My phone rang during a day off from work this summer. Something turned up during a road excavation on campus, just a few minutes’ walk from the museum, and they wanted me to take a look at it. Now it’s part of our collection. Here’s what happened:
Believe it or not, this isn’t our first rodeo with Civil War ordnance. Years ago, when I was still an undergrad at LMU, a water line project uncovered a whole cache of explosive shells right across from the museum’s parking lot. Some of them got drilled, disarmed, and added to our collection; an EOD team from Ft. Campbell detonated the rest in a vacant field at the rear of campus.
It’s not surprising that Civil War artifacts turn up at LMU from time to time. We’re just a stone’s throw from Cumberland Gap, a critical invasion route that changed hands four times. In fact, the contest for this strategic region is why we have a college named for Lincoln in East Tennessee—and one of the best private Lincoln/CivilWar collections anywhere. Right now we’re planning an exhibit on LMU’s origins and early history, where we’ll have the mortar round on permanent display.
Oh, and if you happen to run across any Civil War artillery rounds in the wild, let the experts handle it. This stuff is lethal.