Bomb technicians from the Office of the State Fire Marshal safely disposed of an unexploded Civil War-era cannonball Monday that fire officials say a Jefferson resident had received from a relative who recently found it near the Monocacy Battlefield.

The technicians disposed of the cannonball at Beaver Creek Quarry in Hagerstown.

“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,” a statement reads.

The cannonball came into the possession of a homeowner on Glen Hill Court in Jefferson, who contacted the Office of the State Fire Marshal after another relative said the cannonball could be live. Bomb technicians took it to the quarry and determined the best decision was to conduct an “emergency disposal,” by blowing it up in a controlled environment, per fire officials.

“It would have caused significant damage” if it went off, said Oliver Alkire, senior deputy state fire marshal. It was in the Jefferson home for “quite a few months,” he said.

According to Alkire, a relative of the homeowner was searching near the Monocacy Battlefield property line with a metal detector when they discovered the cannonball. Metal detectors are not permitted on the battlefield, Alkire said, but the finder and resident who received the cannonball are not facing charges since the artifact was not found inside the battlefield’s property.

The finder gave it to their relative in Jefferson, who later contacted another family member with knowledge of such devices, Alkire said. They told the Jefferson resident to immediately contact emergency services. Alkire said technicians were on scene within half an hour of getting the call.

“With these type of devices, they’re extremely unstable,” Alkire said. “Fortunately, they were very cautious with it. They didn’t play around with it. They took the device in, sat it aside.”

The fire marshal’s office warned that these military devices pose the same threat today as they did 150-some years ago.

“If you should uncover or are unsure if an unidentified object may be military ordnance, be safe rather than sorry. Stay away and call 911,” State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci said in a prepared statement. “Marylanders need to be mindful that military ordnance, even vintage artifacts from previous conflicts, have the potential to explode.”

Finding ordnances like the cannonball is not uncommon considering Maryland’s history, Alkire said. Unexploded military devices in the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding waters reportedly make their way to the surface occasionally in Harford County, military testing has long occurred at Aberdeen Proving Ground and the state is home to other historic battlegrounds like Antietam.

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

Bomb technicians have conducted numerous emergency disposals over the years as residents find munitions ranging from the Civil War to World War II, according to Alkire.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

(5) comments


Maybe they needed better gun control laws even back then.


More evidence that the Civil War isn’t over.


These military devices pose AT LEAST the same threat today as they did 150-some years ago as black powder gets more volatile with age.


It looks like a 6 lb. Bormann shell, possibly unfired because the fuse doesn't look like it was set. Yes, there is powder inside, but there are people who know how to drill these (don't try this at home) and make it safe. Too bad it was destroyed, it's a somewhat rare shell mostly found in early CW sites.


[thumbup] I agree, an effort should have been made to save the relic.

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