Highlands in Monmouth County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Twin Lights Mystery Cannon
During construction of the present lighthouse in 1861, a cannon was found buried on the grounds. It was placed in front of the keeper’s house and for a century was the “mystery” cannon of Twin Lights. There are still unanswered questions about the gun, but this is known.
The cannon is a twelve-pounder ship’s cannon of the third quarter, 17th century and of Dutch or Danish manufacture. A comparable specimen, although an eight-pounder, is in the Jøjhusmuseet Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark and was recovered from a 1679 Danish shipwreck.
A typical ship’s cannon of the era was a flat trajectory weapon with a point blank range of 300 yards, and accurate, effective range of one-half mile. Maximum range was one mile. The muzzle loading cannon used black powder, a mixture of approximately 75 parts potassium nitrate, 15 parts charcoal and 10 parts sulphur by weight. Projectiles fired included shot, hot shot, bombs, chain and bar shot.
The barrel is deeply incised with the markings “1756 xx J * LOPEZ.” The date and name led to speculation the gun was a “pirate’s” cannon. Subsequent research
Joseph Lopez was keeper of Twin Lights Lighthouse when the cannon was dug up. Obviously, he inscribed his name on the barrel. In doing so, Lopez may have shed light on still another mystery. The first lighthouse at the Highlands was noted in Samuel Smith’s book The History of New Jersey published in 1765. He wrote “At the Highlands of Navesink, the New York Merchants have lately erected a commodious lighthouse for the security of navigation.” Did “lately erect” mean 1756, the date Keeper Lopez cut into the cannon?
During the Revolution War, Sandy Hook was occupied by British and Loyalist troops. Wartime reports mentioned the lighthouse at Highlands for in 1776 it was noted that two Loyalists “found means to pass the Guard at the Highlands near the lighthouse.” Was the Twin Lights mystery cannon part of the defenses at Highlands?
Or was it a signal cannon fired at regular intervals in foggy weather to warn ships that they were approaching the shore? In 1909, author Thomas Leonard was told the “old field piece was cast in Spain, and used by the colonists as a signal gun.”
Pirate gun. Signal cannon. Defense weapon. It’s purpose at Twin Lights is still unknown.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Lighthouses series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1861.
Location. 40° 23.779′ N, 73° 59.134′ W. Marker is in Highlands, New Jersey, in Monmouth County. Marker can be reached from Lighthouse Road. Marker is located at the Twin Lights Historic Site. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Highlands NJ 07732, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Electric Power Station (here, next to this marker); Powerhouse (a few steps from this marker); The Navesink Light Station (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named Navesink Light Station (within shouting distance of this marker); From the Navesink Highlands (within shouting distance of this marker); Telegraph and Radar at Twin Lights (within shouting distance of this marker); Spermaceti Cove Life Saving Station (within shouting distance of this marker); Spermaceti Cove Lifesaving Station (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Highlands.
Also see . . . Twin Lights Historical Society. Society website homepage (Submitted on April 10, 2021, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York.)
Credits. This page was last revised on April 10, 2021. It was originally submitted on September 23, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 1,470 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on September 23, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey.