Here is a newspaper column from 1998. Over 21 years I literally wrote hundreds of editorials and columns. Every now and then I would like to dust off one of the columns that touches on history or local flavor and share it again.
How much to mail a cannonball?
The way cannonballs keep turning up in Elkton, you might think they were as commonplace as rocks.
Seems like you can hardly dig anywhere without finding one of these iron missiles from the Revolutionary War or War of 1812 or even the Civil War.
The recent, rekindled interest in cannonballs started back in April, when a 15-pound cannonball turned up from the depths of Elkton’s Main Street. It was dug up during work for the town’s Streetscape project.
After the media coverage of that discovery, it began not raining but pouring cannonballs. People came forward to describe their cannonball finds over the years, and the list of people in the county who possessed a cannonball grew by leaps and bounds. According to the Cecil County Historical Society, which tracks such things as cannonball discoveries, the list of cannonballs found around Elkton now stands at more than 20.
At least 10 of those cannonballs are in private hands. The rest are in possession of the historical society and Historic Elk Landing (which has two found at the site of the War of 1812 fight). The Elkton town administrator has the one found recently on Main Street.
Over the years, several of the cannonballs were found near the intersection of Main and Bow streets. Others were found during the construction of Union Hospital in the 1970s. Individual cannonballs have popped up on North Street near the old firehouse and up on Red Hill.
Oddly enough, considering how many cannonballs keep turning up, there was never a major battle fought in Cecil County. There were skirmishes between British and American troops in both the Revolution and 1812, but never any Civil War action.
Experts say it’s likely cannonballs fell off wagons or were left behind by Redcoats or American forces camping in Elkton during the Revolutionary War. Maybe a soldier used one to weight down a corner of his tent and left it behind.
Elkton isn’t the only town in the county with cannonballs. In Charlestown in the 1800s, it was necessary to make a public ordinance banning the rolling of cannonballs in the streets. Evidently, bowling in the street using cannonballs had become something of a pastime and a public nuisance.
I’ve never found a cannonball but I did discover a lead musketball while digging in my garden in Chesapeake City. Don’t ask me how it got there, but it’s .58-caliber – exactly the kind of musketball used in the Federal army’s Springfield rifles during the Civil War. Maybe I’ll find a cannonball if I just dig a little deeper.
In the end, these cannonballs don’t have much monetary value, although it’s nice to have your very own chunk of history. On the Internet trading site eBay, Civil War cannonballs sell for anywhere from $20 to $65 and the bidding isn’t exactly hot. There’s one obvious drawback, too, pointed out by one seller of a 6-pound cannonball: “Buyer pays shipping. Good luck.”