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,
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.
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
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
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
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.