A contractor installing a new water line at a home near Lovejoy, Ga., made a surprising find last Friday.
Workers discovered 42 Civil War-era artillery shells, believed to have been left behind or misplaced by Union soldiers in September 1864.
Mark Pollard, Henry County’s Civil War historian, said the homeowner, whom he declined to identify, contacted him after he had pulled all but two of the Hotchkiss projectiles out from the 2-foot-deep cache.
“It’s exciting to know there are finds like that out there,” says Pollard, who completed the recovery and transport of the rifled rounds.
The Clayton County homeowner agreed to donate them to the Nash Farm museum, where Pollard leads battlefield tours. Nash Farm is a Henry County historic park.
Pollard says the shells may have been stored in a long-gone limber box. Only one was struck by the line-cutting equipment.
He said the house, which sits on a ridge, was near a U.S. artillery battery belonging to the Union 15th Corps. They may been stored underground for future use or simply left during an evacuation. “It was a good defensive position,” Pollard said.
Lovejoy, Jonesboro, Nash Farm and other Southside communities were scenes of bloody fighting and troop movement during the Atlanta Campaign.
All but five of the shells had fuses. Pollard says they have been since defused by a friend and will undergo electrolysis at a site to preserve them.
Pollard, relic hunters and police offices warn that a lay person should not attempt to touch or move old ordnance. On rare occasions, the rounds can go off. A Virginia relic collector was killed last year when a cannonball he was restoring exploded.
Pollard said he has handled shells before and is qualified to preserve them. He claims the 42 shells did not appear to be in a volatile condition.
The rounds, made for 3” ordnance rifle, “should be used to educate the public rather than be blown up or put in the corner,” he said.
For now, the 42 shells are early in the preservation process. Pollard hopes they will one day be a significant part of the Nash Farm collection.
The Georgia Battlefields Association considers Lovejoy Station an endangered site. Historians and activists have been concerned about the loss of significant property to development.
“You lose the land, you lose the artifacts, you lose the story,” Pollard said.