Just a few days ago, an archeologist discovered an unexploded, Civil War-era artillery shell near Little Round Top in Gettysburg National Military Park, the site of one of the most famous battles of the American Civil War. The unexploded artillery shell prompted a slew of safety measures and road closures as experts attempted to remove it safely. But what was the shell used for? What battle might it have been used in? And how long had it been there?
Here are four things you might not know about the unexploded artillery shell found at the national park — and the history that surrounds it.
1. It was discovered thanks to the Little Round Top rehabilitation project.
According to Gettysburg Times, the artifact was found while an archeologist was working as part of the Little Round Top rehabilitation project. The project began in July last year and aims to “address overwhelmed parking areas, poor accessibility and related safety hazards, significant erosion, and degraded vegetation” and “enhance the visitor experience with improved interpretive signage, new accessible trail alignments, and gathering areas,” according to the website.
While doing all of that, workers were likely surprised when they came across an unexploded artillery shell from a very distant past.
2. The shell dates back to 1863 — and has links to a historic battle.
The park’s Communications Specialist, Jason Martz, believes the artillery shell dates back to 1863. He told Gettysburg Times that it appeared to be from the battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.
The Battle of Gettysburg is famously thought to be the bloodiest battle of the Civil War — with more than 50,000 casualties. It is also considered to be the turning point of the Civil War, when the Union began to beat back the Confederacy with a hard-fought victory. (It’s also, of course, the reason why Lincoln gave his also-super-famous Gettysburg Address.)
3. The shell is thought to be from a cannon.
Martz also told Gettysburg Times that the artillery found near Little Round Top looks to have been a projectile from a Parrott rifled cannon. According to Britannica, the Parrott rifled cannon (also known as a Parrott gun) was invented around 1860 by Robert Parker Parrott and was utilized quite a bit in the American Civil War.
4. The old shell’s unexploded status led to some serious, action-movie-level safety protocols.
Since the artillery was found unexploded, even though it is almost 200 years old, it had to be handled with the utmost care. Not only did a special weapons team have to be brought in to retrieve it from the ground, but local roads near the park had to be closed, too.
The 55th Ordnance Disposal Company (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) team from Fort Belvoir, Virginia, came to remove the shell safely and detonated it off-site. The roads were opened up once the shell was removed from the park.
For more information on the awesome shell, the history of the park, and the Civil War, visit Gettysburg National Military Park’s website.