More than 300 cannonballs unearthed in Pittsburgh

An ordnance disposal technician applies C4 explosive strips to Civil War-era cannonballs in Charleston, S.C., in October.


By AARON AUPPERLEE | The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (Tribune News Service) | Published: April 26, 2017

Explosives technicians unearthed more than 300 cannonballs from a construction site in Lawrenceville, Pa., on Tuesday, Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety Director Wendell D. Hissrich said.

The 300 or so Civil War-era cannonballs removed Tuesday by the Maryland company Ordnance Holdings will be stored in a bunker at the construction site and guarded by police until all cannonballs on the site are dug up. Hissrich hoped that work would be done by Saturday.

Hissrich said the cannonballs will then be taken to an undisclosed location outside the city and "rendered safe."

"Defused. Detonated. Whatever is appropriate," Hissrich said.

Most of the cannonballs still contain black powder, Hissrich said. Those cannonballs most likely will have to be exploded. Fuses in some of the cannonballs disintegrated and the black powder spilled out. Hissrich hoped some of those could be saved for historical purposes.

"It does seem kind of a waste, but at the same time, in talking with the experts, there is no other way to render them safe if they have black powder in them," Hissrich said of blowing up the 150-plus-year-old cannonballs.

Construction crews working on a development project at the site for Indianapolis-based Milhaus Ventures found about 20 Civil War-era cannonballs in March.

he city had its bomb technicians at the scene, as well as officers for security and an advanced life support unit staffed with two paramedics, as work began Tuesday. Hissrich said the city will ask Milhaus Ventures to reimburse it for the manpower.

Hissrich said the city looked into who owns the cannonballs. He said it appears the U.S. military has first claim to them, but if it doesn't step forward to take them, Milhaus Ventures could keep any cannonballs that aren't destroyed. Milhaus Ventures could not be reached.

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