- Associated Press - Monday, July 6, 2015

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - The Florence Police Department unexpectedly received several pieces of history last week, but it was the kind they can’t really display.

“We got a call (last week) from someone who had seen a sack laying in the middle of the intersection of Huntsville Road and Cox Creek Parkway,” said police Sgt. Brad Holmes, a member of the department’s explosive devices unit.

Holmes said one of the callers said the bag was partially open and it looked like cannon balls inside.

“We sent some officers over there, and one was Sgt. Chris Ticer, who is a member of the explosive devices unit,” Holmes said.

He said officers found a canvas duffle bag in the roadway filled with Civil War-era cannon balls.

Sgt. Ira Davis, a member of the department’s explosive devices unit, said there were two 12-pound and a 6-pound cannon ball, and four long cylinder shells that resembled artillery shells.

Davis said the shells were “live.”

“We tried to X-ray them, but they were so thick, you just couldn’t see anything,” Davis said.

He said the decision was made to “vent” one of the cannon balls.

“Basically, we were trying to crack it open,” he said. “We put a small charge on it and when the charge went off it ignited the 150-year-old cannon ball. So it was live, and we suspect the others are live also.”

Capt. Marty Dodd, the commander of the department’s explosive devices unit, said that’s the danger of people finding war relics.

“No matter how old (the explosives) are, they can still be live and they can be dangerous,” Dodd said. “There have been several people killed or seriously injured messing with these old cannon balls.”

Dodd said the type of metal used to make the cannon balls and the shells doesn’t deteriorate like metal used in artillery shells today.

“That old metal doesn’t break down or rust,” Dodd said.

Davis said there’s no telling where the items were found. He said they could have been dug out of the ground or in the river or a creek. He said even if black powder gets wet, when it dries it can be ignited.

“The black powder inside those cannon balls doesn’t just go away,” Dodd said.

He said that’s what makes finding these old type of artillery ammunition dangerous.

“I like metal detecting and I go looking for things like these, but if you find something like this, you have to be careful. They could be dangerous and are likely live,” Dodd said.

He said the unit will hold on to the shells to see if anyone claims them.

“And if they do, we want to see what their plans are for them,” he said. “We have them in a safe, secure place, and we want them to stay in a safe place.”

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Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/


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