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Confederate Civil War Artillery 12-pounder “case-shot” sideloader shell (SOLD)

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Product Description

This is a great Confederate artillery shell being offered. It is an original cannonball fired from a 4.62-inch cannon barrel. These shells were known as 12- pounders. This one has the excellent original Confederate copper fuse plug at the top, designed to hold the paper time fuse in the center. These paper time fuzes burned down like a candle wick and then caused the explosion to break apart the cannonball.

What is also very nice about this piece is that it is the rare version that has the lead "sideloader" plug. This is where the iron case shot balls would have been loaded into the ball and it remains vividly clear on the side. The balls were typically small, usually around .69in. or smaller and packed in a matrix to hold in place so that the powder charge would not be compacted and would maintain its explosive volatility. This case-shot shell was recently deactivated by author and Civil War artillery expert, Peter George.

This ball was found on the site of Ft. Mahone or “Ft. Damnation” in Petersburg, Virginia. A relic hunter obtained permission from the homeowner and hunted an excavated area of the property; he found a cache of country rifle bullets, as well as three Confederate cannonballs – two 12-pounder solid shot and one 12-pounder side loader, case shot – this is the case-shot shell.

Fort Mahone was established in 1864 as a Confederate Fort in defense of Petersburg. Built as a strong three-sided earthen redoubt with a steep frontal glacis. The fort was located along the southern Confederate defensive lines across from Union Fort Sedgwick, only a few hundred yards away. It was manned by the 53rd Virginia and had only three artillery pieces and a few mortars in April 1865, even though it was thought to be the strongest fort along the Confederate line (see pictures).

The Union siege of Petersburg lasted about 9 months, ending in early April 1865. Fort Mahone was attacked at dawn on April 2, 1865 as the Union forces began to break through elsewhere along the Confederate lines. The Union IX Corps was ordered to take Fort Mahone with some 14,000 men going against about 1,500 Confederate defenders.

Fort Mahone defenses included wooden abatis, fraise and chevaux-de-frise all along the defensive line. The Union IX Corps faced a double row of abatis and Chevaux de frise and a waist deep ditch filled with muddy water. Union troops armed with only hatchets and axes had to cut through these obstacles before the dawn attack. These troops were easy targets for Confederate sharpshooters, but they successfully cleared a path for the Union attack. Overnight the Confederates withdrew from their positions and by dawn the fort was in Union hands. Captured by Union forces on April 2, 1865 (see pictures) and abandoned at the end of the war, reportedly leveled later in 1865.

This cannonball is in excellent, dug condition with just the typical surface ground pitting, but no flaking. It has been lightly coated for preservation and is now ready for display, and as I said I had it deactivated a couple weeks ago. In my book “Civil War Artillery – A Pictorial Introduction”, I go into more detail about these shells and the guns that fired them.

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