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Last Civil War Casualty
AP: Civil War relics collector Sam White
CHESTER, Va. — Like many boys in the South, Sam White got hooked on the Civil War early, digging up rusting bullets and military buttons in the battle-scarred earth of his hometown.
As an adult, he crisscrossed the Virginia countryside in search of wartime relics — weapons, battle flags, even artillery shells buried in the red clay. He sometimes put on diving gear to feel for treasures hidden in the black muck of river bottoms.
But in February, White's hobby cost him his life: A cannonball he was restoring exploded, killing him in his driveway.
More than 140 years after Lee surrendered to Grant, the cannonball was still powerful enough to send a chunk of shrapnel through the front porch of a house a quarter-mile from White's home in this leafy Richmond suburb.
White's death shook the close-knit fraternity of relic collectors and raised concerns about the dangers of other Civil War munitions that lay buried beneath old battlefields. Explosives experts said the fatal blast defied extraordinary odds.
"You can't drop these things on the ground and make them go off," said retired Col. John F. Biemeck, formerly of the Army Ordnance Corps.