Monday, June 2, 2008

Live Civil War Artillery Shell. . .in Pottsville?

My good friend--and fellow Schuylkill County Civil War historian--Tom Shay brought the following story to my attention.

As it turns out, the son of the late Leo Ward, the long-time head of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County who passed away two weeks ago, donated several items of Leo's personal collection to the society including an unexploded Hotchkiss shell. . .

3" Federal Hotchkiss Shell (flatnose), missing sabot.

Here is the complete story as reported in yesterday's Pottsville Republican & Evening Herald:

Bomb squad removes Civil War-era shell from Schuylkill County Historical Society
Published: Sunday, June 1, 2008 9:32 AM

"A bomb squad from Fort Drum, N.Y., removed a Civil War-era artillery round Saturday from the county historical society.

The unexploded Hotchkiss shell filled with black powder and made to fit a 3-inch ordinance rifle, was donated to the Historical Society of Schuylkill County, 305 N. Centre St., Pottsville, this week by the estate of Leo L. Ward.

Ward was a longtime president of the historical society who died May 17, according to David Derbes, acting president of the society.

Ward’s son, David, cleaned out Ward’s apartment on the 600 block of Mahantongo Street and donated historical items to the society, Derbes said. Among them was the antique round.
'It’s like a tin can, three inches in diameter and seven inches long. It contains powder and little shots,' Derbes said.

Markings on one end of it stated it was made in 1862.

While visiting the society Friday, J. Stuart Richards, Orwigsburg, a Civil War historian, encouraged Derbes to get rid of it.

'As soon as I picked it up, and saw it was a Hotchkiss with the date of 1862 on it, I wasn’t sure if it was an active round or what they call a canister round. But rather than be safe than sorry, we contacted Pottsville police,' Richards said.

Derbes contacted Pottsville police Chief Joseph H. Murton V and Murton made the arrangements to have the bomb squad remove it.

Sgt. Ryan Jaminet of the 725th Explosive Ordnance Disposal at Fort Drum walked to the second-floor storage room, where the round was sitting in a cardboard box. Jaminet picked up the unexploded shell with his bare hands and carefully placed it in an ammunition can.

'That will at least stabilize it,' Derbes said.

The round probably wouldn’t ignite if dropped, he said.

'Black powder is not as sensitive to friction as other things. More so to flame. While it’s a little bit more stable, it’s a little bit more dangerous than some other things,' Jaminet said.

A spark would probably set it off, Jaminet said.

The round was taken to Fort Drum.

'We’ll probably dispose of it on the range,' Jaminet said.

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