Monday, May 31, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 89

Thunderstorms with copious amounts of rain can spoil holiday weekends. Memorial Day it was hot, sticky, humid drenching rain with vivid lightning. Too much in fact, but back in 1986 Bob Alcumbrack's world of wet weather was a dowsers best friend when searching for secrets of a sunken cannon. When storms pass the winds go calm making dowsing easier. Less chance of rods being disturbed and electromagnetic fields are closer to the ground.

In 1848 when Le Grand Cannon was coming up the Grand River by steamboat it was hot and sticky. The air was so hot that E. B. Bostwick his land agent couldn't meet him at the shipping docks in Grand Rapids. Bostwick had breathing problems and stayed in his hotel room until Mr. Cannon checked into the hotel. Unfortunately the air inside the hotel was almost as bad as outside and Bostwick couldn't imagine why the aged Mr. Cannon who was ailing would come from New York personally to deliver the Cannonsburg cannon to the Cannon Township's first elected officials.

Naming a township government in his honor just warmed the cockles of Le Grand Cannon's heart and he was going to secretly bestow his appreciation with a personal gift for naming it Cannon Township. Only a personal gift was fitting for such an honor. Dockworkers in Grand Rapids mentioned the cannon only briefly, which is postive proof such a cannon did indeed exist. None of Mr. Cannon's personal archives in New York mention the cannon. It was his secret. He was in fact a carbon copy of his forefathers; secretive like the wiles of Congressmen today who keep mistresses secret in other countries.

We hid the value of the Cannonsburg cannon with its engraved royal warrants, crests, seals and Le Grand Cannon's engraved plaque from the public. Being intact the value of such a cannon would rocket significantly which would make it an ultimate treasure hunters trophy in Michigan, America and worldwide. The cannon's significance made it imperative for us to keep our tongues silent. Treasure hunters should never kiss and tell until the object of their affection is found. Value is keeping its heritage intact. Without authenticity cannons become worthless junk, park or marine landscape decorations.

Tourists did you know that Mackinaw Island's remaining cannons are all reproductions with the exception of the 32-pounder below the fort on the lawn. Those above are replicas of originals, but they all lack the historical legends and historical designations engraved in them. The 32-pounder is the only real McCoy left over from the War of 1812. The rest were either dumped into a deep well on the island, or skuttled on warships in Lake Huron and those who made it until World War I and II were recycled. During the War of 1812 when the British captured Fort Mackinaw from Americans the six-pounders used against them were their own cannons captured or stolen during the American Revolutionary War. Americans engraved capture dates and locations of captured cannons from Saratoga and Yorktown, New York. The British recovered their own weapons.

Bob's second excavation was nearing its end in summer 1988, but Bob was still being guided with false positive readings. Again Bob found a bed of hard clay where many veins of water were intersected with heavy amounts of iron ore deposits. Although he failed miserably we pressed onward to site number three. We could have stopped digging once site number two was a bust, but it wasn't our nature to quit. We already knew what Bob had to find - a smaller cannon and Bob's dowsing skills were improving so we pressed on with excavation number three in 1989. The site had another 65-72 inch object buried deep in mud beneath a steep bank. This size might match a culverin.

Bob bought a telescoping backhoe bucket to excavate the third hole. Something was below. The magnetic field indicated it was 65-72 inches long. At about 7 feet down the bucket snared something with suction under it, but the bucket couldn't lift it up. Bob's adrenalin rushed when he thought he snagged the cannon. The hole was dewatered and Allen Janose and Bob probed the bottom with metal rods and they were so excited when the metal rods returned a signal.

Bob powered up the backhoe. It shuddered as the claw snagged something below water and with lifting power all of a sudden the hole filled fast with bubbling ice-cold water. Water gushed into the hole at hundreds of gallons per minute and then we could hear the swish suction noises as the water gave up its prize. It wasn't the cannon, but a chunk of upper shelf bedrock that was torn free and Bob dumped the bucket to reveal a broken piece of rock that hadn't seen daylight since the dawn of creation. Bob had ripped a chunk of stone up, releasing a torrent of ice-cold water from the top of an underground river. The inside rock was stained with bright orange iron ore deposits engrusted with large diatoms showing its age since the stone was formed.

The outer surface was layered with small diatoms indicating that the heavier diatoms sank first to bottom in molten rock and quickly cooled as the glacier moved forward leaving the smaller diatoms falling last onto the outward surface. Diatoms were single-celled or colonial yellow-brown algae, which form an important part of freshwater plankton. Diatoms were the siliceous cell walls of dead organisms at time of creation attached to molten rock that were supercooled by moving glaciers of ice.

We were studying the diatoms when all of a sudden the bubbling water ceased in the hole and it was if a toilet was being flushed. All the water disappeared into the bowels of the earth, the water rushing down inside the rock and disappeared. We could see the strong water currents rush past beneath the stone. Probing we couldn't find the bottom and the current was exceedingly strong and like after flushing the toilet the water returned with amazing force and after a few minutes the toilet was flushed again, a torrent of water disappearing with increased suction power. This happens every day and if fact I've been in a deep trench cut through clay and witnessed water gushing out of every crack and like the flush of a toilet the water disappearing backwards into the cracks from which it came. Weird!

In the end we found out that on dry land Bob's use of the brass angle rods to find buried objects he was about 90% accurate (depth and size), but in wetland areas, the iron ore deposits in water veins rendered his rod usage 90% inaccurate. We realized he couldn't dig up his wildest dream in wetland areas using his specialized brass angle rods. Only professional diviners and water witches used these rods to find water and not brass cannons, which was a misrepresentation of treasure hunting lore. On dry land he could find brass objects and he could time date objects and coins. Bob humbled himself, but never gave up searching. The electromagnetic fields he found intrigued him. At one point he thought he had traced the cannon to Slayton Lake, Greenville, Mt. Pleasant, Newaygo and Traverse City, but all these places had their own old cannons to dispose of too, as well as Rockford, Sparta and nearly every other town that used old cannons to celebrate the Fourth of July. The old post Civil War era cannons service was nearing extinction.

Research has shown that the Cannonsburg cannon predated the Civil War by 200 years or more. It's hard to believe that the original cannon crew would sell or trade the killer cannon knowing that it killed their friend. The township officials and mishap cannon shooters and Rena Tompsett wanted it to disappear forever, but where did they bury it?

So where did Tompsett's grief stricken friends go to dispose of the ancient relic known as the Cannonsburg cannon? Where did they bury it? How could they be gone only 45-60 minutes? Did such a place exist in 1885 where Bob Alcumbrack in 1986 could never disturb a sunken cannon? Could the former Blacksmith owner named James Thomas have secretly smelted the cannon down after Tompsett's funeral or recycled it into other products or did they bury it where the Townsend Park Pavilion is today?

Search outside the box for answers. Bob Alcumbrack again had prison palor upon the potential conclusion. At least form an opinion of what happened to the Cannonsburg cannon. I've already told you where it is buried. The only trouble is I didn't give you an exact location. I'm challenging you to a duel of brain cells. Fire up those neurons and see if your mind's eye is strong enough to find the missing cannon. Next time I'll sharpen our focus on what happened to the missing cannon showing where Bob went wrong and where things went right. We had become the mysterious ley line hunters of Cannonsburg and Bob found... Oops, my horns are risin' again or my halo is flickering.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 88

Progression of time changes models like automobiles and cannons. DeSoto's and Thunderbirds are extinct and two-pound cannons were no longer cast by the early 1700's, which is why the Grand Rapidians called the Cannonsburg cannon an ancient relic. These were replaced with 3-pound falcons and culverins and one-half pound rifle guns were made.

It was indeed rare to find a 2-pound cannons on His Majesty's Royal Navy fleet or have cannons with French registry. British naval regulations state that 6-pound cannons not exceed 72 inches in length, but field cannons sitting on a carriage could be more than 13 feet in length. The increased size provided the necessary weight to keep the cannon from flipping while being fired.

This is the size of cannon Bob attempted to find at dig sites number one and two. Discovery of the cannonballs put Bob on a collision course of destiny to envision the correct cannon of his wildest dream. Dowsers must have a correct mind's eye and use a silent mantra that isn't flawed in wording. One word can make a difference.

Bob Alcumbrack was correct when the old timer's said "the cannon's blast was awesome." When firing falconets and culverins these 15th and 16th cannons did indeed deliver an 'awesome deafening roar' whether by sea or land. They shot 1-2 pound projectiles or grapeshot that could obliterate the naval decks of weapons, rigging and men. Several fired from the upper decks could wipe an attacking vessels decks clean. Its awesome firepower was more deadlier than the bigger naval cannons below decks.

Bob assumed that because of the awesome firepower over Cannonsburg remarks that it must be a six pound cannon, but it was the elevation of this weapon on a carriage that confused him. Had Tompset been shot with this cannon the ramrod would have struck him anywhere from the lower abdomen to his chest and not in the knee.

Estella Ward told Bob that when the cannon on carriage passed her parent house in the wee hours of July 5, 1885, the carriage wheels squeaked loudly indicating it was old, but Bob never found out how old. If it was a specially designed steel carriage why didn't someone oil the wheel hubs. They couldn't if hubs were made of wood. Oil would make wood expand causing the wheels to lock. If hubs were wood and metal something was being pinched. Could it be that over the years they lost the correct lubricant? If metal carriage hubs why didn't they grease the wheel rims? The only reason they sacrificed such an honorable historical piece of Cannon history is because it killed their best friend and colleague.

They buried the cannon or dismembered it so they wouldn't be constantly see the visual portrait of a killer. The tragedy wouldn't have happened had they obeyed the township elders desire to rid them of the cannon before it injured or killed someone in their community. Too many people without military artillery training were dying for the thrill of firing celebratory cannons on the Fourth of July. Fireworks replaced cannons, but present day medical personnel would argue that fireworks are just as dangerous. Still too many injuries or deaths.

The discovery of 1.87 inch diameter cannonballs energized Bob Alcumbrack. They originate from a 2-pound (2 inch calibre) English falconet or culverin with French registry. What made them unique was that these cannons were cast in bronze in pairs before a King, Queen or Prince of Denmark, Norway, Scotland, France or England from 1450-1635. Those made of cast iron in England were made between 1635 and 1754, but the Cannonsburg cannon was bronze because it had been used for 38 years without mishap. Iron cannons are good for only 25 years and the rapidians called it an ancient relic. Ancient means over 100 years old.

Tompsett was killed by a muzzleloader (ramrod), while some cast iron pieces are breechloaders. This also time dates the cannon. After 1650 some cast iron cannons were manufactured in England, but these were more deadly to those firing them than against combatants. That's because of faulty workmanship and covering up the fact that lords and sovereigns were taking kickbacks between good and bad cannons. They were supposed to be solid bronze or iron and not lead covered in bronze or iron. His Majesty preferred quality brass cannons, but they were expensive, but less deadly to his loyal sailors and more expensive to replace. It costs one ducat to purchase a bronze cannon. That today is equilavent to nine shillings and four pence or $100 in US currency. Proably in the 1600's less than $25.00 each.

King Henry VIII (1491-1547) was a cheapskate and he didn't care how many of his loyal subjects perished fighting England. Quality control of cannons made in England he left to others, but they took advantage of his stupidity by taking kickbacks from passing off bad cannons as quality. Dead men don't tell the secrets about why they died and Henry wouldn't listen to the complaints of those who survived premature explosions.

Prior to 1768, the best English cannons were made in the Flander countries of Europe on the North Sea comprised primarily of Belgian, Dutch and French origins. All these countries had the highest registry of captured 2-3 pound cannons (approximately 66 in 1691) and by 1768 very few existed. In 1768 His Majesty's stores listed that only 3rd and 4th class ships carried small cannons. These were listed as swivel or pivot guns on poop stations. England's master gunfounders had not perfected good quality iron cannons until the 1700's. England however was a world leader in manufacturing ship riggings, gunpowder and iron ore cannonballs. England was exceedingly rich in iron ore remains, but it wasn't until 1768 a contract was written between Officers of His Majesty's ordnance and Sameul Walker and Company gunfounders to begin production of iron guns made in England.

During the 26th year reign of Sovereign Lord George III (1786) an agreement was made between the Officers of Ordnance and Joshua Walker, Joseph Walker and John Crawshaw, of Rotherham in County of York, gunfounders and co-partners to rearm his Majesty's fleet. No small cannons of two-three pound poop station cannons were in existence in 1786. This is the year Le Grand Cannon was born, however, a cannon could have been purposely purchased upon his birth and kept in family storage.

Could the cannon have been purchased from a French supplier or might the cannon have originated from Capt. Gillispie's travels when he retired (Lt. Col.) from the Merchant Marines?

In 1787, the Sameul Walker and Company cast and delivered to His Majesty's storekeeper at Woolrich Warren approximately 1000 tons or iron ordnance with His Majesty's crown and ciphering engraved in each piece. They included six small cannons ranging from 65-72 inches long, but with 2.75 inch diameter bores and cast from sand molds and delivered for poop deck operations.

The era for true falcons and smaller-bore diameter culverins was over. Could Mr. Cannon have purchased a small cannon directly from Samuel Walker and Company in 1847 or could the cannon have been a stored family gift of Le Grand Cannon's French heritage? Was the small cannon resurrected from a sunken shipwreck or captured or found during the War of 1812? These are secrets only Le Grand Cannon or God knew! Present day historians in New York couldn't find any paperwork in Cannon's personal archives. The Cannonsburg cannon was a secret gift.

Well, it intends to storm this morning. Hear the thunder rolling and its getting closer so I must quit. I'm hungry. Have to eat breakfast before shuffling off to work. I own the day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 87

Secrets. Bob Alcumbrack had secrets and he couldn't utter a single word to anyone. That's the only way to keep secrets hidden and Bob Alcumbrack kept his 1988 dig secret. Bob and his crew were looking for a Falconet or Culverin. Rare finds on American soil. It was a deck gun mounted on a specialty made ornate field carriage of Mr. Cannon's design, but a Culverin had a carriage that left many people who saw it mystified. It wasn't the standard cannon carriage.

Bob was searching for a naval deck gun that originated from the poop deck of a British warship, a Merchant Marine vessel protection gun or a naval gun converted to an Army easy to maneuver fort or castle cannon of British or French designs. If a culverin it'd be a rarer find. A Falconet was the only match for the 2 inch caliber cannonballs discovered in the old Thomas residence when it was being remodeled in 1987. Bronze falconets and falcons mostly were muzzleloaders and fired lead or iron balls of up to 2 pounds. These were considered one of England's lightest field cannons that could be mounted on ornate carriages and not naval carriages. Naval carriages rolled in a wood track and steel truck wheels (wide, short and heavy don't roll in trail sand). Naval cannons would twist or flip in sand.

The Falconet was rather ordinary, except for its engravings and the engravements by Mr. Le Grand Cannon that incorporated his name and date given to Cannonsburg town fathers. Even this little poop gun when fired was lethal to anything under 800 feet, but if shot with an upward elevation a cannonball or fused bombshell could travel 5,760 feet in four seconds. It was a silent killer. It struck the target before you heard the explosion. Now that's downrange more than a mile. Surely the Cannonsburg town elders wouldn't let that cannon be live fired over Cannonsburg in 1885, but they would if being fired at a distant target over the countryside.

We found it hard to believe that Tompsett and his six friends would be just loading 1.25 pounds of gunpowder and dry firing the cannon just to hear it go "BOOM!" To see big bellows of ashen white smoke or hear the awesome noise it produced wasn't enough to convince us that they just liked firing the cannon. They had to be shooting at a distant target with iron or lead covered stones at close range, but Bob never checked for lead covered stones to the east or north. We knew the men fired off a celebratory shot because that's how they announced the festivities. The people in town always felt the awesome blast and the windows in town rattled. When live firing ceased was unknown however the cannonballs were put into the Thomas residence ceiling prior to 1885. We felt they could have been shooting stones or leaded stones at a target near the Townsend Park pavilion, which at that time in history didn't exist yet.

In 1885 Cannonsburg didn't have lots of trees like we today, but the decaying remnants of massive trees along streams still dot the landscapes. The terrain was more open countryside planted in wheat and pasture grasses. Bob said he never scoured west or northwestern hillsides for cannonballs. We speculated that since James Thomas had a blacksmith shop he could have made the iron cannonballs when he sold his business in the 1870's and kept them as historical momentos.

Don Kurylowitz, the propietor of the Cannonsburg Market & Deli, the Cannonsburg liquor store and Honey Creek Inn, once asked Bob if he ever gave any thought to the idea that maybe the ancient cannon was spirited out of town and hidden, dismembered and brought back to the blacksmith shop after Tompsett's funeral and smelted-down. "Bob turned as white as a ghost" and shuddered at that thought. Bob had prison palor.

Many English cannons that fell into disrepair from the 15th thru 18th century were recycled, smashed, broken into small pieces and melted down and made into bigger cannons to fight in other battles on His Majesty's ships. We wondered if the Cannonsburg cannon was smelted-down what brass objects hadn't we discovered? Our secret was we looked, but didn't find anything, except for white brass buggy ornaments.

Rena Tompsett and Tompsett's six friends wanted to make sure the ancient cannon disappeared upon Walter's death. The town was grief stricken. Now I ask you, would if you were so grief stricken purchase a remanufactured brass object if you knew that in its former life it killed a friend or neighbor?

If the cannon were wrought iron, the Culverin (snake) would rust and decay in wet soil, but not as fast in cold water. On land if shallow buried it'd rust fast, but not if locked in an ice water grave. Wood carriages would be mush in water and Bob at the first dig didn't know how he was going to preserve the architecture of an ornate carriage if made of wood. He was unsure how he was going to capture the brass plaque if fastened to either a wood or metal carriage. He hadn't thought what he was going to do to save the inscription if direct engraved in a wooden carriage.

Whether brass or iron the cold ground water in the Cannonsburg area of Bear Creek and its many tributary streams would preserve a brass cannon, but an iron cannon would be in a state of rusting decay or encrusted with iron ore deposits filling in engravements in the piece. The English call them iron ore remains and England had lots of iron, but lead for cannonball production was imported.

Oddessey Marine Excavators out of Miami, Florida in 2008 also discovered a vessel south of the English Channel they dubbed the "Meatwagon." Towed sonar and GPS coordinates helped find this vessel when searching for the HMS Victory. It was loaded with lead headed to England when it sank. The lead on the sea bottom for more than 275 years is worth tens of millions of dollars if recovered, but it isn't finder's keeper when its in the world's oceans.

If a Culverin, the field carriages are rather plain, but specialty carriages were manufactured, but rare in existence. The barrel of the piece was the subject of awe and steeped heavily in traditions of Switzerland. It was a wrought iron muzzleloader, too, but the barrel is made with welded strips and hoops similar to a beer-barrel. It resembles the metal corrugated drains under driveways and under road stream crossings today. Iron castings were almost impossible to engrave after manufacturing. Engraving them post facto caused miniscule fractures leading to explosions of the piece over time. This is not the reason why so many cannons were prematurely discharging between 1874-1897. People were being killed because they were ignorant in military artillery training. Too many lost tools and slipshod attitudes were the bane of old town cannons. They were cheaply made after the Civil War and didn't pass the muster of military standards.

The Cannonsburg cannon's piece could be mounted on an ornate field carriage specially made for Le Grand Cannon by a secret foundrymen at Cannon's Troy Rolling Mill Works. Le Grand Cannon was the CEO owner. Very few cannon carriages lasted as long as the cannon. The automobile outlives the tires. Human organs sometimes don't live as long as the human. We are all prone to decay sooner or later. What in life never wears out it usefulness? We all are destined to die, but some will rise again, be repaired, sold as junk or recycled. Dust to dust.

Where Le Grand Cannon had the ornate carriage made is a secret. Search of his archival records showed this was his secret, because nothing shows up in any records that documents the cannon 's existence or its carriage. The secret carriage was made secretly by someone in a private foundry or the Falconet was made in a private foundry in England or France, but not in America. Americans didn't possess the knowledge to make good cannons, but Pittsburg foundries were churning out cheap experimental ordnances of recycled iron.

In my time travel searches I found something quite interesting and unusual. It mystified my imagination of what the Cannonsburg cannon may have looked like when I found how some 16-year old boys in Rockford, Michigan in 1907 knew how to make a Switzerland cannon that resembles a Culverin to replace the post Civil War cannon someone pitched into the depths of Myers Lake. Someone had possibly seen the Cannonsburg cannon and showed its design to the boys so they could make a cannon similar to a Culverin. I couldn't fathom how a few 16-year olds could duplicate a Culverin and build it in Del Tower's Foundry in Rockford in 1907. These boys weren't born until 1891, but their fathers and grandfathers might have remembered the Cannonsburg cannon and made a similar diagram. Where would 16-year olds see pictures or diagrams of a cannon from the 15th thru 16th century?

It is the size and weight of the Thomas' cannonballs that show it to originate from Falconets. Culverin's had to be a minimum of 72-inches in length and quite heavy to keep it from flipping when fired. Bronze falconets manufactured from the 1500's to 1643 were two-pounders weighing 500-800 pounds shooting a lead or iron ball weighing 1.39 to 1.49 pounds from a bore diameter of 2.01 inches. The Cannonsburg iron cannonballs weighed 1.41 pounds and were 1.87 inches in diameter, which predates the cannon being made before 1643.

After 1643, the bore diameter increased to 2.25 inches, then 2.50 inches and 2.75 inches before 1754. Balls are made thirteen to twenty-three hundreths of an inch smaller than bore size. After 1643, the 2.25 inch balls are too big for a 1.87 inch cannonball. Falcons (iron) shot a projectile from 2.5- 3.0 pounds from a 2.75-inch caliber after 1643 and 72-inches in length weighing 700 pounds. Culverin's of equal caliber were 33% longer and heavier (72-84" long), and weighed 800-1750 pounds, which would have made Cannonsburg cannon too big and heavy to be pulled from a grave near a stream by five men. Culverin's were massive brutes and were odd wherever found, if not bizarre looking cannons.

Most culverins, falcons and falconets were manufactured until 1735, which would explain why the Rapidians called the Cannonsbug cannon an ancient and odd-looking relic. John Fuller III made only four small-bore culverins around 1735, but this doesn't mean that other master gun founders didn't stop making them. Fuller made 120 falconets in 1754, but the bore diameter was much larger at 2.75 inches.

Culverine, falcons and falconets were fired from the upper and half decks of 3rd, 4th and 6th class British naval ships that had two decks, especially during the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812 in North America. Her Majesty's Merchant Navy used these small cannons as purely defensive weeapons, but vessels rarely fired them. These were trophy weapons.

Merchant ships in the 18th and 19th centuries were outfitted with small hand-me-down old falcons, falconets, robinets and more ancient culverins from the Royal Navy, who refused to use them any longer. They were too expensive to lose in battles and weren't replaced. By the late 17th century, His Majesty's British naval ships carried no small cannons, however some were salvaged from sunken wrecks or captured ships rendered useless or sold as junk cannons to wealthy individuals. Falconets complete with carriage cost 97 ducats in European and Venice gold and silver coinage.

Falcons and culverins and predominantly all other English bronze cannons were made in Denmark, Hollands, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden until the mid 1700's... Oops, its getting late and I'm hungry and I've got work to do today...

Monday, May 24, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 86

Time stands still for nobody. One must remember what I wrote about the PLUMPER in search for secrets of a sunken cannon #85 was written in 1990 and lots has changed over twenty years. The British navy has recovered more than half the specie from the PLUMPER and today this shipwreck is a protected provincial site. You are forewarned not to explore this shallow wreck, but you be welcome to dream about finding another lost shipwreck. Searching for sunken shipwrecks, treasures and cannons isn't a cheap hobby unless you are one of Joan River's "How'd You Get So Rich" shows on TV Land. Inventing something useful like Chia Pets yields faster rewards than finding treasures in the sea. It isn't finders keepers!

It seems the vessel's booty has risen since Capt. Hull of the USS Constitution described it in his memoires about the PLUMPER. He wrote it was carrying 4 tons of Spanish sterling silver, so when did it change to 36000 pounds of silver and gold coinage and that's 18 tons. Silver today is $18.00 an ounce in U.S. currency. That's a sizable lot to be carrying that much weight and 10-14 big guns and 75 men with all the rigging on an 81-foot gun brig. Or is it that the passage of time has swelled the legends about the PLUMPER's cache? Could it be that Capt. Hull was misinformed or could it been a secret paymaster vessel? Lost shipwrecks tend to amaze treasure hunters.

Most cannons recovered today become trophy treasures to be saved. Most recovered spend their days decorating gardens at Disney World or marinas or recycled as junk. Those in the best of condition might end up as historical keepsakes to remind those of the future where we've been and to stay alive by not striking or touch a match to vents of any found cannons. The normal useful life of an iron cannon was 20-40 years old, while bronze in good condition lasts for hundreds of years on the bottom of the seas or buried on land, that's wet or dry. Don't assume that just because a cannon has been on the bottom of the sea the powder is wet. The guns might be sabotaged, but fully loaded, the gunpowder charges protected with oily ropes or wadding.

The class names of cannons are all named after reptiles, birds and birds of prey or things similar to the enemies of man and beast. Often they sound fierce and fierce weapons they are. The word "Culverines" was French for couleuvre meaning common snake; the "Sling" is the English version of the German schlange, meaning serpent; the "Saker" from the French sacre meaning sparrow-hawk; Falcon, Falconet, Fauconnett and Drake meaning birds of prey; the Robinet meaning robin-redbreast; the Shrimps mean many smaller calibre guns.

For every hundredth weight of metal it requires one man for military or field service. For every 500 pounds of metal one horse is required to draw any piece of artillery. Bob Alcumbrack believed the Cannonsburg cannon was a big 6 pound cannon and with caisson for moving it it would weigh over 7000 pounds. What he didn't realize was that it would require 70 men and 14 horses to service this piece and not seven men and four horses. If pulled in winter snow or thick trail sand such a cannon would require a minimum of 14 yoke of oxen to move it and a third part more by Mathemetician Nathaniell Nye's calculations in 1670.

Bob was sure wrong in his assumption the Cannonsburg cannon was a six-pound field service piece, the smallest calibre cannon in the US Army prior to 1858. His only evidence of the Cannonsburg cannon's existence was brief description in the Cannon Township Historical Book describing it as a small military cannon bearing his name and date.

Other than this Bob had no physical or tangible evidence to support his claim it was a 6-pound cannon and he never ventured a guess it might be smaller and not American made. Maggie McCarthy recognized this as being odd. Bob's repetitive dreams of finding the cannon were based on circumstancial evidence based upon what writers in the book stipulated, but how did Bob get the idea it was a U.S Army cannon. The Federal government doesn't give private citizens military cannons, but the military did transport small field cannons to western villages and towns to protect them from Indian raiding parties.

The US Army was attempting to transport two cannons northward into Michigan's central region in 1836 to counter renegade Indian uprisings when the Treaty of Greenville was signed deeding all lands north of the Grand River to the Federal government. One was lost crossing the river and one survived a dunking and was hauled north to parts unknown. These were four pound field cannons and probably captured guns from the British during the War of 1812.

The discovery of the 1.87 inch cannonballs in the Thomas residence in 1987 is where Bob had to change his dowsing mantra so he could find the right sized cannon, a Falconet or Culverine, the size that did correspond with Bob's measurements at the third and last secret burial site. Three cannonballs rolled and dropped out of the second story floor and he believed they were keepsakes stored for personal reasons and Bob assumed they were from the Cannonsburg cannon. Why assume they weren't?

Finding three cannonballs didn't give him proof positive they were from the Cannonsburg cannon. No visible markings other than a circular pattern, not pits or markings, just the ghost image, which two different cannon experts could agree on whether or not they were shot. The balls might have been keepsake momentos from James Thomas' grandfather who came from France to fight against the British for American independence during the American Revolutionary War. The balls had a 50/50 chance of being from the Cannonsburg cannon and Bob and crew pursued the theory they were iron cannonballs made in Cannonsburg at James Thomas' blacksmith shop after 1867. This date is when he set up his business.

The British were still firing ordnances of 2.01 inch calibre, but cannonballs were last manufactured in 1735 by the Fullers of Heathfield, Sussex, UK, who were Sussex master gunfounders (1706-1775). Falconets being manufactured by the Fullers in 1754 shot 2.75 inch cannonballs. Dating cannonballs is done by size changes over time.

Falcons and falconets, were the smallest of two pound cannons, but in 1644 four smaller bores of 1-inch calibre (Eng) called model guns or Robinets were made for Charles, Prince of Wales and feathers were engraved upon them. They were 30 inches in length and weighed 200 pounds each and shot 1.2 pound stone shot or pea stones with devastating effect. Very few two pound cannons were made after 1650. They were replaced with three-pounders and pea shooters that shot 1/2 pound balls.

These were considered heavier versions of the swivel gun Davy Crockett bestowed to Mike Fink or the one attached to the bow of the Grand River steamboat called the Hummingbird. This vessel was small, but had a shallow draft which allowed it to maneuver in shallow water or rapid currents. It had collapsible stacks.

English falconets were the best brass cannons money could buy, but they were highly sought as war trophies for their ability to be discharged 140 times a day withut fusing the vent from excessive heat or bursting prematurely. That's why iron guns had two vents just in case one was plugged. Usually iron guns burst prematurely before the 30 repeat firing the same day.

Proof of falconets was to fire it and place a stick of butter or piece of candle wax on the barrel. When cannon was fired and if it didn't melt it was quality brass (bronze) and that's the only reason why Mike Fink's arms weren't burned by the blast firing his little poop gun at the Indian canoes, but Fink did go overboard from its powerful blast. Not even Paula Dean on the FOOD channel could melt her stick of butter on a Georgia fortress bronze cannon during a demonstration firing.

British vessels may have ruled the seas from 1373 to present, but during King Henry VIII (1509) reign he forced England to become one of the largest producers of various sizes and types of cannons to survive. Seems the country was always embroiled in war someplace. England lost nearly a thousand cannons during the Battle of Calais, France in 1538 and the falconets disappeared fast as war trophies. After this miserable loss it was evident that in order for England to survive it had to have a fierce fighting navy or cease to exist. Well its getting late blogging and I must go to work otherwise I cease to exist. Can't have fun writing all the time. See you next time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 85

Search for secrets of a sunken cannon yielded many surprises and one of which was the discovery of an English warship PLUMPER. This an unexplained mystery ghost ship that had escaped the annals of English history probably because of how it met its doom during the War of 1812 and the fact it might have been an embarrassment to the English navy. I found this vessel in 1990 while reading microfiche of the Grand Rapids Weekly Enquirer in 1852. at the Grand Rapids Public Library with a colleague Dr. Carl Bajema, GVSU. I reported my discovery to English authorities, but the PLUMPER remains in obscurity to this day by England. It's a solved unexplained mystery.

The Boston Courier said that treasure hunters had begun to "explore the wreck of the British frigate PLUMPER, which sank near Dipper Harbor about halfway between Eastport and St. Johns, New Brunswick in 1815. The vessel was carrying $50,000 to $100,000 in Spanish silver. The wreck lies in fifty feet of water (liquid ice water) and portions of the vessel was partially buried beneath 6' of shifting sand by water currents. The PLUMPER sank taking 75 lives with her to the bottom."

A followup article buried in text said, "that because the water was so cold (July) divers could only garnish about $220 in whole or one-half pieces. Human skulls were everywhere and the coins were black in color as if they were scorched by extreme heat."

From these two short articles I began researching North American treasure hunting and historical shipwreck logs and the PLUMPER didn't exist in book documentation or records of treasure ships lost and found. In fact, the name didn't appear in a list of vessels in "The Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy 897-1984." Her obscurity in English history is what intrigued me and I started investigating the vessel's demise. In fact it is the word "scorched" that got me wondering was the PLUMPER engaged in a sea battle with American's or Spanish pirates, but as it happens salt water tarnishes Spanish silver black. All that once glittered takes on an end of life complexion and gets lost in shifting sand. The vessel became a ghost ship and escaped American documentation until I stumbled upon a letter written by Captain Hull of the USS Constitution dated August 2, 1812. A smart historian doesn't reveal how he found all his information.

He said the "Plumper" was an escort vessel (secret) to a convoy of captured American vessels being sent northeast up the coast to England. It wasn't a frigate, but a two mast British gun-bring weighing 177 tons made of Canadian White Pine, her bottom sheathed in copper. It was 81 feet long with a breadth of 22.5 feet carrying 12 big guns and sailing with a crew of 50.

It was launched from Halifax, Nova Scotia on Dec. 29. 1807 and her bottom sheathed with Canadian copper. It was towed to England for rigging, cannons, supplies and men before returning back across the north Atlantic. All vessels coming and going across the North Atlantic skirted the coasts of Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland before making the journey eastward or westward across the narrowest part of the North Atlantic. That's about the same route as Transatlantic flights today.

On February 5, 1810 the PLUMPER was assigned to part of British adm. Sir Alexander Cochrane's fleet at the capture of the Guadeloupe from the French. The Guadeloupe's were the twin islands called "Leeward Islands" (St. Martin) in the southeast Caribbean. These islands get pummeled by hurricanes each summer that move west along the equator from Africa towards South America, which eventually, but not always strike America.

In November 1810 while under the command of Lt. William Frissel the PLUMPER sank in the St. Lawrence River. It was raised, he copper sheathed bottom repaired and launched again in the Spring of 1811. From the Admiralty's list entitled "Present Disposition of His Majesty's Ships and Vessels in Sea Pay" dated July 1, 1812, the PLUMPER was now a 10-gun brig under the command of Lt. James Bray, with a crew of 50 based on the North American Station.

From a list of "American Privateers taken and destroyed by His Majesty's Ships and Vessels at the Halifax Station between 16-18 July 1812", the PLUMPER captured three American schooners: The FAIR TRADE in the Bay of Fundy, the ARGUS with one-gun and 23 men and the FRIENDSHIP with one gun and 8 men. The Bay of Fundy is an ocean inlet off the North Atlantic that separates Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Maine USA.

Capt. Hull of the USS CONSTITUTION in another letter said the PLUMPER was a gun-brig and considered a short haul vessel that escorts newly built Canadian or captured American ships into the North Atlantic. Larger vessels picked them up and towed them back to Scotland, England or both countries and returned under different names. Vessels that sank in the Great Lakes, but salvaged, repaired and launched again changed names, too, depending on who sold, salvaged, repaired or renamed them. Cannons recovered had legends of authenticity engraved upon them.

After escorting the three captured vessels into the North Atlantic she returned to the Halifax Station carrying 14 big guns. The PLUMPER's crew removed some American guns and returned the rest to England. British gunbrigs like the PLUMPER had nearly all carronade armaments, somtimes complimented with two long guns. Vessels with less than 24 carronades carried them on the main decks. Carronades replaced long guns after 1797, but not in the Great Lakes theatre of operations. Carronades were too large and heavy to transport overland. The British didn't want to risk losing these big guns to American guerillas who sought to sabotage them instead of stealing them. American militiamen sought easy to maneuver and move mobile pieces of artillery.

On September 5, 1812, while returning from Halifax to St. John's, New Brunswick, carrying four 12-pound long guns and ten 18-pound carronades and a crew of 75 and loaded with four tons of Spanish silver, the PLUMPER struck hard upon some rock ledges in heavy seas off Dipper Point (off Lepian Point) in the Bay of Fundy and sank. All cargo was lost and all her crew had reportedly drowned, with the exception of Capt. Bray, the only survivor, or so he thought.

Bray thought he'd disappear as the lone survivor, but he was found, arrested and transported in shackles back to the Admiralty in London. He was court-martialed and executed for treason, abandoning the crew and took its only lifeboat to save his neck. Examination of court and trial proceedings gave no mention that the vessel burst into flames upon collision with the underwater rock outcroppings.

Since all the crew reportedly drowned Lt. Bray thought he'd fade into obscurity, but three crew members survived. Two killed each other, but the last remaining man died naturally after living many years in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and returning to Canada. Only God knows who led the 1852 treasure hunters to the exact site of the wrecked PLUMPER. Since the finder wasn't mentioned in any court records it was someone in attendance of the dying old sailor or was it one of the other two men or did someone else show up after listening to a death bed confession?

In 1852 another byline article mentions in the Grand Rapids Enquirer that, "Divers had given up, but hoped in the future maybe some new scientific apparatus could help retrieve the specie," from Davy Jones' ice water locker. Accordingly the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London, UK, said the PLUMPER's treasure has never been recovered. Since my discovery all correspondence about the vessel's disappearance has been removed from public record. The PLUMPER was an obscure secret English navy vessel and England doesn't want you to know it whereabouts, but I've let the cat out of the bag. It was a big hush, hush secret and sort of like the secret train depot on Bray's Island in Texas in the Civil War at a time when the Twin Sister cannons of Texas went missing. Gone without a trace.

The treasure is worth $20,000,000. I've never seen a dime. I've preserved the ghost shipwreck and treasure and preserved a part of English history. The PLUMPER like the HMS VICTORY found in 2008 were both unsolved and unexplained mysteries of the British navy. Nobody knew what happened to them. They were secrets lost without a trace until modern man took interest in them.

Now it's your time to dream about finding lost treasures and cannons. Go forth with wisdom and use the force within you. If you're rich and have capital to invest in salvage operations for research and recovery operations be prepared to tangle with governments and expect the unexpected. To avoid is legal, but to evade is illegal. Treasure hunting can be exciting, exhilerating, adventuresome, but deadly. Pick and chose your crew carefully and that's what Bob, his crew and I discovered.

In short the PLUMPER was a secret English naval vessel on the North American Station at Halifax, Nova Scotia. It attacked American vessels, stripped them of captured guns and men and handed them off the larger vessels destined for Scotland and England and returned under different names. England returned the vessels to fight another day against the Americans that made them.

British warships (1807-) were being made in Canada of White Pine. England's white pine was extinct from British shipbuilding long before the American Revolutionary War began. England had plenty of iron ore deposits, but not copper and lead. These were imported. Next time I'll get back to the Cannonsburg cannon, but this was an exciting journey as a private historical investigator.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sinken Cannon - 84

Cannon Township history has its share of mysterious secrets. Bob Alcumbrack in his search for the missing cannon discovered secrets that made him uneasy. After his death I found by accident that we may have missed a monumental secret, but that secret although visual, is only visual in Cannon Township and not surrounding areas. Cannon Township history hides its secrets well and by now inquiring minds want to know where the three objects that resemble cannons and the real cannon is buried. It should cause your heart to beat faster and stimulate the neurons in your mind.

I found the first three by accident while doing some research on Cannon survivors during the Civil War and stumbled into some pretty interesting facts that escaped investigation by us. As I said sometimes when we are so heavily engrossed in finding an object of our affection we fail to see it. In fact while researching a Civil War family memoirs I discovered my own British shipwreck, a vessel that had been lost for more than 173 years that sank in the North Atlantic.

Before I talk about my discovery I'd like to tell you that it takes four horses and five men to service a falconet and ten horses and ten men to service a culverin. So what were the Cannonsburg seven firing at celebrations? The primary reason cannon prematurely explode is because of substitutions for oily ropes used for wadding. When cannons wads were in short supply turf (sod) wads and straw were used to protect the gunpowder from water and wet sod dampens the gunpowder the result being the cannonball chokes in the barrel causing an explosion. Too much wadding or sod is what caused premature explosions between 1774-1865. Sometimes too much was packed in the bore or history has shown this is how artillerymen sabotaged guns. Many premature discharges were man-induced accidents because of open vents, improper loading, lost tools or human negligences or sabotage.

When cannons are found in shipwrecks at the bottom of the sea divers must be aware that the ship's nationality may not support that of cannons. Pirates and privateers often seized good cannons and no smart pirate would bury bronze cannons unless damaged or iron junk.

Where cannons are recovered they may have been on the bottom of the sea for 400-500 years and those of iron are covered with barnacles, coral, calcium deposits and other debris. Iron cannons on the bottom a few hundred years get so encrusted in calcium deposits that it becomes a nightmare and almost impossible to understand or decipher the decorations and markings. The use of electrolysis, the constant chipping off of encrustations is labor intensive and time consuming, but it is still difficult to make heads or tails of inscribed decorations, crests and seals.

This was the trouble that Prof. Rodger's at East Carolina University encountered. In his younger days as a student in underwater archaeology he tried to identify the cannon a commercial fishermen dragged up in their nets. Some cannons made before kings and queens were so elaborate that they nearly covered every inch of the gun metal, but iron cannons were problematic. Bronze cannons are the opposite and do not get the encrustations. They remain almost in mint condition.

Cannons have always been valuable trophies of war and used and reused by the victors, but casting dates on cannons and other objects can date wrecks, too. It could be something like cooking pots - when first used or stopped. Think of it like the advancement of automobiles. How long did Detroit automakers use Spanish moss for seat stuffing and when did they stop using Cypress from the swamps of Louisiana on dashboards and door paneling? Remember the HMS VICYORY. All shipnames listed are captilized.

It was shipwrecked in 1744 and found in 2008 by Odyssey Marine Excavations, Inc. out of Miami, Florida that was trolling for wrecks using GPS and underwater electromagnetic ROV technology. 1744 is the last year copper cooking pots were used and they were absent on all British warships in 1745. This fact helped Odyssey document the HMS Victory's demise. This vessel was armed with 100 bronze cannons and four tons of gold coins making this treasure find worth more than $1 billion. It isn't a finders keeper. Four different nations claim it is their treasure and not Odyssey and the spoils will be decided in Admiralty Court. The HMS VICTORY sank off the southeast coast of England or west, northwest of Calais, France in bad weather because of human error.

Believe it or not, but in this world of Swine and H1N1 flu outbreaks, the doorknobs in your house are seething with germs, but not on doorknobs made of brass or copper. Germs can't stick and die on this metal.

Now while gleaning Civil War documents and old letters of an early settler I discovered the whereabouts of the English HMS PLUMPER that sank in the North Atlantic in 1815. It was involved in the War of 1812, but it seems to be a paltry find in comparison to the HMS Victory. The Plumper's estimated worth today would be only $20,000,000. That's a paltry figure next to Odyssey's and Fisher's recovery treasures. It wasn't a paymaster vessel, but a gun brig carrying $50,000 to $100,000 dollars of Spanish silver for purchasing arms.

I found this by cross-checking the personal and historical pioneer recollections of a Canadian, who resided in Michigan's Upper Peninsula before returning to Canada near the start of the Civil War. In a deathbed letter he confessed he purposely became on of three AWOL English sailors after the PLUMPER sank at sea. In the letter he stipulated that he was one of three men who survived the cold swim to the rocky coast and they swore themselves to secrecy of the wreck and disappeared into the bush and never saw each other again. Since nobody knew what happened to the vessel or where the PLUMPER sank they could easily disappear without a trace. The man I was tracing left family and country to escape the unpopular war. Same scenario to draft dodgers and AWOL's in the Vietnam War, but all were on the run and always remained hidden in the shadows until their own history or the law catches up to them.

Homer Burch, a Rockford, Michigan, historian now deceased once told me that whenever you research don't be afraid to take a different road when you encounter something of great interest. Stop, take an alternate route to discover the secrets you find in history. It might reward you with better insight into the life and times of others before you, or its a roundabout way of determining your destiny, but do tell others what secrets you bring to light of day. I researched the PLUMPER and the three missing men and uncovered a mystery the three men didn't know. They were not the only survivors. A mystery man lurking in the shadows thought he was the only survivor. He was until executed ... for dereliction of duty, treason and his treacherous ways. Forty-six others lost their lives. The story appears next time.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 83

Looking back in time it is amazing how Bob Alcumbrack and friends missed seeing the cannon. We looked high and low for the cannon, and yet, we never saw three other special cannons full view that resembled falconets. That's three falconets with a 2.01 inch diameter bore and one Robinet for a 1/2 pound ball, but what is more strange is that all three were missing end parts. We looked but didn't see the strange facsimiles of them in 1986. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in projects we don't see what is right in front of our eyes.

The cannon's were visual sightings, but we failed to recognize them in 1986 and 1988, etc. Three cannons are in plain sight and one was in a secret place where Bob found that three were made between 1848-1872 while the last one made prior to 1643. Not the time or place just yet to tell you the rest of the story. In fact, I've already told you where the cannon is buried, but most failed to make the connection. The Cannonsburg cannon is a smaller falconet, but later cannons rested on ornate carriages that fired balls up to 3 pounds and fired from a 72 inch cannon. These cannons are very rare.

The Cannonsburg cannon was made by the Dutch of Austrian design, while the other three pieces are taken from English and Dutch origins, is of Austrian American design and made in America. What is amazing is that the latter three cannons only exist in Cannon Township and not surrounding townships and are akin to the Civil War. I found them by an accident of my own design in a lump sum. This was my secret, "ssssh."

Many people have seen them, but failed to recognize them. Talk about blindness? We all should have seen an opthalmologist. The sighting of the three cannons made me speechless and like Bob I scratched my hair follicles, too. Are the neurons in your brain flashing? Mine did!

Before we concluded the second big dig the possibility existed the cannons might be French of Austrian design. Bob had to find a cannon less than 60 inches long and he found it exceedingly hard to divest his mind of the six-pound image of a shrunken cannon. We were constantly putting Bob through a wringer of tests before starting the final expedition. Bob though never told his family or close friends where and under what circumstances he was looking for the cannon. Often he was uneasy and unprepared to answer questions from the public. In fact the last three secrets cannons Bob didn't know existed and it took 21 years after Bob's big dig to find some interesting puzzle pieces.

I was digging into some Civil War battle engagements in Tennessee and Kentucky when I discovered what we all missed. It was right in front of our noses. We all had missed another key player. Short for tonight. Can't keep my peepers open. I keep falling asleep so I'm quitting early.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 82

What would the U.S. Marines in Vietnam in the mid to late 1960's have in common with Bob Alcumbrack's 1986 search for the missing Cannonsburg cannon. Both were dowsers, but the U.S. Marines twenty years earlier than Bob's expedition used dowsing rods to locate land mines. More lives were saved than lost. Faint signals on the earphones of electronic metal detectors caused soldiers to push detection wand closer to ground and that downward pressure often set off landmines. Those using metal detectors died and those nearby had their legs blown off or received other life threatening injuries. If you were a soldier which tool would you trust? 99% would take the...

Believe it or not, it has taken me 24 years to finally put all the pieces of the missing Cannonsburg cannon puzzle together. Some I didn't discover until after Bob Alcumbrack had passed away. It has taken 125 years this July 4th to find the missing pieces and uncover the secrets of the ultimate secret societies surrounding Cannonsburg. Between 1986 and his death he didn't want you to know secrets. Cannonsburg residents had secrets they wished to forget like Walter Tompsett's death, but Le Grand Cannon had his share of secrets, too, and Bob never knew anything about Mr. Cannon and James Thomas' fathers or the possible true origins of the cannon.

Both fathers of these men were Frenchmen, who were French soldiers who came across the ocean to help American's fight against the British in the American Revolutionary War. Touting muskets and cannons they helped liberate Americans from English dominance. Le Grand Cannon was born in 1786 some three years after the Treaty of Paris (1783) ended war hostilities.

This treaty recognized that the United States of America was now and independent democracy and no longer part of British rule. The colonists were allies with France and it sent a French military general and statesmen named Marie-Joseph, marquis de LaFayette (1757-1834). He came to America and his men offloaded French cannons for service in the American Revolution War. It is not unreasonable to believe that some French falconets were among the first cannons Americans didn't have to steal. They were rare by this date, but it was a possibility they existed.

LaFayette was not related to Jean Laffite, the contracted U.S. privateer, smuggler, and yes, he was a patriot of America, who during the war of 1812 helped Gen. Andrew Jackson win the battle of New Orleans in 1815. Despite being pardoned by Jackson, Laffite returned to his piratical ways of preying on Spanish commerce on the high seas after 1817. Laffite pirated Spanish vessels along the east coast until 1821 when the U.S. government forced him to flee aboard his own vessel and disappear. Laffite served his purpose, but he wasn't American and hailed from the Republic of Cartenga (present day Columbia). America launched its first schooner warship outfitted with French big guns in 1821. She near the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon after the upriver travels. I mentioned it previously. This ship chased away Laffite.

French Gen. LaFayette helped revolutionists in America (1777-82) win independence and returned to France, a hero and was made commander of the National Guard in two French revolutions (1789-92, 1830). The National Guard shows our French heritage. LaFayette's service helped colonists to discredit King George III in America, but such valor financially weaked France. Our fiasco was the inspiration for the French revolution and it energized the revolution for Spanish colonies in America and the Mexican War ended in 1848, the same year Le Grand Cannon gave Cannonsburg town elders the ancient cannon.

James Thomas' father was of French/Welsh culture and heritage and he came to America with Gen. LaFayette. He fought alongside LaFayette and became an American Revolutionary War veteran who did not return to France. James was born Jan. 1, 1814 during the War of 1812-18 in America.

Believe it or not, American and British forces from 1812-13 had no two pound cannons on Mackinac Island in Lake Huron. Mounted on garrison carriages were iron nine-pound, six-pound and six iron one-half pound cannons. Field carriages had mounted bronze three and six pound cannons and a 5.5 inch howitzers. When the British surrendered the fort contained no two-pound cannons, but bronze cannons made up the bulk of 3, 6, and 9 pound cannons.

The British defenses did mount a 24-pound cannon that hammered American vessels steaming north up Lake Huron some six miles distant. Shells hit the vessels before anyone heard the explosion. American naval vessels were bombarded and couldn't return fire until within one or two miles of the island. When they did return fire all the cannonballs did was "do considerable Damage" to a man's potato patch below the fort. A 32-pound cannon guards the fort today. American cannons had no elevational mechanisms. The balls skipped across the water or dove into waves, but those that made it to shore zipped up the beach cutting furrows and unearthing garden potatoes. Still we managed to seize the Mackinac Island fort from the British in 1814 after American guerillas scaled the highest cliffs on its northern side and attacked from a higher advantage point. The British didn't think we had the capability to accomplish such a sneak attack.

Cannonballs cutting garden furrows remindes me of a scene in a World War II movie about a submarine called the "Sea Tiger" painted pink, because the sailors lacked enough primary coat to make it gray. A rescued curvaceous nurse trips and pushed the launch button of a torpedo that runs up the beach and blows up a Japanese truck. History has a way of repeating itself, but unknown if this is fact or fiction.

When Americans stole British cannons we put them on new carriages, but we didn't pay particular attention to carriage details - the elevation screws and mounts. In our haste to put old cannons on new carriages we were illiterates and didn't pay attention to the hardware that gave the British advanced firing capabilities. We were like Robin Hood thieves and stole from the British, but were lackluster in weapons duplication. Whether the French or British brought any Falconets to America is unknown, but after the War of 1812, the standard cannon, that's the smallest in the U.S. Army was six pound cannons. Nothing smaller, so if Falconets were present they were either returned to countries of origin, destroyed or recycled. Perhaps some falconets were trophy guns or cannons rescued from shipwrecks, but from the description of the cannon when it appeared on the Grand Rapids receiving docks in 1848 it was ancient on arrival, a relic.

Bob's cannonballs were an important find and key to the Cannonsburg cannon's heritage, but what really floored me was its ornate description, the cannon and carriage. Nobody had seen anything like it, but beyond the ornateness no other description described it. This wasn't the standard run of the mill cannon. For strangness it might have been a Culverine, called the "Snake." It was the awe of superstition. The barrel had reinforcement rings every two inches that resemble metal culverts under driveways and roads in America today. It had the funniest little up curved rat tail.

Another strange cannon was the 15th century bobbin' bar barrel cannon, but it was strictly for naval vessels. The barrel was formed of interconnected pieces and because they screw interlocked together, they too, were the most awesome of all cannons. These were wrought iron breech-loaders that belched fire from between its locked and interchangeable barrel parts and not just muzzle and vent. Each assembly part belched fire and smoke. These barrels could be taken apart in one foot sections using ropes and hoist and moved easily, but these were mounted on naval mounts and not field carriages.

Falconets on the other hand had two functions: service for protection on naval and merchant vessels and moveable fortress. They were lethal weapons and used to clear decks of attacking men and rendering rigging useless.

After 1574, these Falconets were on merchant vessels bound for the Indies or America. Few were on naval ships after 1635 and extremely rare on naval vessels by the early 1700's. Those who did have them didn't keep them long when captured or rescued from lost and found shipwrecks. The English, French and Spanish all had 2 pound cannons that shot less than 1.5 pound cannonballs, which helps date the cannon before 1643. It's also the 1.87" diameter size shot from a 2.01 inch muzzle bore. Cannonballs were usually thirteen to twenty-three hundreths of an inch smaller than bore size. Larger than this the cannons exploded killing all servicing it. Looser fit balls didn't go where fired, because too much energy escapes around the ball, often times falling short of target.

Shells larger than maximum bore size when fired sometimes don't spit out the ball, but if ball was lit shell it exploded inside of barrel killing artillerymen and bystanders some distance away. Two pound cannons were charged with up to two pounds of gunpowder, which was awesome firepower. Oversized bores when stuffed with long wadding, hay, sold or oily ropes on top of powder and ball, the cannon shot wide or prematurely exploded killing attendees. These shot bombs with lit fuses and not just solid iron cannonballs like those Bob found at the Thomas residence. Solid balls are for penetration of solid objects and did immense damage to human bodies. Cannons that shot undersized balls wouldn't land where aimed.

Falconets weren't the smallest. Swivel guns like the Robinet shot 1/2 to 1 pound balls, too, but this cannon was generally less than four feet long and some were 6 feet long. These were not ornate, but the decorations were exquisite. The muzzle was heavy flared.

English falcons were ruled out because the bore diameter had increased to 2.50 inches after 1643, yet it was considered a two-pound plus cannon approximately 72 inches long and weighed in at 670-700 pounds (piece). Spanish falcons weighed 600-1200 pounds, were 60-84 inches long and shot weight of 1-2 pounds depending on whether it was made of iron or lead or with a combination of lead covered stones. These cannons were only used until 1550 and uncommon on Spanish galleons and warships after 1575.

A seven-foot Culverine with carriage would weigh approximately 1750 pounds. It was a heavy brute, but if mounted on a carriage it couldn't shoot a ramrod thru man's knee, but strike him chest high. Surely the Cannonsburg five men and two to three horses would have great difficulty dragging and maneuvering it on carriage in thick trail sand. Five men couldn't re-assemble and mount this cannon on carriage without hoists.

The 1885 men couldn't dig such a big hole and bury this heavy cannon in a water laden grave and be back in Cannonsburg for Sunday morning church services at the Methodist Episcopal Church of Cannonsburg in less than one hour. Impossible.

The Tompsett's and Thomas' worshipped here each Sunday morning. Could the cannon be buried on church property? We found... and Bob's did search here and ... oops, my halo is flickering again and anyways I'm sleepy. Next time more secrets are uncovered.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 81

Bob Alcumbrack's discovery of the 1.87 inch diameter cannonballs revealed he had to envision Birds of Prey and time date this cannon when using dowsing rods. He was searching for a generic cannon, but never in his wildest dream did he envision a specialty cannon. The "grand rapidians" working at the receiving docks in Grand Rapids called the Cannonsburg cannon an ancient relic with the strangest ornate carriage. Nobody had ever seen such a strange cannon or carriage in their entire lives.

Everybody recognizes a standard cannon. You see them at historic sites and parks all across America or at Civil War Re-enactments, in Hollywood movies or on TV cable's FOOD channel with Paula's Home Cookin'. Pretty much all cannons shown are reproductions minus the original decorations on the barrels. The originals were recyled during two World Wars.

Paula Dean wafn't cooking food on cannon blafts, but she was cooking over an open fire in early period clothing at a hiftoric Georgia fortress park. If you fee a cannon, that is, one that you recognize quite often, then you saw nothing that clofely refembling the Cannonfburg cannon by was trying to unearth. Small cannons of 2.01 inch calibre fhot cannonballs, nails, glafs, pebble ftones, or combinations of pea-fized ftones and when this little cannon roared to life it was terrifyingly loud and a deadly killing weapon. No misfpellings (mispelled words) mistakes, but the traditional English version per the "Art of Gunnery" by Nathaniell Nye written in 1670 sent via the internet to me courtesy of Calvin College Library in Grand Rapids. They didn't want the book to circulate for fear they wouldn't get it back so they sent it via Email to our Library.

Librarians were flabbergasted by the date. After reading it online I suffered from screen blindness before I ended my research. Lots of memory tied up library computers. Needless to say I found what I wanted you to read. I'm sure the computers and librarians breathed a sigh of relief when I junked the book. I found Nathaniell Nye an interesting character and it was exciting to read his book on cannon founding methods.

Nathaniell Nye was a Mathematician, Mafter Gunner of the City of Worcefter. His book was printed in London for William Leak, at the fign of the Crown in Fleetfstreet, between the two Temple Gates, 1670.

Nathaniell is going to tell you about his book, "The Art of Gunnery" and you will understand why it was so important for Bob Alcumbrack and cannon hunting crew to keep quiet and tell no secrets in public. To be successful in treasure hunting those seeking riches must not give tips to others lest they find what you seek first leaving you out of the limelight.

Nye "defcribed the true way to make a forts of Gunpowder, Gun-match, the art of fhooting in great and fmall ordnance: Excellent ways to take Heights, Depths, Diftances, acceffible, or inacceffible, either fingle or divers diftances at one operation: to draw the ZMap or Plot of any city, Town, Caftle, or other fortified place. To make divers forts of Artificiall Fire-works, both for War or Recreation; alfo to cure all fuch woulds that are curable, which may chance to happen by Gun Powder or Fire-works. This Treatife is compofed for the help of all fuch Gunners and others, that have charge of Artillery, and are not yet verfed in Arithmetick and Geometry: all rules and directions being framed both with and without the help of Arithmetick." This was all ancient English, but Nye got to the point how the art of artillery should work.

Compared to schooling standards today Nye slung the Old English language and literature standards we would find intolerable to read today. Still he wrote an excellent chapter 30 on how to make a shot of lead and stone. Bob Alcumbrack wasn't sure if the Cannonsburg seven of 1885 were shooting leaded stones in absence of iron shot. We had three cannonballs (iron shot), but no grooves, but all three had circular patterns that indicated it may or may not have been fired from a cannon prior to 1713. Two experts didn't agree with each other, but both were time dated before 1643 based upon size of balls. Bob never ascertained or found proof what the men were shooting the day of the accident. I never did find any information telling when they stopped firing the cannonballs and Bob never thought about them shooting lead or lead covered stones. The carbon on shot stones would have washed off stones over 103 years.

Nye's chapter 30 was about "How to make fhot of lead and ftone (the ftone being put in the mould in which the leaden shot fould afterwards be caft to be the like Diameter and weight of an Iron bullet is of same Diameter." A 2-inch calibre cannon needs lead of 3 pounds 14 ounces; stone 4 oz. and both together 1 pound 2 ounces to equal that of iron balls. A 3.67 inch bore for a 6-pound cannon needs 5 pounds lead to 1 pound lead and both together 5 pounds to match iron balls.

By Nye's calculations he said, "I Have found by experience, That if you take five parts lead, and one part ftone, it will come very near the matter, wanting not much above three ounces, which is nothing refpecting the difference you shall fin in Pibble ftones: and Here I have fromed a Table of how much lead, and how mch ftone must be together, to make the equal weight of Iron fhot, from one inch fo eight every half inch."

Bob hadn't sought nor searched for leaden stones prior to big dig number three. If he had he would have had to find scorched stones with chips and pits or small diameter cannonballs that weighed 8 ounces (lead and stone) together as opposed to same 3.50 inch diameter balls weighing five pounds and shot from a 6-pound cannon with a 3.67 inch diameter bore.

The cannonballs size matched it to an English bronze Falconet (fawconetts) or French (fauconetts) with shot diameter 1.87 inches shot with a bore size of 2.01 inches. The Dutch master crafters were the only ones who manufacted these for England and France. These balls according to timeline dates could only be fired from Falconett cannons 60 inches long of less or wrought iron Culverin's about 65 inches long. There is a distinct difference between the two mentioned cannons above concerning dates and we protected this secret as preservation treasure hunters.

In 1574 all English falconets were made of brass 2-inch diameter bore size and weighed 500 pounds and were 45-58 inches long. Weight of shot varied from 1-2 pounds. After 1643 falconets had changed bore size to 2.25 inches and 2.50 inches by 1674, but still considered light weight cannons at 500 pounds. By 1754 specialty falconets had a 2.75 inch bore diameter. Balls shot from these cannons were too large and weren't the size of the Cannonsburg cannon.

Earlier in 1515, the Spanish had Falconetes, but they were heavy weights at 1200 pounds and warships carried only one of this caliber up until about 1572. French falconets weighed 400 pounds and were 42 inches in length, but had a bore diameter of 1.5 inches shooting 1/2 pound shot.

Spanish falconets weighed 600-1200 pounds and were 60-84 inches long, with a bore size of 2-2.50 inches shooting 1-2 pound shot. We ruled out the Spanish because Le Grande Cannon was of French heritage and felt the Cannonsburg cannon was English or French. That's because English cannons were the most prevalent captured guns in America. Well, my bed is calling me. See you next time when I take you back into history to discover more about Le Grand Cannon's and James Thomas' family history (French, too).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 80

Bob Alcumbrack in his search for the lost Cannonsburg cannon was right when he told his crew that none of the seven young men firing it had any artillery training. The possibility existed that the men never saw the original tools and town elders were negligent for not replacing them. It should have gone missing earlier.

The men were 17-41 years old and they weren't teenagers just fooling around as a dentist in the Cannonsburg area suggests. He uses Walter Tompsett's death as an excuse to peddle his Cannon coin treasure hunt in the first decade of the 21st century. It was disrespectful to dishonor the real memory of Tompsett by saying 'the seven men were just teenagers goofing off with a loaded cannon and they got hurt.' This wasn't a fictional story. It was real living and dying history in 1885.

These young men couldn't wait for their turn to fire the ancient cannon like their fathers and grandfathers who fought in wars and who had the regimental artillery training. You could say that without training it was inevitable that someone would be injured or killed in the distant future. Strict attention to details wasn't followed. This is what town elders feared and the tragedy came to pass sooner than expected because they couldn't bury it and stop talking.

Federal government statistics released in 1893 reported that between 1874-1884 more than 247 men were killed by prematurely discharging old iron cannons and more than 1000 men were severely injured, burned or maimed for life by accidental cannong discharges. Town elders always kept in the back of their minds how Albert Pickett, friend and Justice of the Peace in Rockford was severely injured when the town cannon burst prematurely on July 4th, 1884. The accident made them fearful and they dreaded what might happen in their village. It could happen tomorrow!

Too many accidental deaths by old post Civil War cannons came too close to home and they rightfully believed their ancient cannon needed to disappear, but they waited too long to address the problem. The cannon belonged to everyone and not just town elders. They only accepted partial responsibility for the cannon's demise and probably thought that if they buried it they could retrieve it after the Fourth and decide later what to do with the ancient historical cannon. Failure to bury it secretly resulted in death. They shouldered the biggest blame for not keeping the disposal site secret and the sons and grandsons made it their business not to be denied their rights to fire the ancient cannon on the Fourth of July.

Newspaper accounts after each cannon accident reported that surviving family members were suing town governments for wrongful death were increasing and getting more costly. Liability insurance premiums were skyrocketing beyond the means of town and village officials to pay and because of this the Federal government was encouraging all to get rid of them. Those who planned to keep on firing them were told to get liability and disability insurance before celebrations commenced. All those who intended to fire the cannons were to sign liability waivers or don't participate in cannon firings.

Today its sign the liability waiver or don't fire cannons or Class "B" fireworks with flares or torches at arm's length. Electric and electronic firing of fireworks using squibbs takes all the fun out of lighting fireworks. All are dangerous ways to touch off fireworks, but the ancient way is the best and I've still got all my fingers, hands, arms and body parts with the exception of melted hair after thirty-five years. I'm a pyrotechnician, but after 911 the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives licensing center refers to us as Explosive Possessers. We must pass strict background criminal checks. ATF and FBI inspection officials cringe when they watch us load shells or dissect live shells to find out why they didn't explode. If afraid don't watch or handle explosives. Signing on the dotted lines protect firework makers from liability issues. Since then approximately 55,ooo are registered and licensed for dark and dangerous pursuits of "Ooo's and Ahh's" at colorful and thunderous firework shows at Freedom Festivals and other celebrations of life. Oops, at least you now know where the issue of liability insurance originated. Old cannons.

Whether it was James, John or Fred Thomas that put the small cannonballs in the floor for safe keeping or mementos of happier times doesn't matter. They provided Bob Alcumbrack and his crew proof positive of the ancient cannon's existence. It helped narrow our search for the real Cannonsburg cannon and Bob fine tuned his dowsing skills since the size gave us an approximate age and style of cannon. James Thomas' secret cannonballs had been hidden for more than 102 years and were found in 1987 by Bob's destiny. Before we finished digging the second excavation hole the piece had shrunk from 108 inches long to 44-65 inches long prior to 1643, but up to 72" inches long for special ceremonial bronze cannons made in the 1700's.

The Cannonburg cannon was called an "ancient cannon" in 1848 by the dockworkers who transported it around the rapids in Grand Rapids, Michigan to the steamboat Hummingbird that was cut in two pieces and then slipped back into the Grand River above the Sixth Street dam. The men couldn't fathom why Cannon Township officials would so willingly accept such an antiquated weapon. Someone firing it might get injured of killed.

James Thomas' and Bob Alcumbrack's cannonballs were not the smallest at 1.87 inches in diameter that weighed 1.41 pounds to be cast. These were fired from a 2 pound cannon with a 2.01 inch bore. The one and a half pound cannon and one-half pound cannons were pea shooters, but they could do immense damage when fired with glass, broken pottery, nails, etc., but it was the 1.87 inch diameter cannonball fired from a 2 pound cannon. Cannonball diameters were usually thirteen to twenty-three hundreths of an inch smaller than bore size. This is done so that when cannonballs are fired out they don't get stuck inside irregular or core cast iron cannons, get lodged causing the muzzle to explode upward inside the cannon muzzle.

Civil War iron cannons killed more artillerymen than bronze cannons, but iron cannons were prone to prematurely discharging because of heat and metal fatigue. After one shot iron metal temperatures rise to 575 degrees F., the barrel too hot to touch, while a stick of butter on bronze metal wouldn't melt. The bronze barrel was cool to the touch. Another secret we kept silent on was that cannons were core-cast until 1713 when John Fuller of Sussex, England, began using a new invention called a 'boring wheel' invented by Maritz, a Swiss inventor, who revolutionized the way a cannon was bored after being cast.

His new bore wheel drill used water wheel power to parallel drill cores straight and smooth, not rough and irregular. Thomas' cannonballs didn't look fired, but two experts checked the balls and didn't agree whether fired or unfired. Both appeared to be smooth, but all had a strange circular pattern and they couldn't assure they were or weren't fired. It had the configurations of being fired, but showed no pitting or striations one might expect to find. It had the ghost image as being fired, but the evidence seen wasn't conclusive and we weren't 100% positive either was or wasn't it fired before of after 1713. It would have made early identification of the Cannonsburg cannon easier to find.

When cannonballs are fired, the heat shock elongates a lead ball as it leave the cannon muzzle, but sometimes the balls elongation is more pronounced the longer the distance of rifling. Iron balls don't change shape when fired and don't melt like lead, but they do show grooves or long straight striations before 1713. Circular and gouged striations indicate before 1713. The balls showed a strange circular apostrophe like spots without indentations and it was premature to date the cannon. It was the balls diameter that fixed the cannon date as being prior to 1643.

Cannonballs fired after 1713 made straight-line striations, but since the balls diameter predated 1643 it could only be fired from a 2-pound bronze cannon with a 2.01 inch bore. These were either Falcons or Falconets and each weighed approximately 800 pounds and most were 44-64 inches long. These cannons were only made between the late 1500's to 1643, because after the later date the bore sizes of these cannons changed to 2.25 inches. It take too much wadding to surround the ball. Often times waddings were oily ropes and this explain how gunpowder charges nest in cannons can remain live firing in bottom shipwrecks or buried soil for upwards of 500 years. The lost colony cannon was live for about 375 years off the coast of Virginia when dragged from the bottom in a commercial fishing net. If you find a cannon consider it live and dial 911 for an emergency. Don't try to unearth the old weapon, because it might explode with the slighest jostling or spark.

The Cannonsburg cannonballs indicated it was fired from an English or French cannon called a 'Falconet or Fawconnett'. All were specialty cannons with ornate carriages made in the presence of heads of state (kings, queens, princes and princesses). The value of finding any of these on American soil is remote or rare and the cannons value increases dramatically due to the amount of engravings, cannonballs, brass plaques and documented carriage architecture. Any or all of these attributed to the cannon could triple treasure values and up until the perceived Lost Colony cannon was found none had been found on American soil. Fact of the matter is that these cannons are quite rare finds anywhere in the world only because they were made prior to 1643 and few afterwards.

We kept silent about the Cannonsburg cannons perceived heritage (date) because its value was more than 1.5 million dollars to collectors. We couldn't chance tipping off other cannon hunters to such a high valued historical treasure. That 1.5 million is a booty reward to other treasure hunters, but to Bob it was worthless. We knew we weren't the only crew hoping to find the cannon in 1986. Bob and crew didn't want to tip off someone else to steal our thunder from under our noses.

Bob was digging enough holes in Cannonsburg. Probably more than all the meteorites that have struck Michigan in over a thousand years. We couldn't chance duplicate digging where others had already dug. Our secret was we wouldn't jeopardize the cannon if information got out just how rare the cannon or an ornate carriage was, because it no longer was a local dig, but state, national and international treasure expedition. Bob tried to keep his first big dig secret, but secrets of such magnitude were tipped off to news medias like CNN that turned Bob's quest into a state and national historical cannon hunt. Our expedition was being pitted against the search for secrets of Texas' Twin Sisters expedition.

Our mission was to keep the Cannonsburg cannon's rarity secret. We simply shunned other would be cannon hunters and we didn't want other groups descending on Cannonsburg like summer flies on flattened road kill. Many community residents didn't like it when weird strangers with fancy metal detectors asked permission to explore private property. This in no way means Bob didn't find the cannon.

The smaller size cannon is why it took five men and a few horses to drag the cannon on the squeaking ornate carriage past Estella Ward's parent home and return in an hour or less. She saw them pass, but she could have been wrong how long they were gone. They couldn't have dug in a watery grave and buried the 800 pound cannon with carriage in such a short time span. They hid the cannon fast before folks arrived that morning for church and made preparations for Tompsett's funeral. Cannonsburg became the ultimate secret society July 5, 1885. It was a silent community four years and the depression of the people was so severe it forced the town's only physician to flee for his sanity.

Sitting at the restaurant table in the Honey Creek Inn for evening meals we would always discuss what the men did with the brass plaque on the carriage. Was the cannon dismounted , smashed, broken, buried or recycled or did they burn the carriage and plaque? They couldn't burn the carriage if made of metal - remember it was ornate, but most carriages were standard, with the exception of a few finely engraved wood ones. We felt they didn't burn it because the fire and smoke seen would attract attention from an early morning rising farmer. Next time I'll discuss the Birds of Prey 1643.

Search for Secrets of A Sunken Cannon - 79

James Thomas was highway commissioner of Cannon Township when Walter Tompsett died 12 hours after being struck in the knee by the cannon's rammer. It was a horrible scene and the accident was preventable because of slip of tongue while talking to Fred Thomas' father. James probably suggested where they dismounted and buried the cannon the first time, but he failed to keep it secret. Fred Thomas overheard the elder Thomas' talking or after finding the cannon missing questioned the men and discovered they buried it. It was a consensus of town fathers that they were going to protect the younger men from firing it on July 4, 1885.

Upon the death of Tompsett the township officials left it up to Tompsett's five friends to dispose of the ancient cannon and officials didn't want to know where or how the cannon was disposed. It was a secret burial. That way they could never tell no tales about its disappearance. These five men swore themselves to the ultimate secret. Residents of the outlying township were kept out of the decision to dispose of the cannon. It was a liability issue the township could not afford should they be sued, which was the norm in the 1880's.

James wasn't at the last cannon burial, but he did know where it was buried. He stayed at home tending to his grandson who was injured in the flash shock. He was in horrible pain and they got him drunk on hard cider. Christian men in the tiny village didn't drink alcoholic spirits. A badgered drunk would tell where the cannon was buried. Inquiring minds would ply him with alcoholic spirits to loosen his tongue. James probably insisted he not know where they buried the cannon. Those that did were hounded for information, but seven refused to ever again tell the cannon's secret whereabouts. James Thomas and Rena Tompsett knew, too, for they orchestrated the burial.

James sold his smithy business years before the Tompsett tragedy. Blacksmiths were in every town and their smithy skills were used wherever people lived, worked or traveled. Village blacksmith shops were places where people met to discuss what bugged them. Blacksmith shops were near crossroads where traffic was greatest to shoe horses, repair carriage wheels and mold cannonballs and they were an important industry to iron furnaces, freighting concerns, mills and other businesses. They were the fixit shops of America when you couldn't afford to replace something instantly like we do today. We want instant gratification. We don't repair or save to buy it new.

The arrival of the first automobiles signaled a death blow to independent smithys. Those that remained became shadowy figures, but the skills they acquired wouldn't make them an extinct species of commerce. James before the accident was getting up in years and he couldn't withstand the rigors of the smith business. When he sold his business that's when he put the cannonballs into the floor for safe keeping. James grew up listening to the legends about Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie and Sam Houston.

Bob used his fertile imagination to believe it was Fred Thomas who overheard James and his mother Carrie (Kronmer) and John Thomas talking about the cannon burial on July 3rd. Fred thought they were so callous to bury the township's namesake so on a whim and so the next morning he summoned the other men to find it. They found it, dug it up, cleaned and remounted it and pulled it thru town. At the picnic grounds they fired off a shot to announce a grand picnic would start about noon July 4th.

Originally Bob thought Fred overheard James and grandmother Elizabeth talking, but that wasn't true because she died May 30, 1880. All the Thomas' lived in the same house and that's probably why a second story was added to the house. Bedrooms were sorely needed. Only God knows who truly placed the cannonballs in the floor.

After the accident James lived a solitary life and became heavily involved in township business. He couldn't sit home and whittle and stand being pestered about the cannon's demise. Work consumed his days from sunrise to sunset until the early 1890's. He used horses and chains to pull stumps during road construction. He hoped there would be a better way in the future to pull stumps. Digging and cutting roots was hard work, but it was a way for him to keep busy and not think about the Tompsett tragedy. His mind was still sharp until one day when a logging chain snapped and it flew backwards striking James head causing a severe concussion. He was out of work forever.

This accident erased most of his short-term memory. No longer did he have to worry about revealing any secrets for they were locked in his brain. With short-term memory lost he couldn't remember the question long enough to apply an answer. He didn't remember the tragedy or tell the secrets so many wanted to know. His concentration of any question disappeared within seconds and he couldn't provide an intelligent answer. Fred Thomas could only tell folks what happened at the picnic up until the cannon prematurely discharged. Beyond the blast he knew nothing except for flashback sequences until Tompsett died.

Fred Thomas was the powder man and Tompsett the rammer, but Tompsett made the mistake of standing, his leg in front of the muzzle bore at the precise moment when John Murray for what reason is unknown lifted his thumb from the vent hole. Some distraction caused Murray to lose his concentration and lift his thumb momentarily causing the nest glowing embers to seize oxygen and "BOOM!" This was why whenever Bob quizzed Murray tears poured out of his eyes on repeated buggy rides when crossing the glacial stream coming down from Pickerel Lake. Bob's big dig was about twenty feet west of this bridge crossing.

Up at the picnic grounds Thomas placed the gunpowder bag into the muzzle bore and Tompsett excitedly nests the charge with the rammer. Tompsett used his upper body weight and arm strength to ram the tight fitting powderbag down, nests and compresses it and momentarily released his hand just as Murray releases his thumb from the vent hole. Oxygen rushed inside brightening the glowing embers that already started to burn the bag and fire and oxygen instantaneous ignited, the cannon discharging prematurely. This accident was preventable before the powderbag was rammed down the muzzle. Nothing could have prevented the discharge. It was an inevitable situation especially when none of the men had any strict artillery training. That was the first big mistake in judgement and this is what township officials feared more than the age of the cannon.

In a matter of three seconds the forceful explosion, intense heat flash, the belch of white smoke burst against Tompsett's leg, the rammer rocketing out striking his knee. Skin, bones and tissue splattered across the grass, the leg still intact held only by skin. Fred Thomas barely had time to turn away, the cannon concussion throwing him sideways, the flashburn searing his skin. He probably suffered from ear concussion, too, rendering him partially deaf as a post for several days. If Thomas wasn't injured why didn't he go along for the final cannon burial. This was a mystery. Only God knows the answer.

Statewide newspaper snipits said it was Tompsett who died. The moment Tompsett died is when secrets began out of respect for Rena and young Walter Tompsett's loss. No other comments were ever rendered by township officials.

Tompsett's face, chest, arms and hands were scorched from the heat blast. He screamed in terror and agony as he crumpled and wreathed on the ground holding his leg. Bits of his leg were incinerated and his life blood gushed from the wounds. He was struck by the rammer and not rod and cannonball. This wasn't how to end a glorious picnic on Independence Day celebrations.

John Murray, the teary eyed man kept flashbacks of the horrible scene for 58 years (1857-1943). It was his leaden or leather thumb stalls removal from the vent hole and his distraction that was more responsible for Tompsett's death. Just a slight thumb rise or shift momentarily from the cannon vent allowed oxygen inside to brighten embers instantly and "BOOM!"

Cannons don't prematurely explode. They explode because of human errors in judgement, lack of concentration and/or missing tools. Evidently between firings the adrenalin was rushing and nobody used a worm rod to twist down the glowing embers to the seat and then use a sponge rod dabbed with vinegar and water to cool and dampen the glowing embers. Worm rod useage also pulls out burning and dampened charges. It also holds rags for final cleaning before the cannon is primed with powder again. This rod was missing! The men got so caught up with fast repeat firings they failed to understand the importance of safe cannon firing methods. The cannon was ancient and the implements to fire it safely were absent or lost. I couldn't help wonder why if certain tools were missing why didn't James or another blacksmith make replacement tools?

White vinegar and cool water was used to cool minor burns on small skin areas. It takes the heat away, but it can't be used on large areas of blistered skin because an individual could succumb to hypothermia on an 80-degree F. day. Tompsett was badly burned by the flash explosion, too.

What if Mr. Murray, too, didn't have a leaden thumbstall? Without it he couldn't keep his thumb over the vent hole or whatever he did have might not have kept his thumb cool enough on the hot metal. Bronze cannons remain cooler, but you couldn't touch an iron cannon vent hole after one shot.

The test of cannon metal is butter. After one shot a stick of butter doesn't melt on bronze, but an iron cannon shot butter is liquified. Bronze cannons can be repeat fired for hundreds of times without incidences of premature discharging due to heat, but not iron. Repeat firings are good for only 30 rounds before they prematurely discharge. It takes lots of vinegar and water to cool iron cannons.

Bob envisioned that Thomas was the rammer, but he wondered why Tompsett's knee was directly in front of the muzzle bore. It was possible that Tompsett, too, was distracted by something said and walked across the front of the cannon just as Thomas nested the gunpowder bag. It is possible that Thomas nested it and Tompsett was going to pull the rammer out and nest the cannonball or leaden stone. Just as Tompsett steps up to remove the rammer it explodes. It was also possible that Tompsett had the cannonball in hand, dropped it and pulled the rammer out causing air to rush in, the embers glowing and "BOOM!" If so Tompsett committed a grievous error in judgement by an unknown distraction and his lack of strict artillery training. All seven men were distracted.

Safe firing of cannons requires everyone to concentrate on the task. No deviations or distractions. Years ago on a big American battleship, believe it was the Iowa, when being loaded a distraction in firing point procedures caused the big guns to explode and kill everyone in the turrent. The distraction being an arguement over a woman caused a sailor artillerymen to add a second gunpowder charge and when the cannon was fired the distress of metal caused an immediate over explosion, the gun metal bursting. Not concentrating firing point procedures killed many.

The ancient Cannonsburg cannon was a muzzleloader. Breech loaders were first invented in the 1400's, but they were expensive to make and quickly lost in wars. It is also possible that Mr. Murray removed his thumb to prime the vent with primer cord. Something though distracted everyone in the group. Attention to detail was broken.

The lack of artillery training, the strict regimens of safe firing were absent. Age of cannon and missing tools is what prompted the town elders to consider dismounting and burying the cannon in a hurry of July 3, 1885. Their ancient cannon was getting too dangerous to fire, the men, too and the liability for injury or death taxed their minds and they seized upon the Federal governments warning.

Sponge rods and worm rods were specialty tools required for safe firing of cannons, but had the Cannonsburg town elders have made new ones the accident may have not happened in their lifetime, but later. It was time for it to go missing, but one would wonder why they just didn't spike the vents and plug the bore. Since all those firing the cannon were young men it is a reasonable assumption that none had paid particular attention to the tools their fathers used to fire the cannon and so town elders didn't remember them.

Why not preserve the historical artifact in the town square? Why the need to erase its glorious character and history? We could only apply a guess?

To bury it the first time without the concensus of township residents is probably why they chose to bury it. It would be out of sight for the July 4th celebrations, but easily retrieved after the Fourth of July celebration and its future decided later. Unfortunately they couldn't keep quiet and were irresponsible about its secret burial. Next time I'll discuss what the discovery of the cannonballs produced.