“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Cairo in Alexander County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Duncan Cannon

Duncan Cannon Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
1. Duncan Cannon Marker
Inscription. William B. Duncan, Chairman of the Mobile & Ohio Railroad, presented this Rodman smooth bore cannon to the city of Cairo as a gift, May 27, 1905. The gun saw action for both sides of the Civil War at Fort Morgan, Mobile, Alabama, in 1861, to protect southern commerce, the Confederacy seized it. Union forces recaptured Fort Morgan in Aug., 1864. The cannon was used then until 1888 as part of the nation's seacoast armament.
Location. 37° 0.157′ N, 89° 10.307′ W. Marker is in Cairo, Illinois, in Alexander County. Marker is at the intersection of Washington Avenue (U.S. 51) and 14th Street, on the right when traveling north on Washington Avenue. Click for map. Located on the grounds of the Old US Customs House and Post Office. Marker is in this post office area: Cairo IL 62914, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. York the Slave (within shouting distance of this marker); The Beginning of the Third Principal Meridian (approx. one mile away); The Ohio River Bridge (approx. 1.5 miles away); Lewis and Clark in Illinois (approx. 1.6 miles away); Historical Survey Marker (approx.
Duncan Cannon and Marker image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
2. Duncan Cannon and Marker
1.6 miles away); Lewis & Clark (approx. 1.6 miles away); Cairo, Illinois (approx. 1.6 miles away); The Meeting of the Rivers (approx. 2.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Cairo.
Additional comments.
1. The Gun's History
There are several points to make in conflict with the text of this marker. To start, the gun is not a smoothbore, but rather a rifled gun. It started life as a smoothbore, however. Cross matching the muzzle markings with secondary sources, this gun was originally cast as a 10-inch Rodman smoothbore gun. The gun was made by Fort Pitt Foundry, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1862, inspected by Jasper Myers. It weighed 14,905 pounds at that time. The gun's original registry number was 45.

The current muzzle markings read (from the 12 o'clock position, clockwise): "No. 34 - 15915 lbs - D.A.L. - B.I.W. - 1884." Translated this means the gun is registry number 34 weighing 15,915 when inspected by David Alexander Lyle, at Boston Iron Works (South Boston, Massachusetts), in 1884. The gun is one of approximately 30 which were modified from smoothbore to rifle by inserting steel sleeves through a hole cut in the
Smoothbore? image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
3. Smoothbore?
Well this gun has a story, but it may not match the text on the marker. See the commentary for more information.
breech. Thus modified the gun became an 8-inch Rifled Rodman Seacoast gun.

Based on this administrative record, by way of the gun's markings, clearly the gun was NOT at Fort Morgan in 1861. Likely it did not see Confederate service. And logically then it was not recaptured by Federal forces in 1864. Clearly the gun was at Boston, Massachusetts in 1884 for the modification described above. But given the limited funding for military projects at that time, it is unlikely the Army would have retired the piece four years later. Several guns of this type served the nation's defenses until the Spanish-American War.
    — Submitted May 28, 2009, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.

Categories. War, US Civil
Breech of Gun image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
4. Breech of Gun
The breech of this gun has a post and other moldings which indicate the gun was modified with the insertion of a 8-inch rifle sleeve. This modification was done in the 1880s in order to extend the life of obsolete smoothbore guns.
5-inch or 60 Pounder Breechloading Rifle image. Click for full size.
By Craig Swain, March 17, 2009
5. 5-inch or 60 Pounder Breechloading Rifle
This gun, made by Armstrong-Whitworth & Co. in England, was sold to the American Army for service in France during World War I. It now serves as the American Veterans of Foreign Wars monument at the Customs House. The placement allows for easy comparison to the Duncan Canon, showing the progressive developments in artillery technology after the Civil War.
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page has been viewed 1,605 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia.   5. submitted on , by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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