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Military History/Found Iron ball on property in Tenn.


I have been trying to find information on an Iron ( soft metal)ball that I found on a piece of undeveloped property I own in Atoka, Tenn. It is a solid Iron ball ( not Stainless steel).  I have made several pictures of this ball, but don't know how to send it to you.  I measured and weighed it:  4.06 inches in Diameter and weighs 8.95 lbs. I have been told it is a cannon ball and I have been told its not. I have no clue.... If it is a cannon ball, what kind of cannon would fire it is another question I can't find.  Thank you.


Okay.  First, iron is not very soft.  In fact it is pretty brittle.  So we need to figure out exactly what it is.

Second.  Shot comes in particular sizes.  Considering the location, the most reasonable assumption is that it dates from the civil war if it is indeed a solid cannon shot.

The size, 4.06 is pretty close to the size of a 9 pound shot which measures 4.10.  The weight is pretty damn close to 8.95 lb vs 9.0 lbs.  

The next thing it to determine what cannon it might have been fired from.  The standard gun of the civil war was the 12lb "Napoleon" which was the multipurpose field gun/howitzer used by both sides.  It was the Army model 1857 and was made of Bronze.  Later guns that replaced it were made of iron since it was cheaper.

Teh 9 lb field gun was still listed in the Ordnance and Artillery manuals of 1861 but few were manufactured after 1812 according:

Havign said that remember that the states fielded 90% of the regiments and NOT the federal government.  They used whatever weapons they had in thei state armories until they could standardize on fewer and newer models.  Many troops went into battle with smoothbore muskets early in the war, until things stadardized on the Springfield or Enfield rifled muskets.

So it is not unreasonable to believe that at some time, a 9lb smoothbore field piece saw action in you neck of the woods.  Another thing to remember, that this might not have been related to a civil war action, but an indian fight or simply militia training.  They did after all need to practice once in a while.  Having said that, your proximity to Memphis and the Mississippi, would lead me to believe that you have a Civil war shot.

If you could check out some local history, the state regiments and militia that served in the area, with particular attention to the artillery units.

Early in the war there were "horse" artillery, that followed the cavalry, these were ligher guns assigned to cavalry units, the lighter guns allowed them to keep up with the cavalry, where the heavier napoleons could not.  Cavalry units were notorious for skirmishing in small fights that did not get a lot of recognition in history books.  If you can find some old maps of the area circa the Civil war, it will help you see how the forces would have been limited in their movements by the trees and forests in the area.  Topographic choke points then would be where the fighting would have occurred and you can them make deductions about how the shot got where it did.  A nearby mound or topographic high (say 800-1000 yards) would make a good position for a battery firing toward the location you found the shot.  This will help you determine who might have been shooting or recieveing the fire.  Go to Google Earth and see if you can see any evidence of pits or such dug in areas the might have been entrenchments.   Sometime they are visible on the aerial photos.  At Chancelorsville Va.  The artillery pits are still there from the original emplacements of federal guns and their resulting repositioning at 90 degrees due to Stonewall Jacksons flank attack.  I have a home in the Shenandoah valley of Va.  Just up from a place called Narrow Passage.  It was the site of many cavalry skirmishes due to a topgraphic bottleneck formed by the confluence of the Shenendoah River and Narrow Passage Creek which formed a deep gully.  The Valley Pike, the main road crossed a bridge at that point making a fine place over which both sides fought.  

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Keith H. Patton


I can answer questions pertaining to weapons and tactics, personalities, battles, and strategies in european and U.S. history.


I was a history major, and had done extensive research in the subject area. I have designed and tested numerous computer games for various
historical periods.

B.A History M.S. Science
I have had the opportunity to live abroad and walk numerous battlefields both in the United States, Europe, and the Pacific.

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