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Archive for Thursday, January 27, 2011

History buff wants to recreate cannon called ‘Old Sacramento’ used in sacking of Lawrence

January 27, 2011

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The "Old Sacramento" cannon was originally used in the War with Mexico by Missourians before being placed in the public square in Liberty, Missouri. Later, Old Sacramento was brought to Lawrence by pro-slavery men who used it to fire on the Free State Hotel, which would later be called the Eldridge House. Lawrence resident Kerry Altenbernd has plans to create a working replica.

The "Old Sacramento" cannon was originally used in the War with Mexico by Missourians before being placed in the public square in Liberty, Missouri. Later, Old Sacramento was brought to Lawrence by pro-slavery men who used it to fire on the Free State Hotel, which would later be called the Eldridge House. Lawrence resident Kerry Altenbernd has plans to create a working replica.

The cannon that fired on the Free State Hotel during the sacking of Lawrence has lived a long, full life during the Civil War era in Kansas and Missouri. Now, however, it sits destroyed — a giant hole ripped through its side — in the Watkins Community Museum of History, 1047 Mass.

But that cannon, called “Old Sacramento,” could have a new lease on life soon.

Kerry Altenbernd, Lawrence native and Kansas history buff, has plans to reconstruct an exact replica of the cannon that could be fired to celebrate events, such as upcoming Kansas Day, parades and historical re-enactments.

The original cannon has a long tradition with Kansas Day: It was fired in celebration the day Kansas officially became a state Jan. 29, 1861.

It was originally used in the War with Mexico by Missourians before being placed in the public square in Liberty, Mo. In 1856, Old Sacramento was brought to Lawrence by pro-slavery men who used it to fire on the Free State Hotel, which would later be called the Eldridge House.

Several accounts state that Missouri Sen. David Atchison fired the first of about 30 shots. But being somewhat drunk, Atchison fired the shot up and over the hotel. In the late 1880s, a cannonball was found imbedded in the soil of Illinois Street that is said to be from Old Sacramento.

In 1975 Steve Jansen, then-director of the Watkins History Museum, made a deal to obtain Old Sacramento for display, said Brittany Keegan, acting curator.

“We’re not exactly sure how it wound up in the museum, but we’re just glad it’s here,” she said.

Old Sacramento was cast in bronze, and Altenbernd said recreating it out of that same material could carry a hefty price tag upwards of $20,000. He has organized a group called The Old Sacramento Cannoneers Association that plans to seek out other interested individuals and funding for the project.

He said he has already begun researching foundries across the country that could recreate a working replica of the cannon.

“My basic idea was why not make a new one because the old one can’t be used,” Altenbernd said. “It would be very significant. My only regret is that we didn’t do this a couple years ago so we could use it this weekend and fire it on Saturday. But better late than never.”

Comments

Mark Kostner 3 years, 2 months ago

I have an idea what the cannon could be used for. It could be used in the KU-MU Border War football game, especially since its roots are in the real border war. Nevada and UNLV have a cannon that they use in their football rivalry, and this cannon would also make a great football trophy. The winning team could fire it at the end of the game and take it home for a year. If MU got the cannon they could brag that they have the cannon that destroyed Lawrence and if KU got it they could brag that they defended Lawrence. It would be a great incentive to keep beating Mizzou and it would be a real shame and humiliation if they lost the cannon to Columbia.

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MacHeath 3 years, 2 months ago

There are a lot of folks that have cannons and fire them regularly. I would imagine if they paid that much to have a cannon made, it would be quite safe to fire, as long as it was loaded properly. It ain't rocket science.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 3 years, 2 months ago

Nut case makes a very good point. These "cannons" have the capacity to be very dangerous especially in the hands of amatures untrained in their use and safety. This a weapon of war designed to kill and main and if the user is a neophyte who thinks that messing with these weapons is "cool" or "neat", they have a great chance of ending up dead.

What really bothers me is that they want to make a replica of this damaged weapon and perhaps try to actually fire it. There were very specific methods of manufacturing these weapons acumulated from many years of esperience, most of it not too good. Just slopping some brass in a mold will not replicate the many proceedures that were developed over many years in making a weapon that was safe to use, at least for the cannoneer.

This whole thing disturbs me, my father was an Army artillary officer and had many stories of untrained people who would try to fire captured enemy artillary pieces and ended up killing themselves and others. This is not play or neat or cool, it is a weapon designed to kill and destroy and if you do not know what the hell you are doing, you might just be the target.

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nut_case 3 years, 2 months ago

This cannon thing sounds dangerous. It's already blown up once, obviously. And there have been many other cannon accidents as well.

I think we would be much better banning cannons and melting that thing down to make belt buckles or something.

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RoeDapple 3 years, 2 months ago

A buddy of mine built a miniature cannon in high school (you could do that in the '60's!!), caliber - - same as a D-cell battery. First time he fired it he shot a hole through both ends of his daddy's barn. from over 100 yards away.

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md 3 years, 2 months ago

I found civil war bullets and a cannon ball on campus with a detector.

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mrjcg2 3 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for you efforts, Kerry, your enthusiasm for local history is contageous.

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75x55 3 years, 2 months ago

Let's not forget our own lovely large Parrott rifle that Larrytown moved from it's place of honor in South Park to the Grasslot Of Shame (just west of city hall), with the giant red Rock of Native Guilt.

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been_there 3 years, 2 months ago

I assume this is not the cannon that was at the corner of 6th and Mass since I don't recall it having a big hole. I remember they moved it but don't remember where. We always played on it as kids.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 2 months ago

Altenbernd should check with Dixie Gun Works for cannon-related equipment.

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tomatogrower 3 years, 2 months ago

I have to admit I like cannons. At the last concert in the City Band season, they always play the 1812 Overture, and the National Guard shoots off the cannons. Da, dada da da da da, boom!!! I never miss it.

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wkeel 3 years, 2 months ago

Seven sister cannon of Old Sacramento, also brought back from the Mexican War by Col. Doniphan's unit, were melted down at Jefferson City, MO, and recast as 4 larger bore cannon for use during the Civil War. Following the war the cannon stood at the corners of the state capitol there and were fired by German-American Civil War veterans on patriotic occasions such as the 4th of July, Washington's and Lincoln's birthday, the anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, etc. in the 1890s and early 20th century. My great-great grandfather, Wendelin Buehrle, was one of the cannoneers. Today an exhibit in the state capitol memorializes this with one of the cannon barrels on a new carriage.

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yankeevet 3 years, 2 months ago

Interesting........for sure..........

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prospector 3 years, 2 months ago

I understand that a fellow san finger that used to come around these parts had a oops in his yute with a miniature cannon that separated him from that digit. Some folks play where they shouldn't.

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autie 3 years, 2 months ago

Everybody likes firing cannons. Everybody. First, I fired cannons cause my dad wanted me to. Then I fired cannons to get the girls..but I paraphrase.

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Newell_Post 3 years, 2 months ago

This is the same David Rice Atchison that was President of the United States for one day, March 4, 1849. He conducted no official business, signed no legislation, and spent the entire day hung over. All future presidents would be well advised to follow his wise example.

http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/2808

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Andini 3 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if they had a conceal/carry permit....

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kerryaltenbernd 3 years, 2 months ago

Several things are missing from the story in the JW. After the sack of Lawrence, the headquarters of the Free-State movement in the Territory, on May 21, 1856, the proslavery men took "Old Sacramanto" to Franklin, Kansas, near where the Douglas County Jail is now, and put it in a fortified log structure called Fort Franklin. Free-State men attacked the fort on June 4, 1856, and captured the cannon. The Free-State men then used it against proslavery forces in the Battle of Fort Titus south of Lecompton on August 16, 1856, and the Battle of Hickory Point in Jefferson County on September 14, 1856. After it was used to celebrate the admission of Kansas to the Union as a Free State, it remained in Lawrence. In July of 1896, the cannon was overloaded with three pounds of gunpowder, and had gunny sacks, mud, and grass pounded in the muzzle with a sledge hammer. When the cannon was fired, it blew up. My hope is that a New "Old Sacramento" will help to remind the people of Lawrence about its rich and unique history.

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grandnanny 3 years, 2 months ago

Thanks for the information about the cannon. Remember in Huck Finn that they fired a cannon to try to bring Huck's body to the surface (of course, he hadn't drowned so don't know if it would have worked). As to the firing of the cannon during a celebration, we make lots of other noise when we celebrate (noisemakers, fireworks, etc.) so why not fire a cannon. I just don't want to be too close.

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aeroscout17 3 years, 2 months ago

I am not sure I see the connection between a cannon fired at Lawrence during a conflict and said cannon being fired during celebrations. Now if the cannon had been used to successfully defend Lawrence it would be a different story.

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Boston_Charley 3 years, 2 months ago

According to the 1912 "Cyclopedia of Kansas History" it got the hole in its side when it was being used in an attempt to raise the bodies of drowning victims from the Kansas River (it was believed that a loud noise would bring stuff to the surface, don't ask me why). I think that was around the turn of the 20th century. I worked at the museum when it moved into the Watkins building in 1975--Steve Jansen was not even on the staff of the museum then, much less being the director. I think until prior to that the cannon was in another city or county building, or possibly up at KU somewhere.

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grandnanny 3 years, 2 months ago

Something missing from the story - when and how did the cannon get that huge hole in its side?

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mijemod 3 years, 2 months ago

I wonder if Altenbernd would like to be a slave? This cannon represents another part of our wicked past that should not be played with.

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