Civil War Relic Found Gardener in Olive Hill discovers cannonball By MIKE JAMES - The Independent

(From the Ashland Daily Independent - July 7, 2008) Submitted by Glen Haney - bud at

OLIVE HILL — Ask Robert Buckler what he grows in his garden and he’ll give you the list: beans, a few tomatoes, some corn — and one cannonball. The first three he planted. The last was sown a century and a half ago by an artillery piece during the Civil War. Buckler, who has lived on the same 3.5-acre spread outside Olive Hill for 45 years, was tilling his green beans the afternoon of July 2. Suddenly a rusty ball popped out from between the tines and rolled away from him. He shut off his tiller and picked up the ball. It was about three inches in diameter and heavy. He set it aside at the end of a row and went on working. Then he lugged it back to the house and hosed it off. The water didn’t dislodge the rust so he whapped it a few times on the concrete driveway. Not a good idea, an explosives expert told him later. Had the ball been packed with powder, Buckler might have blown it up, and himself in the process. Buckler’s wife Shirley is a genealogy enthusiast; she got on line and checked with some of her contacts. She shortly found some answers. “If you work in genealogy, in every group, you’ll have a Civil War buff,” she said. One of her associates mentioned that the infamous Confederate guerrilla group Morgan’s Raiders had rampaged through Olive Hill and that the ball may have come from one of their guns. Several warned her to report the find to authorities and avoid handling the artifact. So they did. Buckler called the Kentucky State Police, which dispatched bomb technician Hilton Hastings of its Hazardous Devices Unit. Hastings took the ball to a remote location to check it for explosives. He declined to tell just how he did so, but another bomb expert said the typical procedure is to attach another explosive charge, detonate it and see if the ball blows up. It didn’t, and after X-ray and other tests it was proven to be solid metal. Hastings said he’d be returning it to the Bucklers later this week. The Bucklers don’t know yet what they’ll do with the ball. Maybe they’ll keep it for display or maybe they’ll donate it to a museum. “It sort of belongs to the area,” Shirley Buckler said. Unearthing Civil War ordnance isn’t an everyday occurrence but does happen occasionally, said Jim Adkins, another bomb technician. Some cannonballs are explosive and others aren’t. There’s no way for the untrained eye to readily tell the difference. Even after a century and a half, powder remains volatile. Anyone who discovers a cannonball should leave it alone and call the state police. MIKE JAMES can be reached at or (606) 326-2652.

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