IRVINE (CBSLA.com) — A cannonball said to date back to the Civil War is raising questions amongst historians after being discovered in San Diego Creek near Irvine.

Thousands of Union troops were in California during the height of the American Civil War in the early 1860s, though the details of their involvement and history in Orange County was lost in time.

The discovery of the cannonball in a creek bed by a hiker, not far from San Diego, may provide some answers.

“It’s a real cannonball, it is really a live round,” historian Douglas Westfall said. “It is four inches in diameter, weighs about like a ten pound bag of sugar, so it is quite heavy.”

A historian and author, Westfall studied maps of the area, dating back to the 19th century, in order to learn more about the cannonball’s origins. He believes it is from the Civil War.

“We interviewed everybody that owned that land, going back to the 1940s,” Westfall said. “It was always just a cornfield. Prior to the Civil War, the only cannonballs that would have been used in California would have been during the Mexican-American War. The Mexicans never made cannonballs.”

Westfall, who had received the artifact from the hiker, in turn gave it to the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands. Historians there believe the ball may have been dropped by Union soldiers, marching through north Orange County in an effort to guard the Southern California coastline from Confederate landings.

“…they formed a Union contingent to protect this area, and they’re the ones that they sent out to go after the guys who were trying to take Arizona,” Westfall said.

During the war, many Southern Californians were sympathetic to the Confederates, and even joined in arms. Historians say it is likely they may have joined a Confederate nation, had the Union not won the war.

Learning the precise history of where the cannonball came from, meanwhile, is expected to take six months.

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