Cleanup crew unearths Civil War cannonball in Conway

A crew cleaning up from last week's ice storm made an explosive discovery this week in Conway.

Workers found a Civil War-era cannonball that at one time had gunpowder inside of it.

When it was unearthed Tuesday, the powder was long gone so the ball wasn't dangerous, but for local historians its discovery packs a pretty big bang.

The 88-pound ball was found under an oak tree in front of Magnolias Bridalwear shop on Main Street.

The crew spotted the top of the ball peeking out of the ground. Conway city councilwoman Jean Timbes owns the property where the ball was discovered.

"I wasn't sure what it was, but I thought it was a cannonball. But it looked so big, bigger than any that I had ever seen," Timbes said.

It took two hours of work to dig it out of the tree's roots.

Coastal Carolina University historian Ben Burroughs says the 10-inch diameter projectile was made to be fired out of a 100,000-pound mortar.

The ball was made with shrapnel inside it, he says, and an explosive charge triggered by a cork fuse.

It was a shock-and-awe weapon of its day.

"If it hit a building, even if it didn't explode, it's going to do major damage," Burroughs explained. "But then you add to that, it exploding and all this shrapnel going out, you had a pretty destructive weapon."

The ball's discovery raises many questions, Burroughs says. How did it get there? Are other artifacts buried nearby? Which side in the war did it belong to?

"There are some marks on it that indicate that it could have been Confederate, but those same marks could have been Union, so we really don't know."

Eventually, Timbes wants the ball to be displayed in a museum, but for now, she's just thrilled with the discovery.

"The more we know about the past, the more we'll know about ourselves, so I just think it's fascinating and I'm just delighted, it was just a find," Timbes said. "It's been an interesting week."

Burroughs says he's not surprised that a Civil War cannonball would be found in this area, but he is surprised at how big this one is and the fact that it was found right in downtown Conway.

He says who knows the history that's right under our feet.

Timbes says Horry County planner Adam Emrick has suggested using ground-penetrating radar to see if there's any other artifacts in the same area.