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Old 1st April 2019, 09:32 PM   #1
P14
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Default Cannonball question

Hi,
Are these cannonballs? They are cast iron. I initially thought they were ball grenades, but they are completely solid. I haven't seen a cannonball with what looks like a bronze stud in it before.
Each are just under 3.5” in diameter making them 6 pounders.
Can anyone shed some light on these?
Thanks
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Old 3rd April 2019, 02:39 AM   #2
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Hmm. Those are interesting. My initial thought was that they might be one of the many cannonball look-alikes (shot puts, counter weights, etc), but then I wasn't so sure. Could these be coehorn shells filled with metal? I've seen this before. I once had a Confederate shell filled completely with lead. The protruding bronze could be sprue? Or were they bar or chain shot, but cut down over time? Or are they just the top of a flagpole? Hopefully those more knowledgeable on ordnance will chime in-
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Old 3rd April 2019, 09:31 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum, P14 .
So you've got a riddle there
If as you say this 'thing' has circa 3 1/2 " as for a 6 pounder solid shot, it should weigh circa 2 600 grams (5 3/4 pounds).
If it were a howitzer ammo (bomb=grenade) should be much lighter, even if fully loaded with explosives.
But then, being a solid shot, it should (could) have a visible seam mark from the casting and, what looks to be a fuse plug ... is not.
Could you tell us more about the 'bronze' studs ? Do they appear to be 'unpluggable', or do they look definitely fixed ?
You know there are iron balls out there made for purposes other than ammo ... like windmill vane counterweights and other.
I am certain not to have helped a lot ... but i have tried hard .

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Old 3rd April 2019, 05:57 PM   #4
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Many thanks
I got a chance to have a look in an old museum collection today and found another 6 pounder and a 24 pounder, each ball with a similar stud (1st attached image of the museum’s 6 pounder, 2nd the 24 Pounder). Sadly, no further info available. What are the odds of the museum also having such similar balls?
Fernando, thank you for the image. The studs must be part of the manufacture process. It vaguely looks like the mould seam runs around the balls’ circumference, 90 from the stud but it’s hard to tell. The stud is very solid and sprue-like, roughly 1/2" wide. M ELEY, all of those are ideas seem quite plausible the 3 1/2 ”-ish ball with the stud weighs 2707g, I also have a known 6-Pdr wreck recovered ball which weighs roughly 2300g so maybe the stud one is filled with bronze? There is only 1 stud, same with the examples in the museum.
Also attached is an image of some bar shots acquired at a similar time.
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Old 4th April 2019, 12:18 AM   #5
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the bronze plug would not spark while inserting it. Should be hollow for a charge.
Pre 1800 British cannon balls have a broad arrow mark deeply in them.
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Old 4th April 2019, 03:29 AM   #6
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Old 4th April 2019, 08:54 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M
the bronze plug would not spark while inserting it. Should be hollow for a charge...

But Will ... it this is definitely a solid shot, confirmed by its weight and all, how does it feature a plug ?

.
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Old 4th April 2019, 10:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P14
... Also attached is an image of some bar shots acquired at a similar time.

How i envy those. Still missing one in my ammo collection. If you happen to have one too many for spare, just let me know .
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Old 4th April 2019, 01:45 PM   #9
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If it is filled with lead grape shot leaving some void area, the resulting density might be similar to if it were solid steel. Or maybe it is a cannon ball but a replica just made to look like it is hollow.

Google images ,cannon ball plug hole, cannon ball wooden fuse, etc and you'll see other examples that look like yours. Click the images and many will lead to further discussion. Apparently one hole was a fill hole and one hole was a fuse hole that was kept plugged until use.

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Old 5th April 2019, 02:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CSinTX
If it is filled with lead grape shot leaving some void area, the resulting density might be similar to if it were solid steel...

Isn't grape shot bagged or canned in thin containers ... to disperse as it leaves the cannon ? a thick solid ball wouldn't burst to release the spheres.
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Old 5th April 2019, 10:01 PM   #11
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As CSinTX suggests is spherical shrapnel, cannon balls with smaller balls inside with a charge to burst. http://thepirateking.com/historical...projectiles.htm
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Old 6th April 2019, 02:29 PM   #12
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I see the point, Will.
In this case the improved shrapnel version, the so called Boxer's diaphragm shell, with an opening for the explosive load and another for the fuse, as also approached by CSinTX. This would date the discussed examples from around mid XIX century.
One way or another, considering their weight and the looks that their plugs are still sealed, could they still be loaded ?


,
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Old 6th April 2019, 03:56 PM   #13
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Unlikely the cannon ball is still with a charge but you cannot know without disassembly. Being so old any powder should have degraded.
With guidelines of the day followed these type cannon balls should not have a charge.
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Old 7th April 2019, 06:19 AM   #14
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These are, I think you will find, the expanding rivets which were placed there to attach wood bottoms to the projectiles. The wood bottoms have, on projectiles that still have a rivet affixed, either split or rotted away. The use of expanding rivets replaced the use of tin straps, on British ordnance, in the 1860s. Wood bottoms were required with fuzed spherical projectiles, to keep the fuze pointed forward. There were also used with solid shot in brass guns to prevent bore damage. A single rivet in large natures indicates Land Service whilst two smaller rivets meant Sea Service. Below is an extract from an unpublished work, it relates to British artillery Circa 1865:

Common wood bottoms were a disc of wood and the sides were shaped to be either conical, for Gomer chambered ordnance, hemispherical for cylindrical chambers or were left cylindrical for all other ordnance. The nature for which the bottom was intended was stamped on the underside of it. They were hollowed out to accommodate the base of the projectile and common bottoms were fixed with a single central rivet of gun metal. Wood bottoms for naval use were in only 32pr and 8 inch, or 68 pr, size and were all conical shaped. The hollow went completely through the wood bottom, leaving the underside of the shell flush with the lower surface of the bottom. This was necessary to enable the projectiles to be in actual contact with each other when double shotted, it also meant that a single central rivet could not be used to fasten the bottom and so two rivets were instead used, inclined towards the center. Refer also Commentary on page 78.
The navy’s use of wood bottoms in bronze 6 prs with the 4 ounce charge for drill purposes was prohibited because it was found that firing a loose ball with such a small charge did not harm the bore and so wood bottoms were unnecessary.

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Old 7th April 2019, 06:27 AM   #15
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Pre 1800 British cannon balls have a broad arrow mark deeply in them.

The absence of an arrow cannot be used as a dating aid. Very, very few pre 1800 cannon balls have a broad arrow mark & those few that do are highly prized.
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Old 7th April 2019, 10:18 AM   #16
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Excellent entries, Adrian ... and most opportune !
Thanks for coming in .
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Old 7th April 2019, 02:15 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Will M
Unlikely the cannon ball is still with a charge but you cannot know without disassembly. Being so old any powder should have degraded.
With guidelines of the day followed these type cannon balls should not have a charge.


I would use 'excessive' caution if you decide to dis-assemble or cut one of these in half, as some collectors have. Old black powder has a surprisingly long half life and some people have been injured and killed attempting this practice.


https://www.cbsnews.com/news/140-yr...-civil-war-fan/
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Old 7th April 2019, 02:32 PM   #18
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Curiosity killed the cat ... in two halves .
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Old 7th April 2019, 02:38 PM   #19
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As a bomb disposal friend of mine from Holland told me most accidents in his profession occur with small simple ordinance.

I was given similar cannon balls as a gift, i kept them for a week pondering how to remove the plug to check if they were live or not. Chatted a bit with some knowledgeable friends and came to nothing conclusive.

In the end I put them in my canoe paddled across a v deep lake and dumped them over board.

Be careful with these things much as I love my hobby these things were designed to kill and destroy.

Keep safe and if you don’t know what you have just accept the fact and be careful


I am not an expert in ordinance so take my advice as just my opinion.

Regards

Ken
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Old 7th April 2019, 03:27 PM   #20
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I have this grenado that is still filled with dried powder/shot. I keep it in a very dry place with a coat of wax over the hole.
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Old 7th April 2019, 03:30 PM   #21
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Possibly my premise is incorrect but if such a cannon ball (not more modern artillery) has not detonated in 200 years it's unlikely to do so now with normal handling. I just can't prescribe to dumping into lakes due to the unknown and fear driving the decision.
I do have a solid 24 pounder with broad arrow dug not far from Montreal on a small island where a fort was. The only time the British fired on it was in 1760.
L to R is a 32, 12, 24 hollow and 24 solid with broad arrow. The small one behind the 12 pdr was found in a bag of coffee beans in the 70's and given to my uncle who was then president of Nabob and subsequently given to me.
The 12 pdr sits on a slice of Leopard 1 barrel, 105mm
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Old 7th April 2019, 04:33 PM   #22
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I see your point, Will. What I meant was to be careful if deciding to cut into the casing itself. This is a popular action that both museums and some collectors do, to actually show the interior of the shell. When curators do it, however, it is a carefully done and safe practice involved. That being said, I have little doubt that if I threw my old grenade into a campfire, we would be celebrating the 4th of July here early!

Very nice collection, BTW! I'd love to own that broad arrow example!
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Old 7th April 2019, 05:49 PM   #23
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Cutting a cannon ball in halves would never be my cup of tea. Something different would be to acquire a good fragment of a bursted grenade.
I have a reasonable collection of these things and never had one still loaded. The only time i dug some contents from a 5 1/2" howitzer grenade i found no more than some residuals.
I wonder if when the Brits came over for the Peninsular war (also) brought artillery ammunition; the examples i have from that period are not marked and are potentially Portuguese ... or some French.
The ones i have with marks are a 15 HJH 75 (Herzog Julius Hütte) dated 1575 and a XVI-XVII century German clay grenade; the picture shown has a replica fuse; the proper one, not the original but a similar one offered by Michael (Matchlock) is too fragile and kept in a small acrylic case.
The first and second ones in the first picture are stone 'pelouros', a German XIV-XVI century 17 pfund limestone and a Portuguese XVI century granite weighing 18 arratles. Number #3 and #5 are XVIII century 6" and 51/2" howitzer grenades later used in the Peninsular war. The second one in the second picture (set) is one of many hand made by Peter Pögl for King Maximilian.


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Old 7th April 2019, 07:23 PM   #24
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Thanks for all your help and an interesting discussion. Mystery solved, and I’m relieved I don’t have a shrapnel shell/ grenade.
As far as I understand, provided black powder is kept dry and sealed from the air there’s no reason why it won’t work, even if its 300 years old. I don’t think it decomposes by itself.
Nice collections. Fernando, what is your fuse in the acrylic box made of? Is it like hemp match, the sort used for matchlock musket?
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Old 8th April 2019, 09:46 AM   #25
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Some very nice projectiles there Will & Fernando.

I was unable to post photos of my collection yesterday, trying again this morning:
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Old 8th April 2019, 11:02 AM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adrian
Some very nice projectiles there Will & Fernando.

Thank you Adrian .
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Old 8th April 2019, 11:14 AM   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by P14
... Fernando, what is your fuse in the acrylic box made of? Is it like hemp match, the sort used for matchlock musket?

I wasn't clear enough. The clay grenade wooden fuse was shown in the bottom of post #7.
The item shown in recent post #23 is in fact a portion of XV-XVI century haquebut matchcord 'Luntenstrick', also offered by the late Michael Trömner (deceased illustreous member 'Matchlock').
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