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Park gets working cannon
Fredericksburg gets a replica of a Civil War cannon used in the battle here

 The cannon, delivered to the Fredericksburg Battlefield Visitor Center on Sunday, will be used in living-history exercises.
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Date published: 4/10/2006



The sound and smell of the brutal cannon barrages at the Battle of Fredericksburg must have been overwhelming.

The deep, rich booming of the 12-pound, smoothbore Napoleons. The high-pitched "crack, crack" of Parrott rifles. And the acrid, sulfuric stench of black powder at each explosion.

"A chicken could not live on that field when we open on it," said a Confederate cannoneer atop Marye's Heights to Lt. Gen. James Longstreet as they looked down upon advancing wave after wave of blue-coated Union soldiers.

Soon, visitors to the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park will get a taste of what it must have been like to have been positioned with Washington's Artillery of New Orleans on that commanding spot above Fredericksburg or with the 4th U.S. Artillery across the Rappahannock River on Stafford Heights.

The military park, which is run by the National Park Service, has just received a finely detailed replica of a Napoleon, known as the "workhorse" of Civil War artillery. It will be named during a ceremony sometime next month, and fired in living-history demonstrations featuring those units starting June 8-11.

"We're really excited because it will draw people to the park and help make history come alive," said Stacy Humphreys, a park supervisor and its black powder expert.

The Napoleon, with its gleaming bronze barrel and handcrafted carriage, was delivered on a trailer to the park headquarters on Lafayette Boulevard Saturday by Marshall Steen of Steen Cannons in Ashland, Ky. He is the country's top manufacturer of full-scale, reproduction field artillery.

"This is better than any Christmas I've ever experienced," said an ecstatic Humphreys, who did the necessary paperwork for the $30,000 purchase.

The money is part of the $1 million Congress approved to help the National Park Service update its living-history programs. Last year, the military park here used some of that money to buy a powder magazine. This time, it picked the Napoleon because it was used throughout the war by both the Confederate and Union forces.

"That way, we can do the most interpretations with it, and can use it at all four of our sites," said Humphreys, who has been fascinated by cannon ever since her parents took her to New Market Battlefield Historical State Park when she was 4.

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