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In the Line of Fire

February 21, 2013
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Every tree tells a story, but not all trees supplement their stories with artifacts, as did the remains of an ash tree in Philadelphia's Independence Square.

The National Park Service hired Davey's West Philadelphia crew to prune and remove trees within its four city blocks in the area surrounding Independence Hall. Some of the trees posed concerns for public safety and had to come down, such as an ash tree within the block behind the Independence Hall building.

Foreman Jason Trecoske, who had operated the stump grinder, and Landscape Foreman Luis Rodriguez were cleaning up the ash tree's grindings when they found an approximately 3-inch wide cannon ball. "It was something unusual for us, but it was something one might expect to find in that particular area," says Sales Arborist Jerome Ocker.

The cannon ball weighed a mere 2.8 pounds - "It must have been shot from a smaller-sized cannon," Ocker explains. Trecoske must have been careful when he was grinding the ash tree stump because the cannon ball emerged nearly unscathed. "Jason probably knew he had hit something with the grinder and then worked around it," Ocker adds.

Cannon ball
Photo: National Park Service

The National Park Service had wanted an archeologist to examine the grinding sites, in the case Davey crewmembers found an interesting object such as the cannon ball. But park officials ultimately determined the cannon shot most likely came from the pre-Civil War era. Jed Levin, history branch chief at Independence National Historical Park, explains 3-pound shots were not common during the Civil War, but were reasonably common during the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War.

After resting underground for approximately 150 years, the cannon ball may reveal a bit of history that will help the National Park Service better understand the events that occurred at Independence Square so many years ago.

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