Friday, February 12, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 22

UHUuh! UHHuh! Sounds like these mean only thing. Someone is in pain for shoveling too much snow. Seems those on the east coast have forgotten what shoveling too much snow for several days can do when you haven't used those muscles or exercised lately. "UHuhh" is the sound Rosy, that's George Jetson's robot maid said when she was ailin.' It's about time east coasters felt the pain we experience in the north country every winter. I heard a weather person talking to a pedestrian on the street in Florida. She complained it was too cold this morning to walk to work. "It's 39 degrees. " Didn't feel sorry for her. Hasn't been above freezing here for almost a month.

Well, the Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon continues. "UHuuh" is what Bob Alcumbrack and his cannon crew felt after several days of digging deep mosquito infested woods. We didn't like the spiders and snakes. Besides the missing Cannonsburg cannon, the area has another missing cannon, too. Back in Davey Crockett days around 1836, the threat of rampaging Indians was ever on the minds of Michiganians, too, once the Treaty of Greenville was signed. The most fearsome Indian north of the Grand River was "Saubo" who was thought to be a blood thirsty savage. He was actually a blowhard weasel with little backbone.

Pioneers settling in Michigan didn't want to meet Saubo and had a warranted fear of him so the Federal government dispatched a detachment of soldiers with two four-pound iron cannons into southern Michigan to counter any uprisings against settlers The military had possession of these two cannons and they were expendable only because the cannons didn't meet the strict military standards. These cannons were captured from the British during the War of 1812. Most cannons captured by US guerillas were foreign made and the capture dates were engraved upon them.

The Army detachment reached a favorable Grand River crossing near Portage, Michigan in Feb. 1836, the same month the Twin Sisters arrived in Texas. The snow was deep and river frozen over, but the steep bank elevations caused them to fear crossing the ice. The frozen ice made some "cracks", the blowhole water shimmered as it swirled underneath. It was a frightening crossing. Halfway across the ice broke, plunging one cannon with carriage into the bottom ooze, but the horses pulling the cannon were saved. The other cannon sunk into the ice, but removed, saved and transported towards Greenville, but its final destination wasn't known. The lost cannon has never been recovered. If found it could fetch a cool half million dollars or more depending on whether it was truly made or iron or bronze with engravings of its heritage. Might you be the first to find this cannon?

Historical documentation has placed the sunken cannon in the Grand River east of Ionia, or as the Indians of 1836 called it "Little Egypt," meaning "areas of vast wheat fields" all the way to Lyons, Muir and Portage. Secret history records say that the soldiers first had "to find a safer route down to the river's edge, because the riverbank was too steep." The terrian was initially too steep and feared the horses might slip under downward ordnance weight, be injured or drowned if they broke through the ice under a heavy burden. The cannons were heavy weights. Each four-pound military field cannon with carriage weighed in excess of 1400 pounds, that weight on a one axle carriage. Although captured during the war these cannons could still be used effectively against marauding Indians.

Documentation doesn't say how many horses pulled each cannon, but two horses each couldn't pull this much weight through deep snow in Michigan's winter wilderness or removed from broken river ice without losing a few horses. It was presumed that 4-8 horses were needed to move each piece over such rugged terrain during wet seasonal months. These cannons were serviced by 6-8 soldiers, too. This was a real U.S. Army mission into the wilds of Michigan and central Michigan was a very dangerous land. Consider the missing cannon lost in the Grand River as another treasure cannon that has vanished for 174 years. Since this is a public body of water keep your search secret. If you seek help from the MDNRE or EPA you must enjoy nightmares.

The secret of your success means do your own investigations, clandestine if your like, but run your mission silent, deep, explore, prod, poke, peak with underwater sonar and submersible metal detectors, but never become too conspicious or draw attention to yourselves. Have fun playing with aquatics, the crayfish and water snakes. Silence and secrecy is the key to adventure and discovery until you determine if you really want to recover this sunken legend. I've exposed some secrets so now its time for fun and games. Too avoid detection is legal, but to remove a military owned cannon from a public body of water might be hazardous to your wallet lest a tongue slip.

Although the Cannonsburg cannon vanished, too, we found that before you start digging up your wildest dream like Bob Alcumbrack. find, locate and document important historical information. Never trust what you've heard to memory. Write info down so you don't forget or let your mind twist what was said by accident. Bob's cannon grew to a length of 11 feet long only because of a newspaper article and a few sentence in the Cannon Township historical book, but the size was the entire length of a 6-pound US military field cannon mounted on a standard carriage and not just the "piece." A cannon and carriage this size might weight 3-4 tons -- that's encrusted iron weight, not brass.

He needed to find the brass plaque too if on the carriage for authentification as a historical artifact. When he started digging he was only hoping to find the cannon and didn't have a clue to carriage architecture. He couldn't call himself a historical preservationist if he tore apart the carriage and missed the engraving plaque? How could the Tompsett five men dig a big hole in a wetland and bury it so fast and be back in Cannonsburg within 45-60 minutes? The same analogy as the twin sisters of Texas fame.

Plaques and piece engravings are the only way to positively identify cannons of origin. Crests, seals and decorations can be quite intricate under a given king, queen, origin of country and date where cannon was manufactured. All that mattered to Bob was finding the "piece." Adding decorations or engravings after being manufactured becomes difficult to disasterous depending on what type of metal was used in construction. Engraving after manufacture especially in iron causes miniscule fractures that go unseen until cannon ruptures or explodes. Brass cannons are easy to engrave after casting, but not wrought iron. The practice of engraving cannons was halted around 1760.

Bob shouldn't have depended on the newspaper notation that said the Cannon Township cannon was a small military cannon. Private citizens could not buy or sell military cannons. Those caught were shackled, convicted and imprisoned for years. I wondered if the Tompsett five could have dismembered and burned the carriage, then smashed the cannon to bits and pieces? Bob turned white as a ghost when pondering this probability. His mission was to dig slowly and be a methodical excavator and archaeologist. He had to photograph all debris material flowing down slushways, being ever mindful to stop digging when something was found and tag that evidence like a forensic scientist, then make detailed 3-D underwater subsurface grids. He never imagined how painstakingly difficult it would be not only on dry land, but underwater in disturbed sediments to draw the carriage before the cannon was removed.

Bob wasn't about to let these problems stop him from digging. However would you have given up if you were looking up or down at the mountain of problems or would you find friends to help you and press onward? Bob didn't give up and he continued to face his fears and discovered what wasn't hidden in his coffer box. He didn't give up even though his mission was nearly impossible. He was going to conquer his wildest dream no matter what. He was driven by passion, his mind and hands were along for the experience. If we all gave up when we encountered problems we'd be living in the dark ages, but to be successful in cannon or treasure hunting it is most important to find as much information before you start digging. Most cannons and treasures are found by accident or are the result of good intel and planning, but few are found when everything is right.

The reason I told you about Texas' twin sister cannons, the U.S. Army's Grand River Expedition and the problems associated with the Cannonsburg cannon is because I wanted you to see how mysteriously they disappeared and what it takes to connect clues leading to possible discovery. Research and clue connections is necessary to find wayward cannons and one way is to research until you've exhausted the paper trails and theory. Find the answers before digging. Bob wasn't prepared for the unexpected mysteries we were to encounter and they did encapsulate us for two years after his first big dig failed. Pitfalls are everywhere in cannon or treasure hunting and not all historical facts are easily seen. Want to be a successful cannon or treasure hunter? Sharpen your memory skills by eating more fish. The endorphins sharpen memory skills and make it easier to accomplish tasks for success. I know I'm being "facetious, just facetious" as Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) once said to the High Sheriff, Andy Griffith.

Bob's biggest fear was how as he going to salvage the precious Cannonsburg cannon without harming the environment or the integrity of the whole site should be find the cannon? He didn't want to become a bad or ugly treasure hunter, but a good cannon hunter. He was adventurous and not afraid of mysteries outside his level of comfortableness. Next time we'll get into the specifics of the killer cannon of Cannonsburg. Running parallel to this story will be more on the twin sisters and General Armstrong Custer's massacre and how the battle influenced a change in military history and not how Texas' weather changed history.

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