🔎 UNIDENTIFIED Pennsylvania Cannonball?

MD Ghost F75

Jr. Member
Mar 27, 2022
49
176
Harford County, Maryland
Detector(s) used
Fisher F75 LTD
Primary Interest:
Metal Detecting
Being new to this site, I’ve been really enjoying seeing what everyone is digging and the stories behind the finds. I’m not going to be that guy that posts old finds to try to get you to think they were “Today’s Finds,” lol, but I do have something that I found in the Fall that I’d like to get some input on. I just read the post earlier of someone trying to ID a possible cannonball and saw that there’s guys on the forum here that are experts at this stuff, so here goes, tell me what you think.

I was given permission to hunt a farm in Hanover, PA. I tell you that with hopes that every detail will help with the identification of what I believe could be a cannonball. My buddy and I were digging a slope in the field bordering the wood line in close proximity to a springhouse. All of the finds within 40 yds of the springhouse were from the 1700’s (tombac buttons, pieces of shoe buckles, a Connecticut Copper, etc). This iron ball was located on the edge of the field about 8-9 inches deep. It is 4 inches in diameter and weighs 8 lbs. I chipped a lot of rust off of it and used a brass brush on it before dabbing a small amount of olive oil on it to get rid of the orange color. I know there are a lot of shotputs and mill balls out there that fool a lot of people, and I may be one of those people, but I have a gut feeling about this thing. There is an obvious seam and lots of pitting on the surface. We did not find any other military items in the field. Any input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for looking.
 

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TheCannonballGuy

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Feb 24, 2006
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As my posting-name implies, cannonballs and other pre-20th-Century artillery projectiles are my specialty-area of relic study (for 40+ years).

There are literally multi-millions of iron (or steel) balls in existence which were manufactured for Civilian purposes. Therefore, to help us distinguish a Civilian ball from a Historical Artillery ball, we cannonball collectors rely on the 1861 US Ordnance Manual's super-precise diameter and weight measurements given for cannonballs, Grapeshot balls, and Canister-ammo balls. The 1861 Manual covers cannonballs used in the US from the RevWar era through the civil war.

We make very precise measurements of a ball's diameter (using a caliper or a Pi-Tape) and weight (using a Postal Shipping scale, because typical bathroom scales are notoriously inaccurate). Armed with those precise measurements, we look for a match-up for them in the Ordnance Manual's size-&-weight charts. If there's no match-up, the ball is not an Artillery ball. The Ordnance Manual's diameter-&-weight charts are called the Shot Tables. You can view them online for free, here:
www.civilwarartillery.com/shottables.htm

You reported your ball is 4 inches in diameter and weighs 8 pounds. I need you to be more precise than that... because the 1861 Manual says a civil war era 9-Pounder caliber Solid-Shot cannonball was 4.10 inches in diameter, and weighed 9.14 pounds.

You reported your ball is about 1 pound lighter than a 9-Pounder caliber Solid-Shot cannonball weighs. So, apparently, your ball is too lightweight to be a 9-Pounder cannonball. However, we know that cannonballs are sometimes lighter than they ought to be, because crudely-cast ones tended to contain a lot of internal "casting flaw" airbubbles. Also, RevWar cannonballs were a bit smaller than civil war cannonballs, which means they were a bit lighter than the civil war weight specification.

So, please weigh your ball on a Postal Shipping scale, and measure it's diameter with a caliper or a Pi-Tape (a.k.a. a Diameter-Tape). Please make sure to remove any concretion on the ball's surface, which would artificially increase the ball's diameter. Also, please be sure you measure it "across" the moldseam. By saying "across" I mean... pretend the moldseam is the earth's Equator line, and put the caliper's jaws on the North Pole and the South Pole. Then come back here and tell us the precise measurements.
 
Upvote 7

smokeythecat

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Nov 22, 2012
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The seam and weight makes me think its a French Revolutionary War period 8 pounder. The French gave us cannon that had "odd" sizes, not found in the US ordnance manuals. Sometimes with a seam that big, they are actually French and Indian War period. Just a thought. ALL the Rev War cannonballs I have found on true Rev war sites did NOT have that seam. The ones from the F&I period DID have the seam, but that's just my take on it. Hanover was the site of some Civil War action and was well known as a frontier area in the F&I war. And in case you didn't know, the EARLY balls bring a lot more $$$ than later ones. They are getting impossible to find anymore. Way to go.
 
Upvote 5
OP
MD Ghost F75

MD Ghost F75

Jr. Member
Mar 27, 2022
49
176
Harford County, Maryland
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Fisher F75 LTD
Primary Interest:
Metal Detecting
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #4
As my posting-name implies, cannonballs and other pre-20th-Century artillery projectiles are my specialty-area of relic study (for 40+ years).

There are literally multi-millions of iron (or steel) balls in existence which were manufactured for Civilian purposes. Therefore, to help us distinguish a Civilian ball from a Historical Artillery ball, we cannonball collectors rely on the 1861 US Ordnance Manual's super-precise diameter and weight measurements given for cannonballs, Grapeshot balls, and Canister-ammo balls. The 1861 Manual covers cannonballs used in the US from the RevWar era through the civil war.

We make very precise measurements of a ball's diameter (using a caliper or a Pi-Tape) and weight (using a Postal Shipping scale, because typical bathroom scales are notoriously inaccurate). Armed with those precise measurements, we look for a match-up for them in the Ordnance Manual's size-&-weight charts. If there's no match-up, the ball is not an Artillery ball. The Ordnance Manual's diameter-&-weight charts are called the Shot Tables. You can view them online for free, here:
www.civilwarartillery.com/shottables.htm

You reported your ball is 4 inches in diameter and weighs 8 pounds. I need you to be more precise than that... because the 1861 Manual says a civil war era 9-Pounder caliber Solid-Shot cannonball was 4.10 inches in diameter, and weighed 9.14 pounds.

You reported your ball is about 1 pound lighter than a 9-Pounder caliber Solid-Shot cannonball weighs. So, apparently, your ball is too lightweight to be a 9-Pounder cannonball. However, we know that cannonballs are sometimes lighter than they ought to be, because crudely-cast ones tended to contain a lot of internal "casting flaw" airbubbles. Also, RevWar cannonballs were a bit smaller than civil war cannonballs, which means they were a bit lighter than the civil war weight specification.

So, please weigh your ball on a Postal Shipping scale, and measure it's diameter with a caliper or a Pi-Tape (a.k.a. a Diameter-Tape). Please make sure to remove any concretion on the ball's surface, which would artificially increase the ball's diameter. Also, please be sure you measure it "across" the moldseam. By saying "across" I mean... pretend the moldseam is the earth's Equator line, and put the caliper's jaws on the North Pole and the South Pole. Then come back here and tell us the precise measurements.
Will do. Give me some time and I will get more precise weight and measurements. Thank you.
 
Upvote 2
OP
MD Ghost F75

MD Ghost F75

Jr. Member
Mar 27, 2022
49
176
Harford County, Maryland
Detector(s) used
Fisher F75 LTD
Primary Interest:
Metal Detecting
  • Thread Starter
  • Thread starter
  • #5
As my posting-name implies, cannonballs and other pre-20th-Century artillery projectiles are my specialty-area of relic study (for 40+ years).

There are literally multi-millions of iron (or steel) balls in existence which were manufactured for Civilian purposes. Therefore, to help us distinguish a Civilian ball from a Historical Artillery ball, we cannonball collectors rely on the 1861 US Ordnance Manual's super-precise diameter and weight measurements given for cannonballs, Grapeshot balls, and Canister-ammo balls. The 1861 Manual covers cannonballs used in the US from the RevWar era through the civil war.

We make very precise measurements of a ball's diameter (using a caliper or a Pi-Tape) and weight (using a Postal Shipping scale, because typical bathroom scales are notoriously inaccurate). Armed with those precise measurements, we look for a match-up for them in the Ordnance Manual's size-&-weight charts. If there's no match-up, the ball is not an Artillery ball. The Ordnance Manual's diameter-&-weight charts are called the Shot Tables. You can view them online for free, here:
www.civilwarartillery.com/shottables.htm

You reported your ball is 4 inches in diameter and weighs 8 pounds. I need you to be more precise than that... because the 1861 Manual says a civil war era 9-Pounder caliber Solid-Shot cannonball was 4.10 inches in diameter, and weighed 9.14 pounds.

You reported your ball is about 1 pound lighter than a 9-Pounder caliber Solid-Shot cannonball weighs. So, apparently, your ball is too lightweight to be a 9-Pounder cannonball. However, we know that cannonballs are sometimes lighter than they ought to be, because crudely-cast ones tended to contain a lot of internal "casting flaw" airbubbles. Also, RevWar cannonballs were a bit smaller than civil war cannonballs, which means they were a bit lighter than the civil war weight specification.

So, please weigh your ball on a Postal Shipping scale, and measure it's diameter with a caliper or a Pi-Tape (a.k.a. a Diameter-Tape). Please make sure to remove any concretion on the ball's surface, which would artificially increase the ball's diameter. Also, please be sure you measure it "across" the moldseam. By saying "across" I mean... pretend the moldseam is the earth's Equator line, and put the caliper's jaws on the North Pole and the South Pole. Then come back here and tell us the precise measurements.
So I finally ran in to a friend of mine who used a pair of calipers and confirmed the 4 inch diameter, however, he said that the 8 lb weight was inaccurate. The actual weight for this ball is 9 lbs.
 
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