GRC cannon

Officials with the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park celebrated the return of this replica cannon to park grounds recently.

One of the area’s most famous artillery pieces has returned to the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

This heavy piece of Vincennes history returned after a 7-year absence and a lot of hard work.

And both park superintendent Frank Doughman and chief ranger Joe Herron are both happy to see it home.

“If you go online and look up pictures of this park, half of them are going to have this cannon in it,” Doughman said. “It was often the point where people photographed themselves with the memorial in the background.

“I can’t tell you how many people have come here and asked what happened to that cannon.”

The cannon was one of the original indoor displays when the Visitor’s Center, located at 425 S. Second St., was built in 1976. Unfortunately, it created some traffic flow problems, which resulted in it being moved to a new location outside.

It stayed there for years, enduring the ever-changing Vincennes weather, and while the tube and wheels, which are made of steel, stood the test of time, its wooden carriage eventually had to be rebuilt.

But eventually it rotted again, to the point where rangers considered it a safety issue, and so it was removed, leaving the cannon’s future in limbo.

That all changed when park volunteer Bob Sloman had an oak tree fall in his back yard three years ago.

Sloman cut the tree, split the boards himself, and rebuilt the wooden navel carriage once again — and as historically accurate as possible. And just recently, it was returned to its home outside the Visitor’s Center once again.

The cannon is an exact replica of one that Alexander Hamilton would have brought from Detroit when he learned that George Rogers Clark and his men were preparing to take Fort Sackville, park officials explained. Its wooden carriage would have allowed it to be pulled by a horse.

When used on a ship, these cannons would have been on a metal track, which allowed it to roll back with the recoil of firing. That’s the reason for the many of its loops. There would have been ropes on it so they could pull it and move it.

And while Herron appreciates the cannon’s historic significance, it doesn’t actually fire, so he’s hopeful the park can eventually acquire another, simlar one for demonstrations.

“This one is more of a lawn ornament,” Herron said. “We’d love to have a firing a piece.”

“Myself, other rangers, and Frank, in the past, have been trained to fire them,” he went on. “So getting one on a field carriage to bring out for some of the events would be great.”

Park officials, too, hope people notice the numbers engraved on the top of the cannon.

Most can easily spot the “6-2-13” etched into the tube, yet many mistakenly believe it to be a date.

The numbers represent the weight of the tube in imperial pounds. It’s engraved with hundred, quarter, and pound, in the same way, many anvils are marked to illustrate their weight.

The specific numbers on this pieces represent 60, plus 2 quarters, plus 13, making its weight 663 pounds.

And with so much rich history associated with this cannon, Doughman considers the park lucky to see it returned just in time for the Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous.

“It’s great to have it back,” Doughman said.

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