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.

No comments:

Post a Comment