Saving History Saturday: Civil War Ordnance Found In South Carolina and Missouri

Occasionally, the news of discovered unexploded ordnance from the Civil War appears in the headlines, reminding Americans that Civil War history is still being uncovered. Remarkably, multiple pieces of ordnance were discovered in two states just recently.

The discovered ordnance on Folly Beach. Courtesy of the City of Folly Beach Public Safety.

In Folly Beach, South Carolina – located on Folly Island – two tourists discovered an odd-looking rock sticking out of the sand. According to a local news station, one of the tourists explained, “At first we just thought it was a rock. The more we got to looking we realized it was more than a rock.”

Lo and behold, the rock turned out to be two shells: one 8-inch and the other 3-inch. After Hurricane Dorian, much of Folly Beach’s sand was turned up, causing those shells to be exposed. Interestingly enough, other pieces of ordnance have been found on Folly Island in previous hurricanes, such as Hurricane Matthew that exposed over a dozen solid shots and shells. Luckily, finders reported what they saw to the Coast Guard and local authorities.

Folly Island, which is located near Charleston, served as a base for Federal troops and was witness to minor fighting itself. Most famously, however, it was a launching point for those Federal troops who attacked Fort Wagner on Morris Island in 1863.

The solid shot piece that was discovered in Independence, Missouri. Courtesy of Fox News.

Over one thousand miles away to the northwest, in Independence, Missouri, a solid shot was discovered in a walnut tree. Perched next to the historic 1850 Overfelt-Johnston House, the diseased 100-foot tree needed to be cut down. As a local tree service was splitting the logs, the ball fell to the ground.

Though surprising to the contractor, a discovered solid shot made sense, as the home was witness to the 1862 Battle of Independence. Additionally, six chains were found in the same tree. Other cannonballs were found on the property since the battle, including one lodged in a wall. The house also served as a hospital during and after the battle.

Jeff Eastham, who was actually working on the tree, summed up the discovery’s significance: “It’s pretty cool. I mean, I’m not a history buff, but I think it’s cool we’re standing on sacred ground so to speak; just you know, the war was fought here.”

Sources and More Information:

Meghan Overdeep, “Hurricane Dorian Unearths 2 Civil War Cannonballs on South Carolina Beach,” Southern Living, September 10, 2019.

Kate Mosso, “Couple Finds Civil War Cannonballs on Folly Beach After Hurricane Dorian,” ABC 4 News, September 10, 2019.

James Rogers, “Civil War Cannonball Discovered Lodged in a Tree at Historic Missouri House,” Fox News, September 13, 2019.

Kelly Eckerman, “Civil War Cannonball Found Lodged in Tree at Independence Home,” KMBC, September 12, 2019.

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