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Hurricane Matthew unearths Civil War-era cannonballs


Cannonballs from the Civil War unearthed on a South Carolina beach by the storm surge of Hurricane Matthew. (Photo: ABC News)

Hurricane Matthew, in addition to all the damage caused by high winds and flooding, also unearthed a number of old cannon rounds from the Civil War.

Civil War-era rounds have been discovered across the country, including a few in Washington state in 2015. Also that year, tourists at the Manassas Battlefield Park brought a shell that they had found to the visitor's center. That prompted an evacuation until the round was confirmed to be inert. In 2013, a Confederate soldier's souvenir from the Second Battle of Manassas caused kerfluffle near Mountain Home Air Force Base.

Unexploded ordnance is one of the realities from after any major war. In fact, one shouldn't be surprised. In World War II, Allied bombers dropped over 1.4 million tons of bombs – the equivalent of 5.6 million Mk 82 500-pounders.

With those sort of numbers, it is easy to imagine that some of the bombs didn't explode when they hit. And the Allies weren't the only ones who dropped bombs in that war. As a result, random discoveries of unexploded ordnance (abbreviated in military circles as "UXO") have been common in Europe. In fact, the ordnance has been traced to other wars as well. In France, farmers have come across World War I ordnance while plowing their fields, including some that contained poison gas.

In the case of South Carolina, these cannonballs were detonated in place by EOD after the tide receded. Nobody got hurt, and there was no damage. Residents in the area only heard the controlled detonation. The first cannonballs of the Civil War were fired in nearby Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861.

ABC News reports that Hurricane Matthew brought a nearly 6-foot storm surge and torrential rain that totaled 14 inches in spots of South Carolina, and is being blamed for two deaths there and at least 21 across four southeastern states.

When it comes to UXO, the best advice is not to touch it. Get a safe distance away, then call 911. Playing around with UXO, no matter how "safe" it might appear to be, is a good way to get a Darwin Award.