Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Mortar round seized near St. Augustine, Fla.; EOD experts will try to preserve artifact

Mortar shell that was recovered Tuesday (St. Johns County Sheriff's Office)

Story update: Kevin Kelshaw, media relations officer for the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, gave this update Thursday: “Speaking with members of the EOD unit, they will make every effort to preserve the cannonball. The only way that it will be destroyed is if they cannot determine that it is safe or if they can’t render it safe. They will take it to Camp Blanding, an Army camp nearby, for determination. ...  Another resident in the beaches area (in the past week) also turned in a similar cannonball from that era (above) but in much better shape. They will also look to render this one safe. 


A bomb squad officer called to a neighborhood below St. Augustine, Fla., determined that a suspected cannonball is an 8-inch Civil War-era siege mortar round.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office posted photos on social media Wednesday of what deputies found the day before at a home near A1A and Dondanville Road.

A report written by an officer who was first at the scene said a resident told the deputy he had made the discovery while burying his dog in the back yard about a year ago. He kept the corroding round in the yard.

“Due to not being able to verify if it had any explosive material or not, it was deemed a possible threat to public safety and was seized,” a social media post said. “Should anyone else locate items like this in #HistoricStJohns, please contact your local law enforcement as they may be dangerous if active.”

Further investigation will be conducted to determine the contents of the item, the report said.

The department did not indicate whether the round will be destroyed, which is often the case when law enforcement is called in. Sometimes, artillery rounds are rendered safe and kept for historical purposes.

Charlie Crawford, president of the Georgia Battlefields Association, said the department should contact a Navy explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team.

When a torpedo (as mines were then called) was found near Savannah about 15 years ago, the Fort Stewart EOD team was prepared to blow it up," Crawford told the Picket.

He said the Coastal Heritage Society contacted then US Rep. Jack Kingston's office, "Which intervened to take the more expensive option of rendering the mine safe and preserving it."

A museum conservator and local historian said such a find in the area is unusual.

“It would actually be pretty uncommon for Florida because there wasn’t a lot of Civil War action in this area,” Andrew Thomson, an archaeological conservator with the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum, told the St. Augustine Record.

Local historian Susan R. Parker told the newspaper: “It’s very interesting, because the only thing I am aware of was that there were some Union vessels offshore trying to block inlets here.” 
She suggested the possibility that the relic may have previously belonged to a collector, which also sounded plausible to Thomson.

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