still a live shell and subject to detonation even after 100 plus years. Black powder is wonderful stuff.

Uncle Buck
August 3, 2010, 09:17 AM
I remember while I was stationed in Korea (2001), A fishing boat had dredged up a live shell from WWII in its drag net.

They brought it back to the dock and while unloading it from their boat it went off. Destroyed the dock, boat and killed three people. Even after 60 plus years in salt water, it was still live.

Never underestimate the ability of old munitions. They were dangerous when they were made and they are still dangerous today.

Mike Irwin
August 3, 2010, 09:18 AM
There are MANY cases where shells such as these are not only loaded, but perfectly live and capable of exploding even though they're 100+ years old.

Munitions, including gas shells, fired during World War I still routinely (albeit rarely) still injure and even kill people in Western Europe.

France has (other nations may also) a special, full-time detachment whose job it is to cleanse areas of World War I battlefields that are STILL off limits to civilian use. Smithsonian had an article about them some years ago, including a report that one of them was severely injured when a gas shell ruptured.

simonkenton
August 3, 2010, 09:19 AM
You would think it was a nuke, if you were in the room with it when it went off.

Civil War shells are still extremely dangerous, they can and will explode.
Black powder lasts for a long time.

simonkenton
August 3, 2010, 09:30 AM
Interesting read on how to disarm Civil War cannon balls, including stories of two guys who got blown up.


http://www.relicman.com/artillery/AAartilleryRestoration.htm

Hardcase
August 3, 2010, 09:32 AM
Amen, brothers! They may call it an "overabundance of caution", but I just call it "caution".

Doc Hoy
August 3, 2010, 12:51 PM
....They are afraid of everything. I was afraid of everything for the first nineteen years of my life. Then I moved away. Now I am only afraid of my wife.;)

This is not a serious post, it is a joke, guys! I am trying to be funny!

MJN77
August 3, 2010, 01:49 PM
I'll try to find the story, but I think it was last year that a civil war collector was killed in VA when a civil war naval shell went off when he was cleaning it up in his driveway. The report said that a piece of shrapnel went through someone's porch 1/4 mile away.

simonkenton
August 3, 2010, 01:55 PM
Accident 2/18/08, Sam White

An accident occurred while disarming a Civil War projectile, long time collector Sam White, Chesterfield Va was killed in the accident

MJN77
August 3, 2010, 03:42 PM
That's the one.

Sgt.Saputo
August 4, 2010, 07:13 PM
No it's not a nuke, but I don't think it matter when it blows up and kills you.

Dr. Strangelove
August 5, 2010, 12:42 AM
Munitions, including gas shells, fired during World War I still routinely (albeit rarely) still injure and even kill people in Western Europe.

France has (other nations may also) a special, full-time detachment whose job it is to cleanse areas of World War I battlefields that are STILL off limits to civilian use. Smithsonian had an article about them some years ago, including a report that one of them was severely injured when a gas shell ruptured.

My ex-wife is from the Champagne region (northeast of Paris) in France, much of WWI and quite a bit of WWII was fought in that area. Rarely does a year go by that a local farmer isn't killed or injured by unexploded munitions while plowing a field.

She found a US WWII pineapple grenade in the stream behind her home as a kid, (1960's) and brought inside to show her family, not knowing what it was. She said her uncle turned white as a sheet, slowly walked up to her, took it away, and went out the door, only to return later and tell her never to pick up anything like that she found around there again.

bamaranger
August 5, 2010, 01:45 AM
I spent some time in Gettysburg and got a bit knowledge of Civil War, BP projectiles. That sure looks like a Borman fuse on that ball, (meaning some type of explosive projectile) in the photo, and nothing to take lightly. BP gets unstable, but not necessarily that less powerful.

The dud rate on smoothbore explosive rounds was pretty high, like 50%. The propellant charge and flash was supposed to lap around the ball and light the Borman fuse, which was essentially a powder train enclosed in a disk that could be perforated by the gunners at different points, effecting the time period the lit ball would fly before detonating. The fuse was forward towards the muzzle, the propellant charge to the rear, of course. Between them was a wooden sleeve/sabot. Not a reliable system.

Rusty.it
August 5, 2010, 05:26 AM
This site is in italian

http://www.agi.it/bologna/notizie/201007211823-...-rt10285-bomba_da_500_libbre_a_cesena_disinnesco_a_fine_agosto

A brief translation

The 21 of august 2010 will be blowed a 500lbs WWII bomb, for this event will be evacuate 635 family, 1500 people!
This kind of relic are still present in big number in the area where i live, during the WWII was the "gothic line" the last defensive line of German army and italian republican army (the north of italy under the german control with Mussolini leader after the armistice of september 1943) on the other side of the line the allied army, the front line stopped for one year, and there was 200000 dead, 30'000 was civilian 65'000 allied force 95000 german force.
Air bombing was daily from allied air force!
The fancy fact is that many people has lived fot 70 years with this kind of bomb under the house, are find today why old house are put down to rebuilt modern building !
Still today in the old house is easy to find hided under the roof old mauser, sten mp40 even MG42:eek:
A 150 years old shell with black powder is nothing respect a 500lbs 67 year old of good TNT:)
ciao
Rusty

CajunBass
August 5, 2010, 07:52 AM
When I was a kid, a local relic hunter blew three fingers off his hand while disarming a Civil War shell. Made a real mess inside the house too his wife said. He liked to say he was the last casulty of the war, but others came along later.

Years later, a friend of my ex-wife was cleaning around her farmyard when she hit what she thought was a rock. A little digging and scratching revealed that it was metal and shaped like a "bullet." A very big bullet. She called the cops, the cops came and called the bomb squad from down at Ft. Lee. They came and dug out a (about) 10" shell from a Dalhgren gun, probably from Fort Darling up the (James) river. I don't know it for sure but I was told the BS carried the shell to Ft. Lee and detonated it. It was said to make a hole "you could have burried a Volkswagen in."

There's a lot of them still out there I suspect.

teeroux
August 5, 2010, 08:01 AM
Wasn't there a big thing on the news a while back from some place in FL where a whole community was built on an old bombing range and they were finding unexploded munitions around the school and homes?

Mike Irwin
August 5, 2010, 11:18 AM
In a very tony section of Washington, DC, near American University it's a different problem...

They don't find explosives, they find chemical munitions and laboratory equipment, some of it still lethal after nearly 100 years, when they dig for things like swimming pools.

Where American University is now was once a US Army chemical weapons research and development lab when that section of the city, well, was still farm and forest.

After WW II the Army closed the lab down, and much of the equipment, including loaded shells, raw materials, lab retorts, and lots of other goodies, were thrown into pits or natural ravines and covered over. Lots of fun stuff like phosgene, mustard, Lewisite, etc.

Now it's the location of multi million dollar homes. Apparently when the homes were being built none of this stuff was found (or so is claimed). It was later when people started digging in their back yards to put in swimming pools and stuff like that that it started turning up.

Every couple of years the Army Corps of Engineers descends on the area and starts digging frantically after someone uncovers something, and every time they say "We've finally got it all!"

Yeah.

simonkenton
August 5, 2010, 03:07 PM
CajunBass, you live in Chancellorsville?

Good God, I bet y'all do find some Civil War relics up there while "plowing the garden."

Some serious fighting in that part of Virginia.

Model-P
August 5, 2010, 03:17 PM
Black powder becomes unstable? I've never heard such a thing. Dynamite when the nitroglycerin separates from the sawdust or Kieselguhr, yes, but never black powder. How could it? All it is is saltpeter, charcoal and sulphur. Which part would become "unstable"? Anyone heard of this?

I can understand how a fuse mechanism itself could become very unstable due to corrosion.

Mike Irwin
August 5, 2010, 05:00 PM
Black powder does not become unstable.

It is a mechanical mixture of three largely non flammable components.

Years ago I laid my hands on some 100+ year old black powder, in various granulations, all the way from 4F to Cannon (chunks as big as my knuckles).

I shot what I could of it, and did some fun things with the rest.

arcticap
August 5, 2010, 08:08 PM
According to the relic expert in the link that Simon Kenton posted:

http://www.relicman.com/artillery/AAartilleryRestoration.htm

Some suggestions have been made that black powder gets more volatile with time. I can find no evidence of this. Black powder is unstable, which means it oxidizes easily or reacts with other chemicals easily. Any oxidation you get, any combination with anything else, and the mixture simply changes, it isn't black powder any more. Once it turns into something else, it can only get less volatile, not more volatile. It is not at all like some modern explosives or those caches of mustard gas in Europe, where any movement will set the thing off. Civil War shells have survived being thrown out of buildings, car crashes, and all kinds of other accidents. Maybe I missed it, but I have not heard of one single case of a shell simply going off without some external stimulus. Ever!! All of these accidents have occurred when they were being drilled to make them safe. That is the irony of it, leave them alone is probably the safest thing to do, disarming them is the hazard. But they do need to be disarmed, it is bad business to ship an armed shell or to have one in a burning house. Even the burning though, if you have ever watched a building burn, there are many explosions, I am not sure an exploding shell is really going to be the biggest boom in a burning house.

Model-P
August 5, 2010, 08:54 PM
Maybe I missed it, but I have not heard of one single case of a shell simply going off without some external stimulus.

I would imagine, though, that corrosion could be the "external stimulus" that could cause a shell to self-detonate. Imagine a pin holding a striker rusting through, let's say. And even if it hasn't detonated on its own, it could very well be at the point where minor movement could break the pin and release the striker. Of course this is a theoretical example and probably doesn't apply to the fuse in the pictured shell, but I'm sure most mechanical fuse mechanisms were not made to last hundreds of years corrosion-free and safe.

Thanks for the confirmation regarding BP decomposition and stability. BP becoming unstable with time didn't make sense to me.

Mike Irwin
August 5, 2010, 09:15 PM
"Imagine a pin holding a striker rusting through, let's say."

As far as I know, no civil war munitions used a spring-loaded striker.

Even if they did, and corrosion were a factor, it's far more likely that the spring would have corroded to uselessness long before any safety pin would have corroded through.

The most typical civil war era mechanical fuse would have been inertial, firing upon impact with the target, which would mean a rifled gun and oblong shell, not a roundball.

Hawg
August 6, 2010, 04:22 AM
There were probably more round ball explosive shells used than all the rifled shells combined. They used a fuse that was lit by the firing charge. A lot of the conical shells used the same fuses.

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y269/rebel727/CWSTUFF/fuzes.jpg

Mike Irwin
August 6, 2010, 02:32 PM
"There were probably more round ball explosive shells used than all the rifled shells combined."

Hum...

I'm not sure I'd take that bet.

By the end of the war the Parrot, Rodman, and U.S. Ordnance rifles were in heavy use, and pretty much all they used were shells.

In addition, for Naval use, the shell guns had largely replaced the roundball guns by the middle of the war for new construction.

geetarman
August 6, 2010, 03:24 PM
I remember a visit to Crete when I was in the Navy in 1963. Crete had a small beach the military used and sometimes airmen would take a car down there and blow the carbon out of it, hence the nickname, "carbon flats."

The Germans placed a lot of mines in Crete during the war and thos things have a long life.

An airman managed to run over one while blowing the carbon out of his car.

It was not pretty.

Geetarman:(

Hawg
August 7, 2010, 02:47 AM
By the end of the war the Parrot, Rodman, and U.S. Ordnance rifles were in heavy use, and pretty much all they used were shells.

In addition, for Naval use, the shell guns had largely replaced the roundball guns by the middle of the war for new construction.

That's all true but through the entire war the most commonly used artillery piece was the Napoleon smoothbore.

bamaranger
August 7, 2010, 04:08 AM
I'll take the correction. So, BP is not unstable w/ age.

We had been trained not to handle the things, secure the area and call the local bomb squad. Pretty basic. I made the mental jump that they were delicate/unstable.

The inertial fuse, or a percussion fuse. The detonation rate for the rifled guns w/ percussion fuses was much higher. More reliable system, and the rifled projectiles are stabilized (not stable again!) and land near nose first. BANG. Because of the smaller bore, the explosive effect was much less.

Could a percussion fuse be unstable???

Gaucho Gringo
August 7, 2010, 03:44 PM
I have read that one of the reasons Lee lost the Battle of Gettysburg because of faulty fuses and detonators for the artillery ordnance. When he began the big artillery shelling on I believe the second day they didn't explode over the Union lines but flew over them and exploded where very few Union troops were. When the smoke cleared he was surprised to see the Union line intact, not cut to pieces like he expected.

Slamfire
August 7, 2010, 03:47 PM
You see that circle in the middle of the ball, that is a fuse.

Many fuses of the era look like mushroom headed electrical fuses.

That also means the ball is filled with black powder and maybe shrapnel balls.

I bought a "cannon ball" from a flea market and got books from the local library. Did my own research on cannon balls. Turns out I was snookered: it was a solid grinding mill ball, even though the dimensions were close for a 12 lb Napolean.

After determining it was just a round mass of cast iron, I brought it to work. After telling the story of how I found "the cannon ball" and how it might be fused, I usually managed to somehow drop the thing on the floor. Word got around.

The funny thing was now, in my community, I was now a Cannon Ball expert, and others brought in their cannon balls for identification. One guy had a solid shot 6 pounder he had dug out of his back yard.

Another guy brought his cannon ball. It was a Parrot I think, long and with four ridges at the base. He bought it around Gettysburg. The seller told him it had been defused. And that was a true statement. No fuse in the forecone. However, you could look through the cavity of the shell and see that it was packed with powder and iron balls. The thing still had the original charge!

I told the bud 1) He needed to take it home , 2) keep it well away from any sources of ignition, 3) and wash the thing out with hot water to dissolve the powder.

Hope I gave him good advice.

I remember talking to an EOD guy at a local gunstore . He had all sorts of cannon ball stories, only one I remember. He had been called out to a little old ladies house to look at her civil war cannon balls. They sounded identical to the pictured round shot. Round and fused, loaded with an explosive charge, and sitting on either side of her fireplace!

People are still drilling these civil war cannon balls and getting killed by them. I kept a newspaper clipping from the 70’s of an Antique Dealer at Gettysburg. He took a dug up CW shell and was doing something with it in his shop. Killed him.

The last CW fatality is still decades ahead of us.

Model-P
August 7, 2010, 04:46 PM
So how can one tell the difference between a solid grinding mill ball and a solid cannon ball?

Hawg
August 7, 2010, 07:16 PM
So how can one tell the difference between a solid grinding mill ball and a solid cannon ball?

It can be difficult sometimes but weight and measurements will usually tell the tale. I've seen balls from early governor counterweights passed off as grape shot and industrial bearings passed off as six pound shot.

Mike Irwin
August 8, 2010, 08:44 AM
"That's all true but through the entire war the most commonly used artillery piece was the Napoleon smoothbore."

Maybe not.

According to this website: http://www.civilwarhome.com/artillery.htm, during the Civil War only about 1,200 bronze 1857 Napoleons were produced for Union service, and half that for the Confederates

Parrot rifle production was approximately 600, and US Ordnance rifles about 1,000, giving the rifled guns rough parity with the smoothbores.

Of course, earlier models of bronze guns were in use during parts of the war; how many I've not been able to determine.

What strikes me, though, is that if those numbers are correct, it seems like such a very small number of field guns for armies the size that were in play during the Civil War.

Mike Irwin
August 8, 2010, 08:52 AM
"Could a percussion fuse be unstable???"

Possibly, but unlikely, and far more likely that an unexploded one would go off if dropped on its nose if, for some reason, the striker didn't slide forward when the shell impacted.

Apparently the percussion caps used in these things were quite large and had a lot of fulminate in them, and I have no clue how mercury fulminate ages over time.

Hardcase
August 8, 2010, 11:46 AM
What strikes me, though, is that if those numbers are correct, it seems like such a very small number of field guns for armies the size that were in play during the Civil War.

I'm glad you said it, because I was sure thinking it! Maybe someday I'll be a Civil War expert, but for now, I'm just workin' on it. In documentaries and movies, you always see a lot of artillery in battles, but from what you wrote, it sounds like either the role of field artillery was played up more than reality or else the field guns were maybe used to a far greater degree in large battles than anywhere else (which would sort of make sense, I guess).

Or perhaps, due to the nature of the transportation networks of the time, fighting was generally concentrated in small areas at any one time, so the field artillery could be moved to where it was needed.

I can see that I have much reading to do this winter.

Mike Irwin
August 8, 2010, 01:43 PM
"or else the field guns were maybe used to a far greater degree in large battles than anywhere else"

I would suspect that most of the artillery would have been kept with the largest parts of the army, but still, those numbers just sound so small...

Especially when you consider that during WW II Watervliet Arsenal in New York was producing nearly that many 105s a MONTH. Of course the nature of artillery had changed dramatically in the ensuing 80 years, but still...

Hawg
August 8, 2010, 02:14 PM
What strikes me, though, is that if those numbers are correct, it seems like such a very small number of field guns for armies the size that were in play during the Civil War.

You may be right.

The Federal forces began the war with over 4,000 pieces of artillery, but field artillery accounted for less than 165 of these weapons. http://www.civilwarartillery.com/

andrewstorm
August 8, 2010, 04:33 PM
They make calls on wether or not these things are safe,be glad if you have time to call them,cause people have done sum dum things in the past,and history repeats its self:eek:treat every gun as loaded,artillery shells included:eek: