‘Gettysburg Gun’ represents rare bit of Rhode Island, US history

gettysburg gun

Given that much of the War Between the States was fought below the Mason-Dixon Line, it’s hardly surprising that much of the history associated with the conflict is found in the Southern US, whether on battlefields or in museums.

Still, there are many unique war-related attractions located in the north. One such item is the so-called Gettysburg Gun, located in the Rhode Island Statehouse.

The 12-pound Napoleon was last fired on July 3, 1863, the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, by Battery B, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery.

The battery, which began the battle with six guns but was down to four by the third day of action, was pounded by Confederate artillery in the fighting that preceded Pickett’s Charge.

During a fierce cannonade one of the 12-pound Napoleons, the cannon which would become known as the Gettysburg Gun, was struck by a Confederate shell, killing two of the Rhode Island gunners.

Sgt. John H. Rhodes of Battery B, 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery described the incident in an 1892 monograph on The Gettysburg Gun:

No. 1, William Jones, had stepped to his place between the muzzle of the piece and wheel, right side, and had swabbed the gun and reversed sponge staff, which is also the rammer, and was waiting for the charge to be inserted by No. 2. Alfred G. Gardner, No. 2, had stepped to his place between the muzzle of the piece and wheel, left side, facing inward to the rear, taking the ammunition from No. 5 over the wheel. He turned slightly to the left, and was in the act of inserting the charge into the piece when a shell from one of the enemy’s guns, struck the face of the muzzle, left side of the bore and exploded. William Jones was killed instantly by being struck on the left side of his head by a fragment of the shell, which cut the top completely off. He fell with his head toward the enemy, and the sponge staff was thrown forward beyond him two or three yards.

Alfred G. Gardner was struck in the left shoulder, almost tearing his arm from his body. He lived a few minutes and died shouting, ‘Glory to God! I am happy! Hallelujah!’ his sergeant and friend bending over him to receive his dying request.

The sergeant of the piece, Albert A. Straight, and the remaining cannoneers tried to load the piece, and placing a charge in the muzzle of the gun. They found it impossible to ram it home. Again and again they tried to drive home the charge which proved so obstinate, but their efforts were futile. The depression on the muzzle was so great that the charge could not be forced in, and the attempt was abandoned, and as the piece cooled off the shot became firmly fixed in the bore of the gun.

Continue reading

Advertisements