OK, maybe the term "shell" isn't 100% correct, but when a Yankee beach hunter digs a 3.5" solid shot we count it On Sunday morning, after hunting a few last hours before heading back to NJ, and only 20' from the car, I got a decent but weird 35 signal on my T2. Knowing that the power line area had not been hit very hard in the past due to the interference (which was non existent this weekend with VA Power having the lines "off" for maintenance) I plunged my shovel into the ground one final time and "clunk", hit what sounded like another big frag. Imagine my surprise to find a 3.5" (5.5 lb) solid shot just a few inches under the thick grass. Chicken Dance time! This ball was either a small howitzer/cannon ball, or more than likely (knowing the Navy was doing the firing in that direction), a ball from an 8" diameter Stand of Grape (dia and wts match up closely with the nine balls that made up one of those bad boys). It's currently undergoing electrolysis, along with my other heavy shell frags.
Overall it was great hunting with the NJ Wheat Penny Posse (Jersey Devil Squadron) this weekend and we had a blast (luckily not literaly). Thanks again to Chuck for helping me haul my 75 lb / 9" Dahlgren Naval ball out of that deep ravine and to David (and his wary passengers!) for allowing the shell to ride home "live" in the back of his pickup truck! She's at Pete George's in Richmond being deactivated and I hope to have it back soon for displaying. Sorry that I didn't bring it into the hotel for "Show and Tell" Saturday night but I certainly didn't want to be the cause of the hotel being evacuated during a bomb squad visit!
Looking forward to the next one!
Dan in SJ
PS for those interested / wanting more details the 9" Dahlgren used a naval water fuse which kept the paper fuse from getting wet when "skipped" across the water at other ships, fortifications, etc. The inner fuse (cross section shown here) had a special spiral "tube" which allowed the cannon flame to enter the ball powder area but not water. The flame then lit the chemical infused paperfuse that sat inside the longer lower tube. With the 1.75" thick shell walls the best way to defuse them is to drill thru that fuse, with extra caution being taken to ensure that the drill bit doesn't get so hot that it would ignite said paperfuse (which might still be dry!). That's what I beleived happened to Sam White, drilling this exact size and type of fuse a few years ago (RIP)
Any BTW, to the two other hunters that displayed those two beautiful patina'd fuses (shown below)
....those are the same fuses, just w/o the inner plugs! Nice finds - both should have ORD D (Ordanance Department) along with naval anchors and a two number date stamped onto the top flange. Can you reply with those dates? One looks like a "61"...meaning it was probably fired in 1862 during the Union Navy's first major bombardment of the fort. The date on my shell is not readily visible yet, but I suspect they were all fired about the same time. And MAYBE even by the same ship - Research on my shell finds that the 9" Dahlgren was not a very common cannon and one that went out of normal service mid war due to barrel failures (they switched to 15" versions later in the war). One of the ships that is known to have fired onto Fort Powhatan AND during 1862 (re the fuse date) AND that had a IX Dahlgren cannon onboard was the USS Sabago. It's logbook notes that in July 1862 she stood off Fort P and fired (47) of these 9" shells over a week long period. Soooo there's a good chance that my ball was fired from that actual vessel (pic below) And with all of the other thick wall spherical shell frags being found I suspect that those two naval water cap fuses displayed were from similar balls. Gotta love being able to do this type of research and handle such pcs of our history!
Here are renderings of that ship, with the Dahlgren being the 'coke bottle' shaped cannon on the stern. It could fire that 76 lb / 9" ball (using 10 lbs of firing powder) about 1700 yds with a 6 second fuse. And knowing where it was dug it was probably fired from a ship while it was in the western horseshoe of the James River, with the distance from my ravine to the center of that channel being ~ 5200' or about 1800 yds, a perfect match!