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Military History/dug up what looks like a projectile


QUESTION: I was using a trench machine and dug up a bullet shaped 7.5 lb steel or lead projectile with a rounded base and a somewhat pointed head.looks like it was cast in a form , what could it be ?

ANSWER: Mason:

Can you send a picture?

Being you are from S.Carolina, if I knew where in the state you are, I might be able to help more.  In the Civil War there were a lot of battles in the State.  Charleston, Columbia and other places were the site of a lot of fighting, particularly artillery duels.

What you have sounds like what they call a bolt.  Rather than a round solid projectile, a bold was an elongated solid iron projectile that was fired from rifled cannon and used for piercing armor.  Here are a couple of links to pages with pictures.  See if your's looks like any of them.

If you let me know where you dug it up, I can give you an idea of the battle if might have been fired.

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base of bolt
base of bolt  
QUESTION: This was found out past fox creek and country club hills rd in edgefield county north augusta.

No it would be solid iron.  Projectiles were of two basic classes, solid shot and shells.  Shells were hollow and filled with black powder or black powder and projectiles, like lead musket balls.  This variety were later called Shrapnel shells named after the British officer who invented them.  They were later refined with "dial in" fuses so they would burst X seconds out the muzzle of the gun tube.  They replaced canister and grape shot.  Grape shot was actually a naval round, with larger plum sized balls stacked on a base around a central dowel that held another wooden top in place and covered with a canvas sheath.  The bulges of the balls made it look like a cluster of grapes.  

Solid projectiles use inertia and kenetic energy to do their damage so grape shot was larger and used to sweep ships decks of crew.  Cannister was a can of musket balls fired from a cannon, essentially a large shotgun shell good out to 300-400 yards to deal with infantry.

Solid ball or bolt shot did not burst as shells did they relied soley on kenetic energy, inertia and mass to kill and do damage.  I read one account of Waterloo where a spent round shot was rolling along the turf and a young British officer, a soccer player no doubt stuck out his foot unthinking to stop it and it took his foot off. Glancing or grazing shot would send the shot at a very low angle to the ground would send round balls bouncing across the ground for long distances depending on the ground conditions.  Wet ground greatly reduced the efficiency of solid shot in those days.  They just buried into the wet ground.

Shells in the civil war has fuses, in the Revolution, they had to be lit, and then the gun fired.  This led to mishaps.  Then it was realized that the hot gas from the cannon charge itself would light the fuse.  In the civil war, they had to cut fuses, to estimate the distance the shell would explode from the gun.  So range estimation was important and an art.
They would cut the fuse, then hammer them, they were wooden plugs into the fuse hole in the shell.  Later they were made of metal and screwed in.  So shells have one or two holes in them from the making of the hollow shell during the casting process, then one is plugged and the other threaded for the fuse.

Solid shot particularly bolts were used to improve penetration of heavy wooden planks or iron plating used to armor the first ironclad vessels.

Now having said all that, and looking at the history of Augusta, it might not be a bolt after all.  There was a powder mill in Augusta, but Augusta was spared any fighting, and Sherman's March to the Sea passed her by.  So unless it was from test firing or practice firing guns it might not be a bolt.  Does it have a hole in the tip?  It might be a less romantic counter weight used for something or other.  In old houses, counter weigths were used in the walls to help raise shash windows.  Dumb waiters used them too to help lift the weight of the device from one floor to another.  A hole in the end might be evidence of where an eyelet to attach the cable or rope was.  It might have rusted away.   It might even be a large plumb bob, but I think it is a bit large for that.  If you can find an image of a bolt that looks similar, go with that, but there were no battles around Augusta to attribute it to.  However, as I have pointed out to other collectors, troops raised across the state had to practice somewhere prior to marching off to the war so you never know where a projectile might turn up.  They might have done toutine test firing to "proof" the powder from the Augusta Powder mill.

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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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