Avondale underground–digging up a story, if not a history
There’s nothing like a buried, rust encrusted iron ball found in a local park to cause a stir, especially among history buffs. And there are no amateur historians more engaging— and engaged — in their work than those in the ranks of local metal detectors. When they are not scouting loose change from our beaches, they can be found in our parks, our wooded buffers and public right-of-ways monitoring their instruments and sometimes detecting relics of our forgotten past.
So it is with this historic find from Avondale Park in a picture submitted by metal detector Tate McNees. McNees has undoubtedly unearthed an historic piece of ammunition – if not a ball bearing—of some kind. But can he attach it to an historic event?
McNees and other devotees of Birmingham history will nod when reminded that on land now Avondale Park Union shots were fired and a casualty recorded during the waning years of the American Civil War. Bhamwiki.com’s Battle of Avondale post has summarized two published references to this sole Birmingham claim to a civil war casualty:
In the 1885 weekly, Iron Age, a story published 20 years after the 1865 incident, the wife of Jefferson County Sheriff Abner Killough was hit by accidental “friendly fire” while at her house on the property that later became Avondale Park. It was here that Union Army officers, as non-aggressors innocently stopping by after watering their horses, were mistaken as marauders by the local 10th Alabama Infantry, which fired—hitting only Ms. Killough.
In the 1893 Birmingham Age Herald account, the Alabama guard is already stationed near the house when it spies and fires upon the Union officers at the spring–“their rifle balls hitting the water like hail”– who promptly returned fire, hitting Ms. Killough.
In both accounts, the exchange goes no further and Ms. Killough recovers.
McNees suggests that the artifact found at the park is a “grape shot,” so named because such iron balls were bundled in grape-like clusters before being fired in a spray of shrapnel by cannon or other artillery.
If this not a piece of grape shot, could it be a “rifle ball” associated with the skirmish, or some other object entirely? Here’s another take on the Killough story.
It’s an interesting find, and thank you Tate McNees for showing it to us.