Was there a cannonball lodged in a tree in Harpers Ferry?
February 10, 2022 12:08 PM   Subscribe

When I was a child in the 1950's my parents took me to Harper's Ferry and I thought I remember seeing a cannonball from the CW lodged in a tree on a main street. I don't see any sighn of it on Google. Does anyone else remember this?
posted by mcbeitz to Society & Culture (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There was a cannonball in a tree in Quebec City, Canada until pretty recently- did you ever visit?
posted by nouvelle-personne at 12:14 PM on February 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've been to Harper's Ferry a million times (I grew up in a neighboring town) and do not remember this. But I was a kid in the 90s/00s, so could not tell you what cannonball-related weirdness was going down (or not) in the 50s.
posted by catoclock at 4:17 PM on February 10, 2022

No clue here, but there's a Cannonball Deli in Harper's Ferry. Seems like it must have at least some conceptual connection to your question, not sure it was open in the 50s though.

Maybe a call to the restaurant would provide some answers?
posted by kensington314 at 4:21 PM on February 10, 2022

I have been to Harpers Ferry several times, and can't recall seeing a cannonball in a tree, but like catoclock most of my visits have been more recent and it's not unlikely that a tree alive in the 1950s may have fallen down for various reasons since then.

The Battle of Harpers Ferry (mid-Sept 1862) involved a fairly significant artillery bombardment of the town from "Maryland Heights", leading eventually to the surrender of the Union garrison (possibly the single-largest surrender of US troops until the Philippines in WWII). It's typically noted as one of the most lopsided and unnecessary losses on the Union side of the early Civil War, largely due to the defending commander's incompetence. (He was, perhaps appropriately, killed by a cannonball after deciding to surrender.)

So it's certainly very possible that a cannonball became lodged in a tree—solid shot would probably have been used against the fortified garrison and buildings in the town—and that such an artifact would have been considered significant enough to be preserved and displayed, since the artillery barrage led pretty directly to the Union garrison's surrender, which had downstream effects on the later battle at Antietam/Sharpsburg (the Confederates who took Harpers Ferry basically saved the day for Lee, who otherwise might have been defeated then and there), and arguably led to the timing of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and shaped the rest of the war.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:27 AM on February 11, 2022

Sorry it's taken me a couple days. I contacted a National Parks historian and former Harpers Ferry ranger in my family, to ask about this. He said he was unaware of any story of a cannon ball lodged in a tree.

His best guess, he said, was that either you were confusing it with some other site, or possibly you were told a tall tale and remember it so vividly that the years have transformed the memory into one of actually seeing it. He said it's not unusual for that to happen with distant memories, nor is it unusual for tour guides to embellish their narratives with things that are more colorful than true.
posted by wjm at 7:57 PM on February 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

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