Civil War collector killed by140 year old shell
When I lived back there, I'd see lots of civil war cannon projectiles for sale. Collectors would roam the old battlefields (only tiny portions of which were parks) with metal detectors. I read about one who had invented a remote controlled drill press, with water cooling of the bit and a closed circuit TV, so that he could drill into and deactivate them while staying a safe distance away. And gad, this was a 75-pounder.
UPDATE More on the issue, this time from the experts, including a picture and CAD images of the naval fuses. Some news stories suggest that he was grinding rust off the outside of the shell, but I can't see anyone trying that without deactivating it first; he must have known how spark-sensitive black powder is. Just from the size of it he would have known it was a naval shell (for land use, 6-12 pounders were standard, and a 32 pounder was heavy siege artillery), and I'd assume knew about naval fuses.
Hat tip to reader Bill Bailey....
You have to read a while to find it was Naval gun shell,...waterproofed, and with a more sophisticated fuze so it could be skipped along the water to explode at the waterline against the hull of a ship...what a shame, to lose a life to a hobby like that...
How many more shells are out there on someone's shelves or still in the ground, with live explosives?
"Projectiles and Fuzes
The number and variety of projectiles for Civil War ordnance are
legion. Many varieties were supplied without official sanction,
especially for the rifles. Most spherical shells were fitted with the Navy time-fuse, consisting of a composition driven in a paper case and then inserted in a metal stock which screwed into a bouching fitted to the shell. The fuse composition was covered with a water cap to prevent the flame from being extinguished as the projectile ricocheted over the water. A simple labyrinth was filled with mealed powder to communicate fire to the fuse composition. Protection from moisture and accidental ignition was provided by 3 safety cap. Likewise, a safety plug at the bottom of the fuse prevented fire from being communicated to the powder in the shell if the fuse was ignited accidentally. On loading, the safety cap was carefully removed and the shell pushed home with the axis of the fuse along the bore and away from the charge. On firing, the fuse was ignited by the flame coming around and over the top of the shell, the safety plug being dislodged by the shock of discharge. The illustration shows the water cap screwed into a brass fuse plug which in turn as firmly driven into the fuse hole of the projectile. Apparently, this type of fuse also saw service and was similar to the standard sea-coast fuse. Shells for the 12- and 24-pdr. howitzers and all spherical shrapnel were fitted with the Bormann fuse which also was standard for the army field artillery. Maximum burning time of a little over 5 seconds was approximately correct for a range of 1,200 yards. Face of the fuse was marked in seconds either by arabic numerals or dots. In operation, a cut was made beside the appropriate time index mark exposing the ring of composition to the flame of discharge. At the desired time, the fire was communicated to the priming magazine which exploded driving its flame into the charge of the shell or shrapnel. In loading the projectile, the fuse was always toward the muzzle with the cut of the fuse up to be certain the composition would be ignited by the flame of discharge migrating over the top of the projectile. If inadvertently the fuse was placed toward the charge, the fuse might be blown in and the projectile would explode as it left the muzzle."
Posted by: doug in colorado at May 4, 2008 11:14 AM
I don't see the tragedy. He died doing what he loved, and he obviously knew the risks.
Posted by: Gregg at May 4, 2008 02:36 PM
Tragedy is that his wife and children now have a black-bordered picture where their beloved husband and father once was, and they'll never have him again. Not to mention that if his carrier wants to get difficult about it, they may find a way to avoid paying on his policy which means he may be leaving his family in terminal financial hard times as well as in mourning.
I'd LOVE to see you make that comment to his widow and kids, Gregg. Preferably while some of his male family members and friends were within earshot- and between you and the door.
Posted by: DaveP. at May 4, 2008 06:31 PM
I grew up in Vicksburg,Ms. and at one time a local drive-in used o;d cannon balls to line it's parking lot.. :-) We had some that lined one of my grandmother's gardens....
Posted by: Mark at May 5, 2008 12:12 AM
I grew up in Vicksburg,Ms. and at one time a local drive-in used old cannon balls to line it's parking lot.. :-) We had some that lined one of my grandmother's gardens....
Posted by: Mark at May 5, 2008 12:22 AM
You sir are another word for a donkey.
Problem with freedom is that there are natural consequences for ones actions. He suffered those consequences. OTOH, while his wife and children also suffered consequences, they did not suffer consequences of his actions, but of their own. By not discouraging his interest or encouraging additional safety procedures they left themselves open to these consequences.
I wish the deceased gentleman's family the best.
Oh, and yes I would state that to the family if I knew them and it came up. It is truth and not even that unpalatable. Unless of course you prefer collective responsibility to individual responsibility and freedom.
Posted by: Gregg at May 5, 2008 05:59 PM