Thursday, November 04, 2021

History of blowin' up real good

When I saw the little item on CBC about the army blowing up eighteenth-century ordnance from Louisbourg in Nova Scotia, I had several thoughts.

First, no one ever told me unexploded 18th century ordnance was stashed away in a shed somewhere! Also, seems to me that if they are hollow and filled with black powder, they would be mortar shells, not cannonballs (and the bit about steel cannonballs mystifies me too). But maybe this is expecting too much from the CBC.

Happily, Saltwire knows the difference between a shell and a cannonball and explains it pretty nicely.

One might also think -- well, I thought -- they could just flush out the ancient powder with water or something and save the artifacts, as heritage institutions exist to do, but no doubt the army leans towards blowing things up if at all possible. On the other hand, Saltwire talked with the historic site's collections and conservation technical adviser, who was deeply involved with all this and would have considered that first, I'm pretty sure.

When I was helping to train the fortress's re-enactor troops (only slightly after this ordnance was in active use), we used to march them around the fortress site and fire off reproduction musket balls, until one of the archaeologists pointed out this was not best practice on an archaeological site. If they have some anomalous musket balls in the collection, that might have been us. Pretty sure they were not steel, though. Prenez-garde à vous! (which I recall as pretty much the Compagnies franches de la Marine equivalent of "Ten-HUT!")

Image from Saltwire.  Thanks for Chris Raible for getting me started on this post.

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