Friday, March 26, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 48

We return now to Bob Alcumbrack's journey into what happened to the Cannonsburg cannon. Did it meet its demise after it killed Walter Tompsett? Finding rusty cannonballs gave Bob evidence of its existence, but the size gave Bob time to fine tune his dowsing skills. However, a prerequisite of dowsing means one must be factual and just knowing its size isn't enough to envision the physical characteristics. Bob, the crew and I let our imaginations run wild what decorations or inscriptions were engraved in such a rare cannon. Was it "pure art or trophy " status ordnance from an English Man of War vessel or a field artillery piece beholding the marks of royalty up until about 1750.

The Rose and Crown of the Tudors frequently decorated English cannons up to 1714. After this date flowery initials "GR" for George Rex were cast on most barrels of English cannons, while the Fleur-de-Lis is the French identification. When it is incorporated into the shield of Spain from 1700-1808 and engraved with a big "N" with or without a spread-winged eagle, it's the mark of Napoleon that denotes it as a French gun c. 1808-1815. The big "N" on swords to a collector of antiquities makes for easy identification between Napoleon and Civil War swords.

In fact government thefts of priceless artifacts has been around since 1000 B.C. The Israelite temple in Jerusalem was pillaged by the invading armies twice. The Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar around 586 B.C. and by Roman Emporer Vespasian in A.D. 70. In fact when Le Grande Cannon was a teenager deciding what his future would hold, we have Napoleon's army invading Egypt during his 1798-99 campaign. His army uncovered one of the most famous spoils he considered a national treasure of the war called the "Rosetta Stone." The Rosetta Stone language courses we use today are the proprietary language learning software of which both title and logo are in reference to the original Rosetta Stone found in 1798.

In Napoleon's campaign in Egypt he brought "Men of letters and Science" whose sole responsibility was to unlock, learn and understand the mysteries of the Egyptians. In the town called "Rosetta" it was reported that Napeoleon's invading French army knocked down a wall containing the engraved rosetta stone. It was laying on the ground and chiseled into it were two languages in Greek and Egyptian with three scripts.

The first was Egyptian script on Hieroglyphs used 1000 B.C. during the first dynasty. The second script was determined to be a cursive language of Demotics that evolved from Hieroglyphs from 643 B.C. The third was ancient Greek. The stones message was repeated in three scripts. Since Greek was easy to intrepret, it was used over time to decipher Egyptian Hieroglyphics.

Napoleon's accidental discovery by conquest of the Rosetta Stone made it possible for the Hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt to be understood and translated. It originates from a decree passed by the Council of Priests that affirms the royal cult of the 13-year old male ruler King of Egypt Ptolemy V at his coronation 205-180 B.C.

The Rosetta Stone language of today uses primarily images, text and sound as a method of learning to understand vocabulary terms and grammatical functions termed "Dynamic Immersion" learning. It is patterned after the original Rosetta Stone language and principles of the ancients. Although Napoleon's army may have been looters of artifacts, the fact remains had they not found this national treasure the understandings of Hieroglyphics and mysteries of the Egyptians might not have been discovered and the Rosetta Stone language of today would have been an impossibility. Napoleon's men of science only had the treasure a few years, then the British soldiers captured the Rosetta Stone in 1801.

About this time France, Germany and the Romans were engraving cannons with eagle wings, too. Bob got so excited when I discovered that certain English guns carried the mark "B.O." meaning British Ordnance and nearly all British guns carried a Broad Arrow cut on top of the reinforcement forward of the breech. The up facing narrow arrow is 1-2 inches long and very easy to miss without close observation of any piece.

Another way to identify a cannon's timeline was the vent. Between 1700-1850 many cannons had two vents; side by side found on the barrel of the gun. Only one vent is open, the other plugged. It was a safety feature in case one vent became inoperable in time of need. American militiamen weren't aware of this feature, because we weren't skilled in cannon manufacturing craftsmanship. Bob originally thought the timeline of the Cannonsburg cannon was 1775-1825, but the discovery of the cannonball quickly put it in the "doubt it" category.

Engraved twin dolphins with tails arching in the air with heads and tails on the barrel was a popular design used between 1500-1699. As you see any model parts on a cannon could identify from what time period the Cannonsburg cannon originated. This fired up our imaginations that ran wild with anticipation of what we'd find on the Cannonsburg cannon. We kept our silence fearing we might tip off some other cannon hunting group to how valuable the lost cannon was to the community.

Since the Cannonsburg cannon was engraved with a private person's name like Le Grand Cannon it was I who suggested to Bob his discovery of small cannonballs meant it wasn't an American army ordnance. It originated from England, France, Scotland or Netherlands. Remember any cannons in the American military were mostly captured or stolen from the English who captured French and Spanish cannons. Six-pound field artillery pieces don't cut anyone down at the knees. The small pop gun Davy Crockett gave to Mike Fink was a small half-pound Robinett (named after a Robin), a brass cannon that weighed 150-250 pounds.

Bob Alcumbrack knew the Cannonsburg cannon was pre-Civil War era, but what he didn't know was how old. Before the July 1885 accident that killed Tompsett, the Federal government was warning local governments to dispose of old cannons, but the reference was made towards old cannons, most iron made with scrap metals after the Civil War or captured guns from the War of 1812 or so. Remember many iron cannons made last only twenty-five years - the Cannonsburg cannon was in use for 38 years without incident. Sure lots of cannons were prematurely discharging in Michigan like in Rockford and Grand Haven in 1884. Hundreds were being injured yearly.

Sure the liability monster was rearing its ugly head, but the fact remains that none of the Cannonsburg seven had any military training and is this the mystery that sealed the fate cannon's fate by being buried the first time? Were the tools of the cannon missing? Why didn't they make new ones? What do you think was the primary reason the town elders buried the town cannon July 3, 1885? Why wait until the last possible day before it would be used? You apply the answers, we did!

It could have been a captured piece or lost gun of English or French origins. Maybe it was a stored family heirloom? Or, was it a lost bronze gun removed from a French or Spanish warship and kept in storage by a friend or acquaintance of Le Grand Cannon's? Or was it a gift delivered to Le Grand Cannon from his friend Capt. Gillispie of Her Majesty's Royal Army, who captured it from a Spanish galleon or purchased it from a private foundry in England or Scotland?

I felt Capt. Gillispie could have known where to resurrect a special small bronze cannon after he left Her Majesty's service and gave it to Mr. Cannon. Cannon was wealthy, a man of deliberate and adventurous means or he himself might have purchased it from a private foundry, but not in America, but France. Mr. Cannon was French and his father fought with Americans during the American Revolutionary War. Le Grand was born in New York in 1786. Mr. Cannon and Capt. Gillispie met on the battlefield or near its conclusion (War of 1812-18).

Next time I'll delve into the mysteries and secrets of Le Grand Cannon. Sun is risin' and I gotta' a job to pull out in the cold. Brrrr - 18 degrees! Maybe I'll wait another hour or so. It's morning snack time.

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