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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Civil War cannon project near completion

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mammoth Spring State Park Superintendent Dave Jackson stands by the recently restored and relocated Civil War cannon at the park. He said a dedication ceremony is planned sometime during reunion week this summer. Photo by Jan Thompson
MAMMOTH SPRING -- Mammoth Spring State Park Superintendent Dave Jackson said the Cannon Plaza Project at the park is near completion.

The plaza has been constructed near the spring and the welcome center at the park.

The history of the cannon is long and sorted and, of course, involves the Old Soldiers, Sailors, Air Force and Marines Reunion that is held at the park each year.

History shows that near 1890, Union and Confederate soldiers would camp where the state park is now located and try to mend their hostilities.

Families would travel by horse and wagon and camp a week along the spring at the park and near Spring Lake. Eventually the gathering became known as the Reunion of the Blue and the Grey.

"In 1893 Reunion Association members requested a Civil War cannon for the site from the U.S. War Department. The request was granted and in 1983 the cannon was shipped by the Frisco Railroad to the Frisco Depot at what is now Mammoth Spring State Park," Jackson said.

Jackson said it took eight men to unload the cannon and that it was placed on a homemade carriage that was specially fabricated for it.

The cannon was an 1861 4.5 inch Ordnance (Siege) rifle. Its tube is rifled cast iron. The cannon weighs 3,569 pounds, not including the carriage. It will shoot 3,265 yards at a firing rate of 12 to 20 rounds an hour.

Each day during the Reunion of the Blue and Grey this cannon was fired at sun-up and sun-down.

During reunion week the town of Mammoth Spring was filled with activity. Veterans and their families traded goods, participated in racing and shooting contests and shared stories about the war. Wooden carnival rides were built for the children, and afternoon baseball games and evening concerts were also popular.

The park superintendent said the reunion has seen many changes over the years but it has always honored veteran­s who fought to protect their families and preserve their way of life. He said that is one of the reasons the old cannon at the park is so important.

Jackson said Arkansas State Park officials did some fairly extensive research on where the cannon was used during the Civil War but have not come up with answers.

He said the cannon was moved from the depot to the reunion camp and there it stayed for many years. He said the carriage finally fell through and it was placed on concrete near the park pavilion where it stayed until just a couple of weeks ago.

The restoration work on the cannon was extensive. The tube of the cannon was removed and taken to the park maintenance shop where the rust was removed. The inside of the tube was also cleaned. Jackson said there is a vent at the back of the tube and it was cleaned out. The inside of the cannon muzzle was oiled and a cap was placed on it so trash and debris could not get inside it. Linseed oil was applied to protect the cannon on the outside.

Jackson said a Cover Lumber Company boom truck carried the tube of the cannon from where it was situated near the pavilion to its new pad. McPherson Welding anchored the cannon to secure it to the pad.

"The cannon carriage was fabricated according to standards specified for cannons during the Civil War. However, instead of wood being used, steel and aluminum were used to make the cannon more weather resistant and also easier to maintain. The carriage was made by Paulson Brothers Ordnance Corporation from Clear Lake, Wis.," Jackson said. A crew from Arkansas State Parks constructed the pad the cannon is on.

Jackson said three interpretive signs will be displayed near the cannon and will give the history of the cannon and the reunion. They are not yet complete.

The rock work around the cannon pad was done by Clyde Collins from Ravenden Springs, Ark. Jackson said the interpretive signs were produced by Interpreter Graphics, Signs and Systems from Salt Lake City, Utah, the audio for the signs was provided by Digital Automatic Technology of Little Rock, Ark.

He said all the rock the cannon pad is made from is Arkansas rock, native flagstone and cut limestone.

Jackson said a dedication ceremony is planned for reunion week this year although an exact day has yet to be established. The reunion is hosted annually by Mammoth Spring VFW Post 7831 and Ladies Auxiliary.

He said the entire project costs about $55,000 with the pad alone costing $25,000.

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