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Civil War-era cannonball discovered under downtown Houston could soon be detonated

At least one historian is hoping to get his hands on some shrapnel. He says pieces of the explosive could help to tell the stories of the past.

HOUSTON — A cannonball discovered Thursday afternoon, 18 feet under downtown Houston, is now with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies say they’re working with the federal government to figure out the best way to detonate the explosive. That could happen as early as next week.

At least one historian would love to get his hands on some of the shrapnel. Any little piece of the cannonball could help bring the past back to life.

It’s about 10 inches in diameter, weights at least 80 pounds and was likely made during the civil war, according to Texas historian Gene Preuss.

“So as soon as the civil war ends, there's panic in Houston and Galveston,” Preuss said. “They wanted to shut down the bars and shut down everything, because they were afraid of looting and problems from the returning Civil War soldiers,” who might have been upset about losing the war.

“One of the things they did was to get rid of all the weapons, because they didn't know what was going to happen when the union troops came in in early June," Preuss said.

About 1,000 munitions that were dumped into Buffalo Bayou after the Civil War were later recovered in the early 1900s.

“The Heritage Society got about 600 of those and have put them on display at various times,” Preuss said. The pieces of history are protected and preserved and were put on display as part of a Civil War exhibit in 2018.

“There's a lot of people (who) complain that Houston doesn't preserve its history," Preuss said. "But the thing about Houston is Houston was around long before it was Houston. There were settlements here, Native American settlements going back hundreds and hundreds of years. There was a settlement here of Mexican settlers at the time of the Texas Revolution. And then the Allen brothers bought it and renamed it Houston in honor of Sam Houston, and so the civilization's people left an indelible mark that we may not always think about today, but it's buried. The past remains there just under the surface.”

It's not lost on Preuss that the Civil War era explosive was discovered on the same day that Juneteenth became a national holiday.

“It's history reminding us that that the past does come back to revisit us," he said.

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