Monday, December 17, 2007

Cannon (blog)fodder

(A Columbiad pointing at city of Baltimore, illustration from Harper's Weekly, 1861)

In a previous post, a commenter asked for more information on Willoughby's cannon. It took two visits to the library, but we solved the mystery. (special thanks to my husband who made a special trip to the historical society on Saturday)

Willoughby actually has 2 cannons in Wes Point Park. A German World War I model that they remove from the park for the holidays (the service department was probably baffled, wondering just how to string Christmas lights), and a big Civil War cannon. Too heavy to move for the season, the city tries to disguise it with pine trees.

(The cannon & one of its shells - also now removed for the holidays)
This cannon is a 10-inch cast iron smoothbore Columbiad cannon. It is about 10 feet long, 2 1/2 feet in diameter, and weighs in at around 15,400 pounds. Cannons of this sort are said to be able to fire a 128-pound cannonball over three miles with a high elevation and an 18-20 pound gunpowder charge.

In 1896, Congress announced that it would give a surplus cannon to any civic group able to pay the cost of transport. So our cannon was brought to Willoughby in 1900 by the town's surviving Civil War veterans and was dedicated, along with a statue, as a memorial to that war.

(Point Park, Willoughby, 1914)

Originally from Fort McHenry, it is said to have never been shot in anger but according to The Memoirs of John Adams Dix, it, or one like it, seems to have been the source of some serious threats:
A deputation of ladies went to Fort McHenry to see him and remonstrate. They were received with the courtesy characteristic of the General in his dealings with the sex. After some conversation he invited them to a walk around the walls. At a certain point they came upon an immense columbiad, the largest in the fort. Here the General stopped and said: "Ladies, there will be no trouble in the city unless it is created by persons of your own social position: the common people will not rise until they see the aristocracy of Baltimore moving. The safety of the town and the lives of its citizens are, therefore, substantially in your hands. Will you oblige me by mounting these steps, looking over the top of that gun, and noting the place to which it points."

The ladies complied, and one exclaimed, "It points to Monument Square!"

"Yes," replied the General, "and I now tell you that, if there should be an uprising in Baltimore, I shall be compelled to try to put it down; and that gun is the first that I shall fire."
There was no rising in Baltimore.

(all photos can be enlarged by clicking)

1 comment:

Hunter said...

Breda (and Mr Breda),
My apologies for not thanking you last week when I first read the post. Thanks for the information. As another side note, when did Willoughby's last War of Northern Aggression veteran pass. By 1898, a young man in 1860 was only in his mid-forties. Right in the prime of life and productivity. A proud member of the GAR veterans society.
And now, the story of the German artillery piece...?
Substitute librarian in Alaska