THE COURTHOUSE CANNON

Next to the Confederate Memorial on the grounds of the 1924
courthouse is a cannon whose history was a mystery.

Thanks to Sylvia Kidd Ray, reporter for the Newton-Observer-Enterprise,
and member of the UDC, the history of the gun was finally documented.
Her story, appearing in the September 26, 1962 O-N-E follows:

DISPUTED CANNON HERE IS RARE WAR RELIC

The man recognized as the leading authority on Civil War guns says that the ''Confederate'' cannon on the court square in Newton is extremely rare that there is possibly only one other like it still in existence.

The word came from Dr. James C. Hazlett, of Wheeling, W. Va., a medical doctor who is best known as a historian specializing in weapons used in the war a hundred years ago.

He wrote this week to John Foard, local historian who is interested in the current controversy over the origin of the cannon that has been on the court-house lawn here since around the turn of the century.

Dr. Hazlett, a friend of Foard, wrote that the cannon was made in 1895 by the Seyfert McManus Company of Reading, Pa., learned from the markings on the end of the barrel which Foard copied and relayed to Dr. Hazlett.

The doctor-historian wrote that only one other 8-inch cannon made by the same firm is catalogued to exist, an 8,481 pound cannon now located at Bayne City, Mich.

The cannon here weights 8,452 pounds, according to the barrel markings. Foard said the difference in weight came out in the casting process.

Two other similar cannons made by the Reading foundry firm are catalogued in the country, a ten-inch cannon how in the Kalamazoo, Mich, and a 9-inch cannon now located at Harbor Spring, Michigan.

The cannon became a conversation piece here several weeks ago when a request came from historians restoring Confederate Fort Fisher near Wilmington for county officials to five them the local cannon--which was used for coastal defenses--for the Fort.

The local officials turned down the request from the Eastern Carolina historians and soon Foard came up with the fact that the cannon which was secured some 60 years ago through the War Department is not actually a Confederate weapon, but was made in the North and was not made until the year the war ended and may never have been used in the conflict.

The last cannon like the coastal one reposing here was made in 1866, Dr. Hazlett writes Foard. The local cannon may have been set up somewhere along the coast, however, and left for some years after the war.

There is no way of knowing, Foard emphasized, where the local cannon was place after it was cast.

The markings on the barrel of the cannon here include ''36 S.C.L.S McM & Co., with the date of 1865. Foard does not yet know what the number "36" stands for but is tracing it.

Dr. Hazlett wrote him that the S C L are the initials of Stephen Carr Lyford, an ordinance inspector for the federal government who approved the cannon after it was made. He writes that the same government man inspected the cannon now in Bayne City, Mich., and that the Michigan cannon also is dated 1865.

The historian writes that in all, the Reading firm made 25 cannons like the one here, and several other foundry firms also made this type weapon, including the West Point Foundry in Cold Springs, N.Y. and Knap Rudd Company in Pittsburgh, Pa..

The Seyfert McManus Company, which made the gun here, made firings for the U.S. Government from 1860 to 1866, Dr. Hazlett says. In addition to the Rodman gun here, the firm 100 24-pound iron-flint defense howitzers, Columbiad cannons and siege mortars.

Foard, whose brother, Charles Foard of Wilmington, is aiding in the restoration project at Fort Fisher, says that Dr. Hazlett talked last year at the Gettysburg battlefield site to a group of historians about the various weapons on the field there. He also relocated many misplaced weapons to the spots they were used in the battle.


CONTROVERSY DEVELOPS - LOCAL HISTORIAN SAYS CANNON IS YANKEE-MADE

An ironic twist developed in the county seat this week to the events of Monday when the Catawba County Commissioners gave a loud ''no'' answer to the request for the county's "Confederate" cannon on the court-house lawn.

For today John Foard, local historian-hobbyist whose brother made the request for the cannon for Fort Fisher restoration near Wilmington, says that he believes the cannon on the lawn here was Yankee made.

Foard said that the markings on the end of the barrel indicate the cannon was cast in 1865, the year the war ended, and Foard says "It may never have seen action".

He is checking on the name of the foundry that made it, from initials on the barrel, and feels it was made in the North and never defended Southern shores from the Federal troops, as local folks have thought for 60 years since it was reposed in Newton on the Square.

The old cannon, made for coastal defense, came into the headlines Monday when Mrs. Glenn Long, head of the local United Daughters of the Confederacy Chapter, sent the country commissioners a letter from Charles H. Foard, retired civil engineer of Wilmington who is aiding in the Fort Fisher restoration.

Foard asked Mrs. Long to help in getting the county commissioners to give the gun to the Fort, since it is the only one of its type in North Carolina. The request was turned down flat by the commissioners and Mrs. Long said she wrote Foard a letter vehemently opposing the idea of giving or even loaning the cannon.

The Local U.D.C. chapter this week passed a resolution praising the commissioners for their stand on keeping the cannon here.

The matter was put to the commissioners by Mrs. Long after records showed the cannon, secured around the turn of the century by the U.D.C. women, was turned over to the county when it was installed on the courthouse lawn.

Today John Foard said that similar coastal defense cannons are known of in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut and one of those may be secured for Fort Fisher.

Local folks have been asking this week, since the cannon story got into print, why have a coastal cannon in Piedmont Catawba County to commemorate the War Between the States?

Foard has an answer for that. He said that around the turn of the century local folks got a relic of the war, a massive piece of field artillery, to be placed on the square here. Only it never got to the county seat town.

The story is that the field piece was shipped here from some depot and that when the train carrying the weapon stopped at Hickory a group of young men, jealous of the county seat getting the war relic, jumped aboard the train and removed the great gun.

It was set down in the tiny park in the center of Hickory's Union Square, Foard said, and remains there today, 10 miles from its original destination.

After the original field piece was way-laid, the coastal cannon was sent to Newton as a replacement.

The inscription on the cannon here says it weights 8,452 pounds. Foard says the type cannon placed here is an 8-inch Rodman Columbiad, the same type used on the coast, with a 24-inch length and 8-inch bore. The average weight of the pieces, including tube is 9,210 pounds.

The Projectile is a spherical shell 65 pounds heavy. The powder charge is 10 pounds, as some local men can testify after the cannon was fired about thirty years ago one night by a mischievous group.

At 5-degree elevation the cannons range is 1,813 yards. At the extreme range of 27 degrees elevation, the range is 4,812 yards, Foard said.

[Thanks is extended to Don Barker for his transcription of this story.]

 


Derick S. Hartshorn - 2008
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