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Guard group, city, looking to restore historic cannon
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After World War II, "Old Sam" was moved to the Wallace Library, where the city School Board administration office now sits on Princess Anne Street. At one point, the cannon was displayed at a Veterans of Foreign Wars building in town.
It was a fixture at the information center site on U.S. 1. for years. That property was sold to the former Mount Vernon Realty Inc. in 1979.
A brief battle over the gun ensued when the new property owner mistakenly thought the cannon was part of the deal. The city then agreed to let the gun stay on the site with a lease arrangement, with the gun to be maintained by the company.
"Old Sam's" journey ended shortly afterward when it was taken to its present location.
GIFT FROM STATE?
Kelly has a somewhat different narrative about the cannon's history.
He was doing research on the first non-elected council, and in the council minutes, "I saw a reference about the city receiving a cannon from the state adjutant general" in 1852, Kelly said. It's unclear whether that was "Old Sam."
Kelly said a Library of Virginia record indicated the city originally requested a larger, 12-pounder cannon, which was widely used at the time, but got a six-pounder, instead.
"And it was not given to the city, it was almost a loan, and the city agreed to maintain it," Kelly said.
He believes that's the gun the city received because, at one point, it was stored in the city armory, now the Circuit Courthouse on Princess Anne Street.
The city's cannon was mentioned in armament expert Warren Ripley's 1973 book, "Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War."
Ripley wrote that the cannon "might have been cast between 1841 and the start of the [Civil] War. However, most weapons manufactured during this period of peacetime were [made] by the large founders who generally affixed their mark." Still, he goes on to say that the unmarked cannon here may have been made at a Confederate foundry.
"Firms such as Clark, Leeds and Tredegar cast bronze six-pounders of this pattern for the Confederacy," he wrote.
The Model 1841 six-pounder was a standard artillery piece prior to the Civil War, and was produced for years afterward. But cast-iron models were rare because they were prone to failure during testing.
In his research, Kelly found that some six-pounders were imported from Sweden, and possibly, New York. Tests on the gun, he says, might be able to determine where it was made, and whether the gun was made for the military or for ceremonial purposes.
"There's still a lot of questions to be answered," Kelly said, "but it's kind of fun playing detective about our city history."
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431
The Fredericksburg Guard Association wants to raise up to $14,000 to repair and restore the historic "six-pounder" cannon across from the Post Office downtown. Mail checks made out to the Fredericksburg Guard Association, to: Armory OIC, 1700 Jefferson Davis Highway, Fredericksburg, Va., 22401.
See the association's website at fredericksburgguard.com.
For more information, contact David James at email@example.com,
The artillery piece, believed to be an unusual cast-iron Model 1841 six-pounder, has been in Fredericksburg since the mid-19th century. It was apparently fired in years past during ceremonies, on July Fourth, and used to train city militia, a precursor to the National Guard.