News, Pre-WW1

Archaeologist Runs for his Life After Finding ‘LIVE’ Civil War Shell 

  • Archaeologist Steve Brann and his team were investigating a civil war site when they made a bone-chilling discovery. 
  • On February 11th, 2023, Brann found a live artillery shell buried under the ground.
  • The discovery occurred at the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.
  • Had there been an accident, the artillery shell could have killed dozens in the vicinity. 

On February 11th, 2023 archaeologist Steven Brann discovered a live artillery shell buried under the ground at Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, U.S. 

Jason Martz, the park’s spokesperson, explained that the artillery shell, “could have easily killed a dozen people.” Luckily, the authorities immediately cleared the entire area. 

In context, the place ‘Little Round Top’ in Gettysburg National Park is a famously known area of the American Civil War battlefield. Archeologist Brann and his team were at the scene to research the site for historical purposes.

Live Civil War Shell

The team made the shocking discovery while sweeping the grounds ahead of construction. While digging the area, Brann’s metal detector picked up something – a live four-and-a-half-kilo artillery shell.

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Brann usually comes across minor stuff like musket balls or percussion caps from firearms. However, the contract archaeologist got a more robust reading on his metal detector this time. Unknown to the danger below, the man cautiously worked from the surface using a pinpoint detector and shovel. He dug and sifted about twenty inches.

The unexploded Civil War shell (Gettysburg National Military Park)

Penn Live reported that the artillery shell will likely date back to the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. Moreover, Martz claims it to be an “extremely rare find.” 

“Mr. Brann laid it gently on the ground, took a picture of it, and ran for the hills.”

Given the circumstances, Park rangers contacted the U.S. Army’s 55th Ordnance Company. According to an Army press release, the disposal squad traveled approximately 92 miles from their headquarters to remove the shell.

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The shell was brought to safety and then blown up with precaution. Once officials determined the area was safe, they could reopen the roads. Nevertheless, many argue that the artillery round – about 7 inches long – should have been preserved as a war relic.

Destroying munitions is a standard protocol for most government agencies. The reason is that rendering them safe for display is complicated and often dangerous. As a result, decisions are “1,000 percent based on safety,” Martz said.

Antique munitions: A Hazard Even Today

Booker, a U.S. Army 55th Ordnance member, said the company responds to about 50 calls yearly to remove unexploded ordnance. 

According to the records, a similar case occurred in August 2022 at Gettysburg. Another artillery shell was in a historic building that was under refurbishment. According to Stars and Stripes, coming across antique ammunition in unexpected places remains a problem, primarily overseas.

Print of “Hancock at Gettysburg” by Thure de Thulstrup. The battle was brutal.

For example, in February 2022, archaeologists found a four-kilogram Civil War shell near the Kennesaw Mountain battlefield in Georgia. Similarly, in Germany, about 2,000 tons of unexploded bombs are found each year – a result of countless bombing raids by Allied forces during World War Two.

Battle of Gettysburg 1863

The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1st to 3rd, 1863, by Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The battle occurred around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

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In the battle, Union Major General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. It halted Lee’s invasion of the North. The battle involved the most significant number of casualties, about 510,000. 

It is often known as the war’s turning point due to the Union’s decisive victory and concurrence with the Siege of Vicksburg.

Marker memorial
The Gettysburg marker commemorating the first shot fired at the Battle of Gettysburg at 7:30 am on July 1, 1863

Tens of thousands of men were killed and wounded in this battle. Today, many battlefield features remain remembered: Devil’s Den, the Wheatfield, Peach Orchard, Little Round Top, Big Round Top, and many others.

For many, the most famous landmark is the blood-soaked soil itself. It is where Pickett’s Charge, the Confederate assault on the third day of the battle, took place. Of particular focus was the so-called “The Angle” – the object of the attack on the Union centre.

All said and done, the battlefield still reveals its secrets even to this day.