Cannons & Current Events

Recent Artillery Posts From Around The Web

Two recent blog posts about historical cannons caught my attention, so I thought I would share them.

From The New York History Blog: “17th Century Cannon Returned To New York.” A cannon dredged from the St. Lawrence River, which saw service in the French and Indian War and American Revolution, is returned from loan to the Canadian War Museum to the Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site in New York.

From the Heinz History Center Making History Blog: “A Closer Look: An 18th Century Cannon.” Living History Coordinator Justin Meinert conducts a detailed autopsy of the British 6-pounder cannon, detailing its engravings and parts, from muzzle to cascabel. A reproduction is located at the Fort Pitt Museum, and an original is on display at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This is very similar to what I did with an 18th century French cannon that found its way to Galesburg, Illinois.

A 17th century cannon excavated from the St. Lawrence River is prepared to return to New York after being on loan to the Canadian War Museum.

A 17th century cannon excavated from the St. Lawrence River is prepared to return to New York after being on loan to the Canadian War Museum.

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Cannons & Current Events: Spanish Armada Cannons Raised Off Irish Coast

Ships from the 16th century Spanish Armada have come to light off the west coast of Ireland, allowing excavation and the recovery of many artifacts. This included cannons from the infamous navy, which were raised from the sea off Streedagh Strand, County Sligo, Republic of Ireland, around 15 June. In 1588, storms and squalls dashed the Armada against the rocky coasts of Ireland, and dashed King Philip II of Spain’s hopes of invading England. Nowadays, storms are pushing pieces of the ships onto the coast, prompting calls for excavation and preservation.

A cannon from La Juliana on the sea bed before it was raised.

A cannon from La Juliana on the sea bed before it was raised.

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Cannons & Current Events: Oldest Cannonball in England?

A piece of a lead cannonball has been discovered in the fields of Northampton, United Kingdom, and dated to the Battle of Northampton in 1460 during the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster. It is believed to be the oldest surviving cannonball in England.

Northampton Cannonball

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Cannons & Current Events: Civil War Artillery Round Found At College of Charleston

Somehow, I missed these two articles, from South Carolina’s College of Charleston newspaper as well as a local ABC station. This also gives me an opportunity to unveil the renaming of “Artillery in the News” to “Cannons & Current Events,” because everyone enjoys alliteration.

In perfect timing for St. Barbara’s Day, on 3 December construction workers laboring on an expansion to the College of Charleston’s Sylvia Vlosky Yaschik Jewish Studies Center unearthed an artillery round belonging to the Civil War. The round is described as being a foot in length; my knowledge of Civil War ordnance is such that by the description and the photograph (included below), I cannot determine what kind of round this is or to what kind of gun it belonged. If any readers have ideas, they would be greatly appreciated.

An Air Force Explosive Ordnance Unit ensure the artifact was safely handled and removed, and no one was injured.

A Civil War artillery round found at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

A Civil War artillery round found at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.

TSA Seizes WWI Artillery Rounds at O’Hare Airport

On Tuesday 8 April, several news outlets in Chicago reported that the Transportation Security Administration seized two World War I-era artillery rounds from baggage that was aboard a flight from London.

Two artillery rounds seized by the TSA around 8 April 2014 in O'Hare Airport, Chicago.

Two artillery rounds seized by the TSA around 8 April 2014 in O’Hare Airport, Chicago.

It turns out that two teenage travelers got the rounds at a French WWI artillery range during a school field trip. Unfortunately, it does not say exactly where the teens found the rounds, or whether they bought the rounds or simply found them and walked away with them. Fox News reports that “TSA explosives experts believe they are French 77 mm shells.” This seems like a typographical error, as the Chicago Sun-Times writes that a TSA spokesman described the rounds as 75mm in caliber. The most common French field gun of the Great War was the “French 75.” Furthermore, it was the German army, not the French, which used a 77mm cannon, called the 7.7cm Feldkanon (with models 96 & 16, denoting the years those versions came out). This is based on a brief amount of research I have done online, so Great War enthusiasts and experts, please correct me if I have it wrong.

"Our Glorious 75," a WWI French postcard featuring the 75mm cannon. Note the rounds at the soldier's feet.

“Our Glorious 75,” a WWI French postcard featuring the 75mm cannon. Note the rounds at the soldier’s feet.

Thankfully, no one was hurt or even in danger: it was determined that the rounds were inert and could not have caused any harm. The teenagers were not charged.

Artillery in the News: North & South Korea Trade Artillery Barrages

On Monday, 31 March, tensions heated up on the Korean peninsula when North Korea went forward with live-fire exercises near the Yellow Sea, the waters to the west of both North and South Korea. Deciding that it needed to provoke the world into paying attention to it, North Korea reached for its artillery arsenal and began slinging rounds into the water.

Baengnyeong Island and the western Korean Peninsula.

Baengnyeong Island and the western Korean Peninsula.

North Korea’s actions were interpreted as provocation when many of their rounds landed in South Korean waters near Baengnyeong Island, which is about 10 miles from the North Korean mainland. South Korea responded by rolling out its K9 self-propelled 155mm howitzers and responding in kind, hurling 300 rounds into the disputed waterway. The New York Times reports that the North Koreans fired multiple rocket launchers in addition to howitzers, but due to the secretive nature of the North Korean People’s Army, it does not specify the type. However, the NKPA is known to employ Soviet-made artillery such as 152mm D-20 towed howitzers, 130mm M-46s (re-worked to be self-propelled by mounting them on tank chassis), and BM-11 and BM-24 multiple rocket launchers.

The Koreas exchanged artillery fire in the same area in 2010, when North Korean fire killed four civilians. It is also the same area where the Republic of Korea Navy ship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo. North Korea is widely regarded as using military pressure to force diplomatic negotiations, and in this case the armament-of-choice has been the King of Battle.

South Korean K9s.

South Korean K9s.

Artillery in the News: The Mystery of the Missing 18th Century Cannon

The Prodigal Son of artillery pieces has returned home.

This 257-year-old cannon took part in the Battles of Saratoga in 1777, only to be stolen in the 1960s from Saratoga National Historical Park. It was found in an art museum in Alabama.

This 257-year-old cannon took part in the Battles of Saratoga in 1777, only to be stolen in the 1960s from Saratoga National Historical Park. It was found in an art museum in Alabama.

The New York Times reported a few months ago the long, strange journey of a cannon from the American War of Independence. The six-pounder gun had long sat sleepily in Saratoga National Historical Park, which commemorates the Battles of Saratoga, September-October 1777. But the 555 pound cannon had somehow been purloined sometime in the 1960s. When it went missing, a substitute was brought to Saratoga from the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio. About four years ago, a ranger overheard a visitor compare the substitute to one the visitor had seen in Alabama. After following up with this chance connection, National Park investigators discovered that the cannon in Alabama was most likely the one that had disappeared almost 50 years before from Saratoga.  The park’s curator, Christine Valosin, set out to prove the cannon’s authenticity and trace its path from 18th century England to 21st century Alabama.

General John Burgoyne by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1766; now in the Frick Collection in New York City. The cannon was part of Gen. Burgoyne's army.

General John Burgoyne by Sir Joshua Reynolds, c. 1766; now in the Frick Collection in New York City. The cannon was part of Gen. Burgoyne’s army.

The cannon began on the side of the British; it was cast outside of London in 1756 during the Seven Years’ War. It was then transported to Canada in 1776 for service in the American War of Independence. The gun was in General John Burgoyne’s army, along with 17 other six-pounders, as it traveled from the province of Quebec to the Hudson River valley in what would become known as the Saratoga campaign. The American General Horatio Gates and the Continental Army defeated General Burgoyne and the British during engagements on 19 September and 7 October 1777; Gen. Burgoyne surrendered to Gen. Gates on 17 October, and this gun passed into the hands of the Americans.

General Horatio Gates by Gilbert Stuart, 1793-1794. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

General Horatio Gates by Gilbert Stuart, 1793-1794. Now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

After the war, it was used for coastal defense in New York during the War of 1812. In the early 20th century, the gun was moved to Prospect Park in Brooklyn New York City, in order to commemorate the Battle of Long Island, fought on 27 August 1776. Then in 1934, a historian by the name of Thomas J. Hanrahan petitioned New York City to send the cannon to Saratoga; the request was ultimately successful. The gun was kept in a barn near the upstate battlefield until it disappeared sometime in the 1960s.

The trail gets murky here, given that thieves are less likely to document their activities scrupulously. The cannon was at an amusement park in Gloversville, NY, 40 miles away from Saratoga. Collectors in Connecticut and Florida handled it before it ended up at the Tuscaloosa Museum of Art in Alabama in the 1970s, where it had remained until 2013. The cannon was returned to Saratoga National Historical Park and re-dedicated there in November 2013.

Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull (1821), which hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. The painting prominently features a cannon on the right side, in the American camp.

Surrender of General Burgoyne by John Trumbull (1821), which hangs in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C. The painting prominently features a cannon on the right side, in the American camp.