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Old August 3, 2010, 08:26 AM   #1
arcticap
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Civil War shell causes lockdown in PA



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...cc4c03286.html
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Old August 3, 2010, 08:43 AM   #2
c.robertson
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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.
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Old August 3, 2010, 09:05 AM   #3
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Not a nuke but still a live shell and subject to detonation even after 100 plus years. Black powder is wonderful stuff.
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Old August 3, 2010, 09:17 AM   #4
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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.
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Old August 3, 2010, 09:18 AM   #5
Mike Irwin
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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.
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Old August 3, 2010, 09:19 AM   #6
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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.
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Old August 3, 2010, 09:30 AM   #7
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Interesting read on how to disarm Civil War cannon balls, including stories of two guys who got blown up.


http://www.relicman.com/artillery/AA...estoration.htm
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Old August 3, 2010, 09:32 AM   #8
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Amen, brothers! They may call it an "overabundance of caution", but I just call it "caution".
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Old August 3, 2010, 12:51 PM   #9
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Those folks in PA....

....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!
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Old August 3, 2010, 01:49 PM   #10
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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.
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Old August 3, 2010, 01:55 PM   #11
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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
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Old August 3, 2010, 03:42 PM   #12
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That's the one.
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Old August 4, 2010, 07:13 PM   #13
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No it's not a nuke, but I don't think it matter when it blows up and kills you.
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Old August 5, 2010, 12:42 AM   #14
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Quote:
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.

Last edited by Dr. Strangelove; August 5, 2010 at 01:16 AM.
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Old August 5, 2010, 01:45 AM   #15
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nothing to fool with

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.
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Old August 5, 2010, 05:26 AM   #16
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This site is in italian

http://www.agi.it/bologna/notizie/20..._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
A 150 years old shell with black powder is nothing respect a 500lbs 67 year old of good TNT
ciao
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Old August 5, 2010, 07:52 AM   #17
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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.
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Old August 5, 2010, 08:01 AM   #18
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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?
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Old August 5, 2010, 11:18 AM   #19
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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.
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Old August 5, 2010, 03:07 PM   #20
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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.
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Old August 5, 2010, 03:17 PM   #21
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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.

Last edited by Model-P; August 5, 2010 at 05:28 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old August 5, 2010, 05:00 PM   #22
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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.
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Old August 5, 2010, 08:08 PM   #23
arcticap
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According to the relic expert in the link that Simon Kenton posted:

http://www.relicman.com/artillery/AA...estoration.htm

Quote:
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.
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Old August 5, 2010, 08:54 PM   #24
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Quote:
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.
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Old August 5, 2010, 09:15 PM   #25
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"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.
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