Civil War Veteran
TEMPLETON — Although the cannon mounted at the Templeton community park was designed for use in the American Civil war, it still manages to inflict a few casualties.
LeRoy Sherwin, director of the county’s beaches and parks, said he did not know the history of the old ordnance but it has caused him a few headaches over the years.
“Little kids are always climbing on it and once in a while one of them falls off,” Sherwin said. This has resulted in several unsuccessful damage suits against the county.
According to Sherwin the old cannon is usually fired at least once on Halloween.
“I don’t know where the kids find the powder supply,” Sherwin said, “but they usually touch it off. I’m afraid someone is going to get hurt one of these times.”
The county official said he did not know how the cannon ever got to the Templeton park but it was already in place when the county took over its operation prior to World war I.
Ursin Perkins, county supervisor from the area, also had no information on the gun’s origin. Perkins said he thought some of the old residents of the community might be able to give its history.
Now filled with concrete, the canon stands silent in Templton’s park.
I sent an e-mail query to the Thomas and Katherine Detre Library and Archives of the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, PA. We now have access to more information than the reporter in 1962.
Many thanks to research volunteer Tim Breslin who wrote the following:
Joseph McClurg established the Fort Pitt Works in 1814 with a foundry at Fifth Avenue and Smithfield Street (downtown Pittsburgh). Shortly thereafter he moved the operations to a site between 12th and 13th Streets off of Smallman Street, the block opposite from where I’m sitting in the Senator John Heinz History Center. According to a February 1, 1998, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article entitled “The Fort Pitt Foundry,” the works were passed on to McClurg’s sons and in 1841 were purchased by Charles Knap and W.J. Totten. The company produced heavy guns, steam engines and machinery, and two iron steamboats. During the Civil War years about 80 percent of the Union’s heavy artillery and 15 percent of all cannons under government contracts were produced at the Fort Pitt Works.
The gun in the Templeton community park appears to be an 8-inch (bore) Army cannon called a columbiad. Fort Pitt Works and other manufacturers were using a hollow-casting process developed by Thomas Jackson Rodman – a Union artilleryman — to make these cannon, so those guns and others made by the process are often called Rodman guns. According to the linked 1864 Scientific American article the Fort Pitt Works produced over 2,000 cannons and mortars from the 1840s until 1864, of which 300 were the 8-inch size. Although I’m not absolutely certain, it appears that the “No. 32” on the cannon’s markings likely refers to the piece being the 32nd of the 300 of that size of cannon produced by the works. The 8430 lbs. refers to the weight of that gun (the Scientific American article gives the average weight of the 8-inchers as 8,400 lbs.). The “C.P.K.” are most likely the initials for Charles Knap; markings on other guns produced by the works show initials of other officers/owners of the company. And the rest, of course, refers to the Fort Pitt Works in Pittsburgh and that the gun was produced in 1863.
As for how that particular gun ended up in California is anyone’s guess, unless you can find a local history of it. The Works shipped armaments throughout the United States for one thing. Also, the U.S. military could have used the gun during the Civil War and then sent it to California afterwards for potential military use, or the gun could have been sold (or donated) after it became obsolete, to the community for use in a memorial. Most likely a lot of similar obsolete cannons and mortars were also melted down and recycled.
Report of the Gun Foundry Board, February 16, 1884 (United States. Gun Foundry Board, Edward Simpson) lists armaments manufacturers previous to and during the Civil War.
More detailed information on Rodman guns can be found here.