Monday, March 1, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 32

Bob Alcumbrack was not a seasoned treasure hunter in his search for the missing cannon. He learned by shifting soil rather than waiting for clues in his Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon. Bob was a shaker. When it came to shaking American history we Americans weren't seasoned artillerymen, but as the fledgling commandos we were quite adept at intercepting British supply movements on dark night raiding parties deep into Canada. So good were American freedom fighters that military supplies never reached the British navy operating on the Great Lakes. We were as vicious as wolverines. In the next paragraph is an example of warfare tactics c. 1812 between British and American forces and how a single weapon, a small cannon can defeat many in battle.

Major-General Procter commanded small British gunboats during the War of 1812. He tried storming Fort Stephenson, Ohio, under the command of American army commander George Croghan. Procter had a three to one advantage. Fort Stephenson had but one 6-pound cannon and Procter had three 6-pound cannons bobbing on his vessel and Croghan had his artillerymen constantly move the fort's single cannon after each firing so as to make it appear the fort was heavily fortified. Despite what Procter felt the fort had for firepower, he returned a barage of gunfire showering the fort with 500 rounds of cannonballs and grapeshot during a one-day battle. Croghan returns fire, them moves gun and fires again and the disappearing cannon barks from another location. These guns were all made of bronze, because repeat firings of iron cannons led to premature explosions. Iron cannons couldn't take the heat fatigue.

Procter thought Croghan must be running out of cannonballs since his return volleys were slowing. Croghan's men were simply getting tired of moving the cannon. Croghan knew Procter had more firepower, but instead of surrendering Croghan had his men stuff the single cannon with musket balls, grapeshot, bits of broken metal, stones and purposely broken pottery from the mess. Croghan showered Procter's sailors with loud whistling jagged missiles and won the battle of Fort Stephenson, Ohio. Whenever possible different commanders on the Great Lakes tried to save the ships firepower for future engagements. Below is another example of cannon lore superiority during the War of 1812.

British naval commandant Robert Barclay's six ships had only 264 pounds of cannon fire, while American naval commandant Oliver Perry's ten ships on Lake Huron had 664 pounds of firepower. Most ships carried 12, 24 & 32-pound cannons, but Barclay's firepower was made up of one 6-pound cannon and the rest were very effective at 800 yards or more. Perry's ships though had to get within 300 yards of British ships in order to reparably harm the British fleet. The British flagship, the largest craft on the Great Lakes was 126 feet long. Barclay's cannons could strike Americans farther downrange because his guns could be elevated where American guns couldn't because American's didn't pay particular attention to the device that raises the gun when they replaced carriages.

Charles, Prince of Wales, in 1644 used the same cannon movement tactic when his fortification was being attacked by another of greater force. Charles single-handedly kept a single small cannon moving and reloaded it numerous times with jagged missiles, which when fired killed his attackers and saved the fortification. Smaller cannons were used to decimate the crews or attacking soldiers by obliterating the men with wood and metal shrapnel. An unknown mystery is whether Charles was using one of the one-inch model guns that were reportedly 30 inches in length that was specially made in his honor. The Prince of Wales crest with feathers was engraved on twin bronze cannons. This gun would be about the same size as Mink Fink's bronze cannons that Davey Crockett gave to Fink for helping him clean out the river pirates on the Mississippi River as portrayed in a Disney movie.

A six-pound cannon held a 1.25 pound powder charge and when primed with a cannonball shot with a 5 degree upward angle it had a range of 1,525 yards (4,575 feet or more). Impact from explosion to target was less than four seconds. True, this cannon makes an awesome roar with big bellows of smoke when fired and for this reason I thought it was highly unlikely that Cannonsburg town elders would let seven inexperienced young men shoot a 3.62 inch cannonball over Cannonsburg at Fourth of July celebrations and picnics. Getting shot in the knee by a large ramrod surely would have completely amputated Tompsett's knee if it were not the fact that a 6-pound ramrod would have struck Tompsett in the chest or abdomen. Bob assumed if they were firing the cannon with cannonballs they were firing at a distant target on the Jame's Nesbit property owned by the Schipper's in 1986. He looked for cannonballs, but never found any and he assumed they might have been firing stones. He found no scorched stones, but that could have been because the hillsides were being actively mined for gravel. So Bob was sure the Cannonsburg cannon was a 6-pounder, because that was the US military's strict requirement.

All clues surrounding the cannon's disappearance never said it was a US Army military cannon, but it was listed as a generic small military cannon and that made its origin unknown unless it was engraved with its heritage intact. Bob assumed the carriage had a brass plaque. It was the engravement or plaque that gives the cannon authenification.

It took seven men to service a 6-pound cannon, but in reality Bob had miscalculated the fact that a 6-pound cannon with carriage and caisson with all tools weighed 4,485 pounds dry weight and it required six horses to pull it on hard soil. Each horse represents 600 pounds pulling weight and all in all the entire battery needed 17-21 men to service this piece. The only thing Bob got right was the fact the Cannonsburg cannon was made of bronze, but the size is what confused and clouded his mind when the townsfolk said it made an awesome roar. For a time I'm going to halt the Cannonsburg cannon story, but occasionally you'll get flash backs of the tragedy. We need to visit ancient cannon history stretched over 500 years, because the past does have a direct bearing on the cannon as seen from the English, French, Spanish, Scottish and Dutch history.

The who, what, when, where, how and why's of cannon production in the Old World gave Bob and crew a glimpse of the problems associated with royalty. The Cannonsburg cannon originated between 1373-1748. When given to Cannon Township town elders the cannon was already an ancient weapon meaning it was over 100 years old and was made prior to the HMS Victory made in 1744 that was found by Odyssey Marine Excavators, Inc. out of Miami, Florida in 2009 using towed sonar. The first class Man of Wars soared 20 stories tall above the waterline in 1744, the same height as the USS Ronald Reagan which is 1,092 feet long and nearly as long as the Empire State Building is tall, while British Man of Wars like the Victory were 450 feet long and British Great Lakes vessels were under 160 feet long.


Remember the Chileans in your prayers. The South American country of Chile is still shaking violently three days (Feb. 27th, 2010) after a massive 8.8 earthquake and many lives have been lost and the towns are in shambles. Lake Ponchetrain's water rolled near New Orleans when the quake struck thousands of miles south. Dogs that bark for an unseen reason foretell earthquake immenence. Chile has suffered the most severe earthquake in hundreds of years and its infrastructure has been destroyed and the country took the brunt of the Tsunami - 30 foot waves. Chile produces lots of produce and fish for American markets. As Americans were for Haiti the Chileans need international help, too.

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