Workers digging a ditch for a water line at Union Hospital in Elkton on Tuesday found an odd relic: a rusted, 4-inch cannonball that one of them later took home.
But when Abingdon resident Wayne Wienecke telephoned state police about his find, a bomb squad arrived at his doorstep -- and the cannonball was hauled away for destruction at a local landfill.
"We destroyed it for safety reasons," said Bob Thomas, Maryland deputy chief fire marshal. "Until the device was destroyed, we had no way of knowing whether it contained explosives."
As it turned out, the cannonball was a solid metal device, which experts from the fire marshal's bomb squad dated to the Revolutionary War.
"We know it wasn't from the 19th or 20th centuries," Mr. Thomas said. "Our bomb squad personnel dated it by process of elimination, based on their knowledge and review of similar cannonballs."
On average, one cannonball is found each year in Maryland, Mr. Thomas said, most by farmers or fishermen in the Chesapeake Bay area or near Fort McHenry.
Mr. Wienecke could not be reached for comment yesterday.