Thursday, April 8, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 56

Search for secrets of a sunken cannon today is dedicated to the memory of Fess Parker, the actor, who passed away in California, March 2010. Disney's Classic called Davy Crockett and The River Pirates was my generational action hero, whose adventurous life stirred many Americans to seek adventure and explore America beyond their wildest dreams. Be risk takers. Parker, Ebsen and York portrayed the legends of America's most beloved folk heroes. Davy Crockett knew the value of bronze cannons.

Bronze guns are the most valuable trophies, the ultimate weapons in times of war. The raised and sunken decoration reliefs plus the legends of reigning families makes any cannon a trophy. Iron cannons carried the family crests of kings. Queen Mary, the Queen of Scot's father-in-law was so proud of her tenacity he emblazoned her crest over that of England's Queen Elizabeth's crest.

Elizabeth was furious, the maddest queen on earth at the time, when she found out that Mary's cannons were engraved over her marks. Elizabeth was Protestant and Mary was Catholic. When Mary fled Scotland and set foot in London Elizabeth had Mary captured, arrested, imprisoned and beheaded. Elizabeth feared Mary could start a religious war in England. Mary was dangerous, but future history would reveal that Queen Elizabeth was paranoid of Mary and she wasn't as bad as feared and still lives on in the hearts of a few English. Still the placement of Mary's crest over Elizabeth caused much of Elizabeth's indignation. Ever wondered what happened to Mary's cannons. Could it be Elizabeth sent Mary's cannons to the Lost Colonies in America.

The Lost Colony cannon recovered in a commercial fishing net off Virginia in the 1980's had decoration reliefs nobody in America could decipher. The historian at the Tower of London didn't understand the decoration. It may have been a decorative combination of the two queens. He dated the cannon the late 1500's. Most of England's cannons were made by the Dutch. Smaller specialty cannons with inscriptions were cast in pairs by master gunfounders in the presents of royalty outside of England. England had to import copper and lead.

Swivel guns were 44-65 inches long. Mike Fink's bronze peashooter was fictional, since most swivel guns weighed 500 pounds at 45 inches long. Fink's two-foot long cannon weighed 150-200 pounds and shot an 8 ounce stone or shot. Loaded with pea stones or buck shot it could do lots of damage. Half pound cannon's were the smallest, and yes, if this bronze cannon were cradled in your arms and shot it's recoil could send you for a loop or in the drink. Crockett was only in New Orleans to sell his furs for the best price and wasn't there long enough to have a bronze cannon made, because cannon founders never existed so who had the expertise to engrave it personally for Mike Fink. That's a mystery!

Now Bob Alcumbrack didn't think the cannon would be that small and he hadn't planned on what he was seeking to weigh 3800 pounds. Another wrong assumption was how could township elders permit the firing of such a large cannon shooting cannonballs weighing 4-8 pounds over Cannonsburg. Too populated in 1880's.

Small military cannon in Bob's mind meant it was a six-pounder, but there was never a mention the cannon was American and most of the guns in America were captured English cannons. The most logical was a captured 6-pound English cannon, but these cannons were made only by the Dutch for England before the Civil War.

Cannons for English armament were the heaviest in the World. For every pound of projectile shot the piece must weigh a minimum of 310 pounds. Iron was heavier than bronze, but bronze guns were two to three times more expensive to cast and that's why so many kings and queens stopped purchasing them, because they became highly sought trophies of war. It was never Bob's intention to mislead the public what size cannon he was hoping to find, because he didn't know precisely.

What caliber was the Cannonsburg cannon? He had no idea except the clue "awesome blast." Should he have launched such an expedition to recover the lost cannon on a whimsical clue or would you have mounted a search praying you would find it. All Bob knew was that old age maladies were starting to increase, the aches and pains of getting older. He knew in his heart and mind it was time to start digging up his wildest dream just like it was Davy Crockett's dream to explore and fight for the freedoms of others. Never in Bob's wildest dream did he ever get the feelings it'd be easy. Never in his wildest dreams were the feelings so strong. Now or never!

So what's your dream?

If you can't catch your dream, keep on dreaming, but don't wait until it's too late to try something of your affection or the dream will die of old age maladies called "I can't or I forget." Once you get here you no longer have the stamina and driving force from within to make your dream reality. Is it a dream or goal? Will you achieve both? Don't listen to noisy negatives. Do it! Is your destiny calling? Will it make a difference in the lives of others or just you? Will you stand in the spotlight or shadows?

Le Grand Cannon kept many mysterious secrets from his family, relatives, friends and associates who thought his trip in 1848 was his last chance for wilderness fishing with his friend John Ball. He planned to go fishing, but first he had chaperone his cannon and take the long passage by Great Lakes steamboats to Grand Haven. He couldn't chance someone stealing it.

A Rensselaer County Historical Society volunteer researcher in Troy, New York in 1990 said he was absolutely astonished how well Mr. Cannon kept his secret cannon out of the public realm. He wasn't aware that the names Cannonsburg and Cannon Township is an honorary name and that he gave the cannon to town elders in 1848. Cannon kept this secret. He didn't want the world to know of all his achievement just as men today don't list all their achievements either because the paper trails could fill warehouses.

Searching through history is like remembering our past life. The older we get the more we fill in the blanks when we can't remember old memories; places, things, dates and deaths of our mentors. This is probably the number one reason why the newspaper writers in 1886 said Tompsett was killed by a prematurely discharging cannon or small military cannon and never mentioned an approximate age of cannon. Many newspaper accounts second and third hand posted it as a military cannon (6-pound). Failure to remember minute' details we as humans tend to embellish or glorify details to the point when they become legends and rumors.

As Mike Fink said the Davy Crockett, "Your a foot shorter than you oughta' be."

Crockett replied, "It's mighty hard to live up to legends sometimes." This shows how legends and yarns expand with time. It's how legends are born, but it was never Bob's intention to become a legend. He was the 'shy guy' in a camera viewfinder. Legendmaker historian's like me must keep factual and fight truth decay. My mind and your mind is aging, too.

Bob became a community legend in 1986 of his own accord. He grasped the neck of his wildest dream and was glad he started the biggest expedition of his life. However, when his first big dig was a failure, yes, it did make him very sad, but his crew and I wouldn't let him quit. We kept going against the odds and helped him figure out what went wrong and why and how to correct and push onward. I

f you quit because you struck a wall someone else will pick up the pieces and make it work. They'll be rich! I was Bob's historical researher and his catalyst to the future. You'd be wrong to assume he didn't achieve his wildest dream. Don't construe this as Bob didn't find the cannon. Bob discovered what the absent man (Fred Thomas hid before the second cannon burial. Two others shine like stars in the spotlight of history.

Bob and friends will cast a bright spotlight on the secret caliber of the missing cannon. Fred Thomas' grandfather James Thomas kept the ultimate secret silent, but not discovered until almost 150 years into the future. The mysteries of the Cannonsburg's lost cannon stretched our imaginations and broadened our horizons as ultimate cannon hunters and scientists just like the dreams of Davy Crockett.

Next time Le Grand Cannon's journey to Michigan, his last before his death in 1850, will expose what he was transporting up the Grand River.

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