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Local History

Condemned cannon

An article published in the Leader-Democrat in 1902, recalls the history of various cannons and their demise. Eight decommissioned cannons shipped to Greene County from the Rock Island Arsenal in the late 19th century. The artillery pieces were originally intended to ornament a park; however, by the time they arrived the park plan had fizzled out. 
The cannons were then distributed to various towns in the Ozarks. They were intended for decoration only, but were sometimes fired with disastrous results.  Two cannons went to Springfield.  One was given to Drury University. The second exploded while being fired during a Fourth of July celebration, causing serious injury to one of the men operating it. Another of the cannons went in Bois D’Arc, and it too exploded when fired.  Fortunately no one was killed or injured. 
Only two other guns were detailed in the article. These large guns were given to the South Missouri and North Arkansas Reunion Association of the Blue and the Grey, a Civil War veterans group. One was shipped to Mammoth Spring and the other, nicknamed Long Tom, was sent to West Plains.
 When Cabool hosted the Blue and Grey reunion in 1900, the West Plains cannon was sent there to fire a salute. Afterwards, the big gun was left in the grove where the picnic was held.

During the Fourth of July events in 1902, “Long Tom” was overloaded with gunpowder and blew apart when fired. No deaths or injuries were reported. 

The remaining three canons of the original shipment of eight were not mentioned in the article. It is hoped that they did not meet the same Fourth of July fate as “Long Tom”.

The photograph of the two cannons pictured above is a six pounder field gun (foreground) and a twelve pounder howitzer (background). These are reproduction cannons displayed at Wilson's Creek Battlefield, taken by Michael Price. The photograph of the single cannon, taken by Renee Glass, is one of two on the Drury campus. A later newspaper article suggests that these two cannons and a cannon owned by the Walnut Grove High School were all part of the original shipment of eight cannons.

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