Originally created 11/28/02

Workers uncover Augusta cannon



Utility workers in Petoskey, Mich., weren't too impressed with the rusted iron cylinder they hoisted from a construction site six years ago.

In fact, they dumped it in a field behind the Department of Public Works, where it sat unappreciated - until a few months ago, when the relic was identified as a Confederate artillery piece made in Augusta.

"They said they had an old cannon, and did we want it," said Fred Knoodle, a Harbor Springs, Mich., member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War - a northern equivalent of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

After examining the 1,000-pound artillery piece, he discovered an unusual inscription in the cast-iron trunnion: "Govert. Foundry & Machine Works, Augusta."

After further research, and discussions with Pennsylvania-based Civil War artillery expert Wayne Stark, it was affirmed that the 12-pound Napoleon style cannon was indeed cast in Augusta.

"It's major," said Gordon Blaker, the curator of the Augusta Museum of History, which until now could not confirm that any iron cannons were made at Augusta's foundry, which typically cast bronze artillery pieces.

During the Civil War, Augusta was a hub for Confederate munitions, with a major Powderworks and other facilities. The cannon foundry was located where Dyess Park sits today, near Eighth and D'Antignac streets.

"They made cannons - and artillery shells were the main thing - and other types of metal parts and machinery," Mr. Blaker said. "Bronze was the preferred metal for cannons, and iron is unusual, as it's a weaker metal."

The discovery of the Augusta-made cannon in Petoskey - 1,117 miles from its birthplace - is as much of a mystery as it is a significant historical find.

"Nobody can figure out how it ended up way up here," Mr. Knoodle said.

It was found by sewer line workers 6 feet underground behind the Perry Hotel, a century-old luxury overlooking scenic Little Traverse Bay.

"They said if we want it, to go ahead and take it, so they delivered it to my house back in October," he said. "They brought it out here in a big dump truck."

The barrel tip is broken off the cannon, which - according to Mr. Blaker - could forever cloud efforts to trace the details of its origins, which likely date between 1862 and 1865.

"A lot of the vital information would have been inscribed on the missing portion," Mr. Blaker said. "The serial number, date and weight all would be on the muzzle, so with that gone, there's not much more we're likely to find out unless someone finds other information."

The cannon could have been hauled north as a war prize or souvenir, but it is unlikely anyone will know for sure, Mr. Knoodle said.

Augusta Museum officials would welcome a chance to examine or perhaps acquire the cannon. But for now, Michigan historians plan to keep it in the town where it was found.

"It was donated to our group with thoughts we could restore it and put it in a suitable location in Petoskey," Mr. Knoodle said.

Reach Robert Pavey at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 119, or rpavey@augustachronicle.com.