150-year old Civil War projectile now family heirloom

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
August 29, 1862, a large Union force commanded by General John Pope clashed with Confederate General Stonewall Jackson's men at the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).

That day, one Confederate soldier took with him a souvenir from the Virginia battlefield which years later proved to be quite a paperwork, logistical challenge for members of the MHAFB Explosive Ordnance Disposal team.

"We received a phone call from the McCall Police Department who requested assistance with a military munition found inside a home," said Staff Sgt. James Adams, 366th Civil Engineering Squadron EOD craftsman. "Once we arrived, we spoke with (Dianne Judd-Wade, speech-language pathologist for the Cascade Public Schools, who) told us about the projectile her great-grandfather, John Waltus Judd II recovered during the Civil War. A common practice during the war was to pick up and shoot back unexploded rounds at the enemy."

Judd-Wade was told by family the fuse had been drilled out and the explosives removed however, she was concerned someone could get hurt.

"After a thorough check we were able to positively identify the item as a Confederate Read projectile as well as verify that the projectile was empty," said Adams. "She gave us permission to take the item to our shop could determine if the United States government held legal ownership of it."

Adams consulted the 366th Fighter Wing Legal office, Air Combat Command and Air Force Civil Engineer Center EOD to discuss the Military Munitions Rule and how it applied to the projectile.

"After some discussion it was determined the Confederate ordnance was not regulated by the MMR since it was not manufactured for the United States Department of Defense, or Department of War as it was known back then," said Adams. "It was also determined that a unique serial number and the word "EMPTY" would be stamped on the item to aid with any future questions. The new serial number will also link the item to an EOD report. The legal office concurred and the item was cleared for return."

Judd-Wade explained how she remained patient while waiting to find out if the family heirloom projectile would be returned.

"I just waited to find out what was going to happen while the agencies worked together to make sure the round was safe and eventually get it back to me," Judd-Wade said. "I was watching Antiques Roadshow on the television and someone brought in a round like mine and the host talked about how dangerous they can be if they still have black-powder inside them. That was when I knew I needed the authorities to come check it out. I would hate to pass it on to one of my children and then have something bad happen. The family story is that during the Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) this round landed at the feet of my great-grandfather and when it didn't explode he simply picked it up as a souvenir."

According to the Civil War Trust, more than 125,000 troops fought during the battle which cost the lives of more than 22,000 soldiers.

"The situation was unique since this was a real Civil War relic which people don't come across very often here in Idaho," said Adams. "Also, the family history and request to keep the ordnance added to the uniqueness of the call, as we don't often get requests to keep ordnance due to the history of it."

EOD technicians locate, identify, render safe and dispose of all forms of ordnance (conventional, nuclear, chemical and biological, military and improvised) both U.S. and foreign made.

"One of our primary duties is the protection of personnel and property," he continued. "When we get a call for ordnance off base, our goal is to ensure the safety of the local citizens first, as well as property. After the item was cleared, our focus turned to doing everything we could to return it to the owner and keep intact the legacy of the item, as well as bolster the relationship between the 366th Fighter Wing and the local community."

The attention to detail and commitment to returning the projectile made quite an impression on Judd-Wade and local first-responders.

"I have had such a fantastic experience with the Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base," said Judd-Wade. "Everyone has been so friendly, polite and professional dealing with this unique and potentially dangerous situation. This was quite an adventure and the munition has been in my family for generations. Now I will be able to safely pass this family heirloom on to my children because of these amazing Airmen."