Great Grandfather Eckess
The Gettysburg Cannon Ball
This 2.5 inch diameter, 3 pound iron ball was found at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania about 1923 when Jacob Eckess, his daughter Mollie Jones, her husband Edward C. Jones, Sr. and their son John Paul Jones were touring several Civil War sites.
Mollie and Edward had invited her father, a veteran of the 10th West Virginia Infantry Regiment, to visit battlefields in the Shenandoah Valley where as a young man he had fought in many battles to preserve the Union . . . Snicker’s Ferry, Kernstown, Opequon Creek, Fisher’s Hill, and finally Strasburg where he was wounded in action. John Paul, a young man in college, served as the driver as they explored places that brought back many vivid memories for his grandfather Eckess.
As the only Civil War national park at the time was at Gettysburg, they decided to visit the famous battlefield, although the 10th West Virginia did not fight there . . . after the battle they did pursue Lee’s army back across the Potomac to Virginia.
While touring the Gettysburg Battlefield, they observed a group of workman standing before an old house being demolished . . . they were in a circle, looking down at an object on the ground. John Paul stopped the car and walked over to the workman to find out what was happening. The object of interest, which had just been removed from the wall of the house, was the cannon ball pictured above.
After a few moments of discussion, the workman began to walk away . . . John Paul asked them what they were going to do with the cannon ball . . . they replied that he could have it as they found them all the time. Years later, when brothers John Paul, Hugh, and Edward Jones were building a log cabin at Rock Lake, they cemented the cannon ball into the chimney above the fireplace mantle along with other objects that the family had collected at interesting locations around the world.
While home from college one summer many years ago, I learned from my father that the cabin would be sold within the next few days. With his permission, I visited the cabin one last time and removed the cannonball and another artifact or two from the cement.
After recent discussions with several experts on Civil War ordnance, I believe that this ball, given its size and weight, could only be a grape shot for a 24 pound howitzer. Nine of these iron balls were packed in a canister and, when fired, the nine balls separated and flew with deadly effect.
There was only one battery of 24 pound howitzers at Gettysburg during the great battle in early July of 1863 . . . the four bronze barrel Austrian made howitzers of the Madison Artillery of Louisiana.
While visitng the Petersburg National Park battlefield in October of 2006, we found examples of this gun . . . a barrel on the ground and a similar 12 pounder mounted on a carriage within the fortifications.
Updated 12 April 2010