A Civil War era landmine was dug up by a fellow in Arkansas, who discovered the 32-pound landmine near Danville and decided to toss it in his trunk for a 65-mile drive back home. After lugging it into his home, where it spent a night, he took it to a local Civil War museum for some advice – and discovered his buried treasure should have been left well entombed in the dirt. This was no cannonball, it was a 150-year-old active landmine.
Reports The Associated Press on March 1, via MSN News: “Police in Hot Springs, Arkansas, have evacuated about 20 homes after a man mistook a Civil War-era landmine for a cannonball and took it home. Police say as of about 4 p.m. Thursday that the U.S. Air Force Bomb Squad was looking for a place to explode the ordinance.”
Police spokesman Cpl. Kirk Zaner said the Air Force bomb squad was called and they confirmed the device was a landmine with a pressure sensor fuse. The bomb squad X-rayed the device and found what are likely explosive chemicals inside. Officials said the mine would detonate after the brass fuse was stepped on, breaking a glass container inside that held chemicals. The chemical reaction would start a fire, detonating a gunpowder charge and rupturing the outside iron casing.
Matt Bell was excavating a construction site in Danville on Wednesday when he found the antipersonnel explosive. Thinking it was a cannonball, he drove it home, where it spent a night on his kitchen counter. Bell’s buddy even gave it a good heave across the yard.
“I told my buddy Alex, I said ‘hey, what is that?’” Bell said. “He said it looks like a cannonball and he threw it. It stayed on the counter overnight, after me and my son, Justice, pressure washed it. I’m thankful to Jesus Christ that I’m here giving this interview right now.”
He then took his freshly washed landmine to a Civil War Museum in Hot Springs, where they confirmed its authenticity. Bell said he was a little more cautious from then on out.
“Once I found out it was a landmine, I drove five miles an hour, white knuckling the steering wheel,” Bell admitted.
The bomb squad assumed control of the device and blew it up at the Garland County Landfill with C4 – much to the chagrin of local historians.
Carl Drexler, Archaeologist with the Arkansas Archaeological Survey, said a Civil War landmine has never been found west of the Mississippi. “It would be a new chapter in civil war history, Arkansas history, and military history. It would really be a substantial find,” said Drexler, according to Arkansas Matters.
Bell said he tried to convince the bomb squad to defuse the landmine and return it to him. “Tried to talk them out of it,” Bell said. “I asked them to please defuse it and bring it back to me.” But Bell’s piece of history was blown up.
According to History.com, Civil War era landmines – or “torpedoes” as they were then known – were generally used by the Confederate Army. Thousands were buried in the Deep South, though they were often viewed – by both the Confederate and Union armies – as an unethical form of combat.
Writes History: “Perhaps their most vociferous critic was Union General William T. Sherman, who lost several troops to underground landmines during his famous March to the Sea. Decrying the use of mines as ‘not warfare, but murder,’ Sherman reportedly forced his Confederate prisoners to march at the head of his column so that they might trigger any hidden land torpedoes.”
“I would have loved to see it end up in a museum,” Bell added. “This one’s been in the ground for 150 years and it definitely had Civil War era landmine characteristics left.”