In Charleston, Cannonball Discoveries Are Constant Reminders Of Past Wars Relics from the Revolutionary War and the Civil War are creating all sorts of problems in South Carolina. Old cannonballs continue to be found, and many need to be detonated.

In Charleston, Cannonball Discoveries Are Constant Reminders Of Past Wars

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


So in Charleston, S.C., people are being reminded of wars that were fought long before they were born. Cannonballs from the Civil War, even the Revolutionary War are washing up on beaches or being unearthed during construction projects. And some of these pieces can still be dangerous, as South Carolina Public Radio's Alexandra Olgin reports.

ALEXANDRA OLGIN, BYLINE: Hunkered down in a building topped with sandbags, military bomb experts are getting ready to detonate a rusted cannonball from the 1800s.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fire in the hole.

OLGIN: The munition is wrapped in C-4 and buried underground in an empty field near Charleston.


OLGIN: This nine-inch cannonball had black powder in it and needed to be exploded. Others are found during construction, in the ocean after hurricanes or just below ground in people's backyards. Detective Carl Makins is with the Charleston County Bomb Squad.

CARL MAKINS: A lot of people don't understand how dangerous cannonballs are. Somebody hit them with a hammer thinking it's kind of cool because of the sound they make and not understanding that, hey, that's a potential time bomb.

OLGIN: Makins gets several calls a year that an old relic has been found. So does Grahame Long, the curator at the Charleston Museum. He has more than 200 cannonballs and can't display them all. The rest are in storage.

GRAHAME LONG: We've had a few Revolutionary War pieces come in fairly recently, these little six-pound avocado-looking iron balls that are your quite stereotypical-looking cannonballs, which you'd expect from that time period.

OLGIN: They also find Civil War-era cannon balls because the Union siege of Charleston lasted more than 500 days. And Long says at the time, the city was constantly bombarded.

LONG: On any given day, there are several if not dozens of shells coming into town. Some are going off, some aren't. And these are heavy, heavy pieces going far distances, hitting the ground hard and getting buried.

OLGIN: Long believes only a fraction of the cannonballs have been unearthed and expects they'll be found here for years to come. For NPR News, I'm Alexandra Olgin in Charleston.

Copyright © 2017 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.