On the bright side: Mythbusters’ accident also confirms Civil War myth

Credit: laurenchildre on Flickr

In case you missed it, the Mythbusters had a small accident last week involving a cannonball, a house, and a minivan. The short version is that the secondary build team was testing whether a cannonball could breach a stone castle wall when muzzle lift (think recoil, but with a cannon) caused the cannonball to skip over the top of a hill at the Alameda Sheriff’s Department’s bomb and artillery range. The cannonball proceeded to fly through the wall of a house nearly a half-mile from the range, bounce across a few roads, and come to rest in someone’s minivan.

Mythbusters has already stated that they won’t air the shot that resulted in the accident, but the story has inadvertently confirmed a Civil War story I heard several times as a schoolkid in Macon, Georgia–a story I’d always considered to be an exaggerated local myth. A historical home in downtown Macon, known as the Cannonball House, got its colloquial name because of the Union cannonball that came to rest in the front hallway of the home after travelling about a half-mile from the other side of the Ocmulgee River, where it was fired.

It’s a fun story, for sure, but I was always a bit incredulous about the idea that a 10-pound iron ball could travel that far, passing through various objects and structures, before coming to rest in someone’s front hallway. I chocked up the seeming impossibleness of it to the sorts of exaggerations that tend to occur in local oral histories. As it turns out, the Mythbusters accident has placed this story firmly in the realm of “plausible,” if not “confirmed.” Cool.

When life give you lemons, shoot them out of a cannon.


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