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Feb
13

Washington Office Fort Loudoun Cannon

By
When:
February 6, 2017 @ 4:20 pm – 5:20 pm
2017-02-06T16:20:00-05:00
2017-02-06T17:20:00-05:00
Where:
George Washington Office Museum
32 W Cork St
Winchester, VA 22601
USA
Cost:
Free

Washington’s Office Fort Loudoun Cannon

Research provided by Ben Ritter to Jim Moyer 2/10/2017

updated 2/12/2017 thru 2/15/2017, 3/5/2017

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fort loudoun history markers 019

Photo taken by Jim Moyer

Ben Ritter, local historian, provided these newspaper clippings that jump-started our search for the origins of this cannon.

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It would have taken forever to scour the newspaper archives.

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Ben Ritter has read and taken notes on a considerable number of years of these newspapers.  He has provided the news articles on this cannon.

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Below is additional confirmation – when and where we could find one – for all claims made in these newspaper articles.

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Click on all photos to enlarge. Hit backspace to return here.

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At the end of this, we have some questions for any enterprising reader to answer:

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An Old Cannon of Washington Goes on Block

Winchester Evening Star

Monday March 5, 1923

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Excerpts from article:

“The cannon was bought last week at a public sale for $29 by Mr. Frank H. Taylor, who at least thought enough of the relic to save it from the junk dealer’s pile.   For scrap iron it is worth just about 30 cents at the prevailing price of old metal . . .”

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According to the article, this cannon ” as was dragged forth every four years … loaded up its mouth with black powder and  fired off in the celebration of a newly elected President … since General George Washington was first elected …”

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Do other celebrations mention this cannon?

A 1916 article about  Winchester celebrating the election of Woodrow Wilson mentions fireworks but not this cannon.

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Sketch of 411 North Loudoun Street, Winchester, Va. Sketch by J. Taylor from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in December 31, 1864 showing the remains of Fort Loudoun and the well – built by George Washington. — from Handley Library’s Stewart Bell Jr Archives

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Was this Cannon around in the Civil War?

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James E Taylor, the noted sketch artist, was embedded with Union General Sheridan’s troops.

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Despite the war, he got very interested in Fort Loudoun, Braddock’s sash, and some other stories here in Winchester about the founding of the country on the frontier.

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But none of James E Taylor’s  drawings of the Fort Loudoun area show that cannon. Maybe it was in hiding during the war?

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A 2nd reason for its firing: “Years later it was customary to drag the old cannon from place to place around the town and fire it off in celebration of an unusual event in the community.”

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A 3rd reason for its firing: “Finally it was used in the place of fireworks  and firecrackers to usher in Christmas Day, and hundreds of people will recall that the first sound they would hear of early Christmas morning was the lumbering of the old cannon on the ramparts of old Fort Loudoun.”

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Ramparts: This was the term used for the ground built up under Fort Loudoun to keep it level. See these pictures. The terrace is proof of the hard work of moving dirt and rock by George Washington’s men 1756-1758.

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This article mentions some owners of the property within the Fort Loudoun footprint where this cannon sat:

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William L Clark,

who owned much of the property on North Main (N Loudoun St) and North Market (N Cameron St) .

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Was William L Clark President of the Winchester and Potomac Railroad? 

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The Mutual Assurance Society Records collection contains insurance policies (1746-1838) to dwellings in Winchester, VA and Frederick County, VA, which include policyholder?s names. such as William L Clark at 407 North Loudoun.

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Noah W. Solenberger

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The [estate of the] widow of Noah Solenberger sells cannon to Frank H. Taylor.

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The article’s reporter then ponders who might obtain it from Frank H. Taylor for the sake of History?    Would it be the DAR?  Or the Trustees for the George Washington Office Museum?

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Then James B Russell is mentioned.

He found a cannon ball

but doesn’t know if it was from this particular cannon.

This is a picture of James B Russell,  aged 90,

and who was a Confederate soldier

from the beginning to the ending of the war,

standing next to this cannon.

He knew those who were alive when GW was alive.

Is he related to William Greenway Russell, author of What I Know About Winchester?

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Washington’s Old Cannon to be Preserved

Winchester Evening Star

Monday April 23, 1923

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Old Cannon a Reminder of Days of Yore

Winchester Evening Star

reprints a Baltimore Sun article

May 1, 1923

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Reporter, William McClenahan for the Baltimore Sun,  notes “today it [the cannon] is lying on the sidewalk in front of a shop.” 

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“today” is an earlier date than this Winchester Star reprint of the Baltimore Sun article on  May 1923. The earlier 5 March 1923 article reports Frank H Taylor bought the cannon from an  Solenberger  estate auction prior to this  5 March 1923 article.

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That shop the cannon was “lying on the sidewalk in front of “ ?  The shop is Frank H Taylor’s who bought the cannon. It’s his plumbing shop on South Braddock, per the 5 March article. 

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And that phrase “lying in front of ” ?   Would that mean the cannon has been dis-lodged from its wheel carriage?

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Other cannons already on the Cork and Braddock corner?

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“At the Washington Headquarters there is already mounted two old pieces. There is room for another.”

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Famous Cannon Taken Today to Permanent Home

Winchester Evening Star

Friday February 22, 1924

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“Today, the birthday anniversary of George Washington, the father of his country, was very appropriately selected as the occasion for removing the famous old Washington cannon from Mr. Frank H. Taylor’s place on South Braddock street, to Washington’s Headquarters, preparatory to being mounted at this historic shrine.”

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This article repeats other articles stating:

“The relic was one of twelve cannon which were mounted on the old Fort Loudoun … “

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First known portrait of GW at age 40 wearing his VA Regiment uniform in 1772

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Were there 12 cannon?

Colonel George Washington states 14.

He writes from Fort Loudoun to Lt Gov Dinwiddie (the acting governor)  27 June 1757:

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This place when finished, will mount 24 Guns; and we have no more than 4 twelve-pounders, and 10 four-pounders: Six more wou’d do tolerably well. I understand there are some pieces of cannon at Colonel Hunters, belonging to the colony, which I imagine wou’d be of greater service here.8 “

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Maybe there were 12 at one point when the cannon were being acquired.

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But there appears that no more than 14 were acquired, as GW’s request was denied.

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And there’s the size of the cannon balls.

GW mentions they had “4 twelve-pounders, and 10 four-pounders.” 

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Photo provided by Ben Ritter. Not sure what National Geographic issue has this photo. James B Russell is the man in this photo.

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This news article states:

“In this connection it will be interesting to know that James B Russell has in his possession several of the six-pound ball which were fired either by this cannon or by of the same size bore.”

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Based on this, the cannon – if it was a 6 pounder — wouldn’t have been one of the cannons at Fort Loudoun at least at the moment GW wrote that letter.

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Maybe it came later.  Maybe even 20 years later when James Wood  (the son of James Wood the founder of Winchester VA)   sent the Convention Prisoners from their prison holding camps in Charlottesville VA to Winchester VA during the War for Independence.

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Photo from National Geographic issue. Will research which issue that year.

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Fairness to the Reporters

To be fair to the reporters of this time, they didn’t have online.

And they didn’t have online original source documents.

And btw  (hey, even GW abbreviated – read that letter),

those documents didn’t start coming on line until around 2009.

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Those documents unknown to most were hiding somewhere.

But if  you knew of their whereabouts

you would have to physically visit and obtain permission.

 

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Questions

History has no finality.

Books and reports are written that way.

But we always like to include the holes,

the questions always remaining left unanswered.

So here they are:

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The Cannon on wheels?  Is it the same one put on the cement memorial?

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Does anyone have a copy of that National Geographic article?

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Does anyone have a photo of that cannon on Solenberger’s property, or of that same cannon anywhere on any properties throughout time in the Fort Loudoun footprint?

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Does anyone have a photo of that same cannon in front of Handley Library or at that purchaser’s plumbing store on Cork Street?

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We pass the baton to you treasure hunters.

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Links

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See James E Taylor’s drawings from Handley Library’s Stewart Bell Jr Archives:

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http://handley.pastperfectonline.com/photo?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search_criteria=%22james+taylor%22&searchButton=Search

and

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http://handley.pastperfectonline.com/photo?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search_criteria=%22taylor%22+and+%22fort+loudoun%22&searchButton=Search

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