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Live Civil War artillery shells found at Carlisle library

Several Civil War-era artillery shells were discovered at Gleason Public Library in Carlisle Thursday.Carlisle Police Department

Two live Civil War-era artillery shells were safely removed from a library in Carlisle Thursday morning, town police said.

The antique munitions were discovered at Gleason Public Library at 22 Bedford Rd., by the library’s new director Abby Noland.

Noland had just started her job as library director Monday, and said she stumbled across the shells while cleaning her new office.

“I came in early to rearrange my closet and there was a little bin on the floor,” Noland said of her discovery. The box was marked with a label explaining that its contents had been “inspected by a munitions historical expert, and they could be live,” Noland said.


After opening the box and realizing what she had on her hands, Noland called the police who she said responded almost immediately.

“I want to make sure the library was absolutely safe,” she said.

Carlisle police responded around 10 a.m., and evacuated the library. The State Police Bomb Squad was also called to evaluate the two shells, and arrived around 12:09 p.m., according to Carlisle police Lieutenant Leo Crowe.

After arriving, the team determined that the shells were live, and brought them to the transfer station at the Department of Public Works building at 59 Morse Rd. Crowe said the squad then safely detonated both shells in sand dunes near the building, around 2:30 p.m.

“The librarian did exactly the right thing by notifying us of these antique military shells once they were located,” Carlisle police Chief John Fisher said in a release. “We appreciate the assistance from the State Police in rendering the ordnances safe, and I want to thank the public for their patience during this process.”

The shells were later determined to be from the Civil War period, and had been donated to the town years ago as part of a collection of Gettysburg artifacts the library and town historical society manage. The collection has been moved several times since it was donated to Carlisle in 1916, and officials said the box of shells appeared to have simply been forgotten over time.


Noland said the library was only closed for around 3 hours during the operation. She added that, while unique, the discovery did not surprise her.

“I’ve been a director of libraries for a long time, and this kind of strange stuff just happens,” she said. “Love the job.”

She also said she joked with her new staff after the shells were removed, telling them “If you want to get rid of me, there are more subtle ways.”

“I wonder what next week’s going to be like,” she said.

Ben Thompson can be reached at ben.thompson@globe.com