Big Bang Coming Up!

I don’t know what it is about cannons, but starting years ago, my husband and kids always made a bee-line for them and posed for a picture. I think we’ve stood in front,

Shirl by Napoleon cannon, Monocacy, MD.

Shirl by Napoleon cannon, Monocacy, MD.

back or side of nearly every cannon we’ve seen. Recently my husband and I were on the Monocacy Battle Fields near Frederick, Maryland, and I was the one to ask that my photo be taken alongside the cannon there. The result is the photo that now serves as a cover for my face book page and one here beside this post.

I don’t know a lot about cannons, but my husband does and I have heard many of the details of their construction and workings. This is because he has built several of them, designing one to every detail of a Civil War cannon. I remember traveling to Gettysburg and measuring every feature of the Napoleon,12 pounder cannons used during the battles there. He then proceeded to obtain original drawings of them and built one precisely to the dimensions, only one-fifth their original size. Yes, it fires, making a loud bang and is fun to set off on July 4th. I’ve watched many times as he loaded it with cotton and gun powder and then lit the wick.

The cannon my husband built.

The cannon my husband built.

Over six horses were hitched to a war cannon and would move them wherever they were needed. Horse drawn caissons, two wheeled carts, their box filled with ammunition, were pulled along also. Another cart, called a Limber was in the lineup, too, and carried cannon supplies. Today however, they are used to carry coffins at military funerals. In grade school, I remember our chorus being taught to sing the song, Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail And those caissons go rolling along.” Later this song was rewritten and became the official song of the U.S. Army. How horrific to see soldiers marching into the direct fire of a row a cannons, yet, during any film depicting the Civil War, this very thing can be seen happening.

We should have seen all the cannons we’d ever want to see when we visited, “The

Looks like the plane we flew to Haiti.

Looks like the plane we flew to Haiti.

Citadel,” a large mountaintop fortress in northern Haiti. At the time, my husband was flying a Cessna 172 and being the adventurous soul that he is, we flew to Cap-Haitien which is 17 miles away from “The Citadel.” ( I say adventurous because most other

pilots we met were flying double engine planes.) Between 1805 and 1820, twenty- thousand workers built this massive stone structure, atop the 3,000 foot Bonnet. Henri Christophe commissioned the fortress in hope of keeping the newly-independent nation of Haiti safe from French incursions.

The view from the top is incredible. But getting to the top is another story. When we visited there, a tourists rode mules and with each animal came a young Haitian lad who, until Burl (my husband) objected, seemed very intent on using a switch to keep the mule moving. An unbelievable sight awaited us at the top, three hundred and sixty five cannons of

The Citadel.

The Citadel.

varying size and stockpiles of cannonballs. All this, and we were told that nary a shot has been fired from there. A French attack never came and eventually “The Citadel” was abandoned, and so were all the cannons and cannon balls. I am told that it is now used by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti for a radio repeater. It serves as a national symbol for Haiti.

So much for cannons, as you can see we are still intrigued by them. With July 4th coming up, I suggest you get out you “Big Bang” cannon. You should have one of

Your Big Bang cannon should look like this.

Your Big Bang cannon should look like this.

these, we do, you probably do, too, because, surely, we are not the only people intrigued by cannons. I’d love to hear your experiences with them.

10 thoughts on “Big Bang Coming Up!

  1. I’m pretty sure that the only canon that I ever had my picture taken next to, is in front of the Kingston armory. Bryan took that picture, so you know how long ago that was. We also visited a citadel while on one of our cruises.The one that we visited was in Canada and there were only a few canons left in it. It is used as a tourist attraction now, and it even has a jail within it, that you can tour. The shooting of canons and fireworks is fun, as long as it is done safely and legally. Here in NJ, there is a problem with some of the communities, near the shore areas. We have endangered shorebirds in NJ that are still nesting on the beaches, and the communities in some areas are shooting off fireworks near the nesting areas, in spite of the nesting birds. My husband will be working in the community of Beachwood to keep people away from the nesting birds, when they go to view the fireworks. It seems that the people are worried more about their enjoyment, than they are about protecting endangered wildlife….and this is why so many animals are endangered. We all have to care for God’s creation and for the creatures that share life with us. We need to respect life.

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    • Thanks for writing Colleen. People take more cannon photos when living close to battlefields like Gettysburg, are they lacking in New Jersey? Since you have such a heart for birds it does not surprise me that you are concerned for shore birds, too. Keep up your interest, it’ll make a difference.

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  2. We used to make regular trips to Gettesburg…our son Ryan loved going. We have pic’s of him next to a cannon when he was quite young. His senior class project was done on George W. Meade. He knew little about this General. So over the course of 4 years we made trips for research. Went to Fort Meade…came home to Sweet Valley and visited Rickets Glen State Park and Pickets Charge Resturant. He grew a beard for his presentation as the General.

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    • Hi Karen: Thanks for such an interesting response to shirlanyou. You perked my interest in Union General George M. Meade and I learned he is best known for his defeat of Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg.It’s important that today’s children know our country’s history.Obviously you thought so while raising yours.

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  3. I had to chuckle when I read your blog. I had never thought about the attraction that cannons have. But, last summer when our youngest grandson stayed with us we took him to the local war museum here in Princeton and there is a cannon outside. He immediately ran to the cannon. We took several photos with each of us by the cannon.
    I doubt that we will be getting a cannon for our yard soon. Our little dog, Bella, is so afraid of loud noises. The 4th of July here is horrifying to her. I’ve never lived in a town that celebrates like this one does. Fireworks and fire crackers were going of everywhere on the 4th. This year we may take Bella out into the country for the 4th so that she does not have to shake all evening.

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    • Kids are definitely attracted to cannons. Our kids have taken their kids to see them and their kids have taken theirs and on it goes. Obviously your dog is an exception. They probably hurt his ears. A trip to the country may be a good idea. Thanks for writing Janis.

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  4. I love the cannon that dad built! It is so beautiful! I think next time you come down he should bring it and fire it here. I know the neighbors would love it!

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    • You must have good neighbors, Janine. I love the photo of it, here. It looks full size. However, it can be transported in a car very easily. Maybe we’ll take you up on the invitation.

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  5. One of the favorite pictures I have of my parents is beside a canon in Williamsburg, VA. They had wanted to visit there for many years. For my father’s 80th birthday, I got them a one year Patriot’s Passport and took them there, in the Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Thanks for the History,lesson. I remember Burl firing a small canon- his interests have certainly taken him in many directions!

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    • How precious your memories are through those special photographs. Obviously your parents enjoyed the history of our country. Your are right about Burl, even today he is on a new journey of learning. He enjoys every moment of life. Shouldn’t we all?

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