At the site of a new Starkville rental property, a front-end loader pushing debris around the base of an oak tree unearthed more than old soda bottles.
Buried just beneath the surface and surrounded by roots was a one-pound, 10.5-ounce cast iron grenade shell.
With construction in mind, Audie Hughes was shocked upon finding a grenade while clearing overgrown land at Santa Anita between Jackson and Montgomery Street.
“We found it in August, and at first, I thought it might have been a cannonball,” Hughes said. “Then we thought it was a smoke grenade from the Civil War, but it wasn’t a smoke grenade.”
Hughes said they were grateful it was not loaded because, even if not lit, loaded artillery can be hazardous.
“I’m just glad we found it like it was,” Hughes said. “Otherwise, I might not be here to talk about finding it in the first place.”
Unsure of the grenade’s history, Hughes sought the help of Duffy Neubauer, curator of the Starkville Civil War Arsenal.
Despite his expertise, Neubauer was equally stumped but through the help of friends around the world, images and dimensions of the grenades were sent to military museum curators in Europe.
“They all looked at it, and it took them a matter of a few seconds to determine exactly what it is,” Neubauer said.
The unknown cast-iron ball was determined to be a French grenade, estimated to have been produced between 1720 to 1760, which is pre-American Revolution.
The cast-iron grenade would be filled with explosive powder and would then have a cork or a plug used to seal in the powder. That stopper would have a hole drilled into it for a fuse. Then, to be activated, all someone had to do was light the fuse.
“Typically, that little lip is very common and unique to the French design,” Neubauer said. “That made it easy for them to compare with other grenades and find a match.”
After coordinating with directors at Two Museums in Jackson, the museum has agreed to accept the donation with the plans to include it in their Mississippi military section.
For more on this story, read our edition from Tuesday, Feb. 11.