Man Accidentally Donates Live Civil War-Era Cannonball

A generous Maryland man accidentally donated a live cannonball to the Monocacy National Battlefield.

Civil War cannon

Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Ahh, the dangers of cleaning out your closets.

A Maryland man was just trying to get rid of some clutter by donating a collection of Civil War-era memorabilia to the Monocacy National Battlefield on Tuesday, when park officials realized that — despite being in the man’s possession since childhood — one of the cannonballs was still live.

The park ranger who looked over the donation said she was concerned about a 10-pound Parrott rifle shell that the man brought in. She advised him to call the state police, which he did from the parking lot.

The police arrived and immediately evacuated all personnel. They also closed the visitor center and entrance to the battlefield, before calling in the bomb squad.

A state police bomb squad technician arrived and determined that the rifle shell was live, and a staged controlled detonation was executed in the field behind the visitors center.

“They determined that the device did potentially have some black powder inside and, due to its age, they conducted a ‘render safe’ operation there at the site,” said Bruce Bouch, a senior deputy with the Office of the State Fire Marshal. “They actually sort of build a bunker around it and destroy it in a safe manner so that no injuries or damage can occur.”

No injury or property damage occurred, assured Bouch.

The park said that while they always are willing to accept donations, they advise donators to call the state police if they are uncertain if their Civil War artifacts were detonated or still live.

Though this was the first time live ammunition has been accidentally brought into Monocacy National Battlefield, Bouch did say this happens more often than you’d think around the area.

“It comes with living in Maryland. There’s the potential for finding old historical stuff,” Bouch said. “We’ve had calls down in the southern Maryland area where, once the tides change and things begin to shift, suddenly things are unburied, and people start finding all sorts of things, including ordnance.”

Though the cannonball was detonated, the park plans to keep the rest of the man’s donations — all of which were deemed safe.


Enjoyed that? Check out these Civil War cannonballs found in South Carolina. Then take a look at these powerful Civil War photos.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a writing fellow at All That Is Interesting.
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