cannon

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.

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.

A French Cannon in Western Illinois, Part Two (or should I say ‘deux’?)

Santiago de Cuba and Castel del Morro.

Santiago de Cuba and Castel del Morro.

L’Effronté was captured at Santiago de Cuba in southeastern Cuba during the Spanish-American War. After victory at the Battle of San Juan Hill—most famous for the actions of future president Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders—the Americans besieged Santiago; the Spanish surrendered and evacuated by 17 July. On that very day, as the Americans occupied the city, the commanding general of the U.S. Army in Cuba, MG William R. Shafter, reported to the Adjutant-General of the U.S. Army, BG Henry C. Corbin, that he had captured 15 bronze cannons that he supposed were for ceremonial purposes; by 22 August, Shafter had shipped most of these guns back to the U.S.1 There was evidently quite a number of these old cannons around Santiago: George Kennan, a journalist embedded with the Americans, found two French guns in the Morro Castle, located on the eastern side of the entrance to Santiago’s port. Both guns were also made during the tenure of Louis-Charles de Bourbon, one in 1748 and the other in 1755.2 Of the Latin motto “ultima ratio regum” inscribed on them, Kennan wrote that “the recent discussions between Morro Castle and Admiral Sampson’s fleet proved conclusively that the ‘last argument of kings’ is much less cogent and convincing than the first argument of battle-ships.” L’Effronté was probably found at Castel del Morro.

Major General William R. Shafter, commanding general of the Fifth Army Corps during the Spanish-American War. His troops captured 18th century French cannons, including l'Effronté, and he ordered them sent to the U.S. as trophies.

Major General William R. Shafter, commanding general of the Fifth Army Corps during the Spanish-American War. His troops captured 18th century French cannons, including l’Effronté, and he ordered them sent to the U.S. as trophies.

An article from the Charlotte Observer on 5 October 1898 details the arrival in the U.S. of 10 French guns, including l’Effronté. These trophy cannons were distributed across the U.S. for display. L’Effronté was given to the Grand Army of the Republic post in Galesburg.3 The Grand Army of the Republic was an organization founded by Union Army soldiers in order to advocate on behalf of veterans. In February 1901, the cannon was unveiled in Central Park;4 later, it was moved to the courthouse grounds where it stands today and where I saw it earlier this summer.

A postcard of L'Effronté in Galesburg's Central Park in the early 20th century. The cannon was later moved to the grounds of the county courthouse.

A postcard of L’Effronté in Galesburg’s Central Park in the early 20th century. The cannon was later moved to the grounds of the county courthouse.

The mystery that remains is how l’Effronté and its brethren cannons got from France to Cuba. One idea was put forth by Charles Edward Lloyd, the author of the 5 October 1898 article in the Charlotte Observer that I discuss above. He believed that the French cannon in Cuba must have been captured by Spanish forces during the Peninsular War (1807-1814). It is also possible that there was a more peaceful transfer of the weapons to Spain and then onward to Spain’s colony of Cuba. As in France, Bourbon monarchs ruled Spain throughout the 1700s, and therefore these arms may have been given to Spain and then transferred to Cuba at sometime. However, that still leaves 157 years of history between the casting of the l’Effronté and its capture at Santiago unaccounted for.

1Correspondence Relating to the War with Spain, vol. 1 (1902): 158, 249.

2G. Kennan, Campaigning in Cuba (1899): 202-203.

3Annual Reports of the War Department for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1901: Report of the Chief of Ordnance (1902): 81.

4C.R. Robinson, Galesburg, Illinois in Vintage Postcards (2000): 16.