Quick thinking by park officials at the Gettysburg battle site and the United States army neutralized a potentially deadly discovery of a Civil War-era shell this week.
The discovery took place at the most famous battlefield of the 1861-1865 conflict. The shell was discovered under the soil at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
The resulting discovery closed down the area around the site. A park spokesman stated that the shell “could have easily killed a dozen people.”
The spokesman also said that the discovery was “extremely rare.”
A 7-inch, ten-pound artillery shell could not be ascertained as coming from the Union or Confederate side, though park officials believe that this could be ascertained.
An unexploded 3-inch shell casing from the Civil War stopped traffic this week in Gettysburg while U.S. military technicians investigated the Pennsylvania battlefield finding. https://t.co/v0GsfzwEeY
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) February 11, 2023
Archaeologist Steven Brann discovered the object at Little Round Top, arguably the most famous site on the battlefield.
Brann said that when he discovered the dangerous object he “laid it gently on the ground, took a picture of it and ran for the hills.”
The resulting discovery required intervention by the U.S. Army’s 55th Ordnance Company from Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The army isolated the area and exploded the shell.
The discovery of the Civil War shell is a reminder that finding such ordnance is relatively rare in the United States, but not unheard of. A shell was found in the same Gettysburg park just last year.
Such incidents are more common in regions that faced war more recently. Some parts of Africa and the Middle East are home to thousands of unexploded munitions. There are also thousands of tons of explosives scattered across much of Europe.
Germany alone reports finding an average of approximately 2,000 tons of explosives left over from the world wars each year.
Many of the munitions left from the First World War still litter much of France and Belgium. Discoveries of such ordinances are common in some areas, with one day’s haul reaching five tons.
The quick action by Gettysburg park officials and the military avoided what otherwise could have been a dangerous situation for the general public. The shell also acts as a reminder of the threat that even 19th-century munitions can still hold.