1844. The earlier models were built for the War of
1812 and lobbed a 50-pound ball. I cant imagine soldiers
under fire hefting that giant shot put after loading
a heavy powder charge and standing nearby as it was aimed and
set off. I wonder whether they had ear protection in those days.
While attending a graveside service at Johnson Grove Cemetery
for an old childhood friend from Waterman recently, I got a close-up
look at a Civil War cannon nearby. Examining it closer, I realized
it was a near twin to the one in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Sandwich.
So I contacted two local historians to find out how the
artillery pieces got there. Former sexton of Johnson Grove (and
North Clinton) Cemetery Craig Rice obliged. So did Sandwich historian
The one at Johnson Grove on Shabbona Grove Road was obtained
from the Rock Island Arsenal in 1905, Rice said. It is a heavy
iron, 8-inch, 4-ton columbiad siege cannon, used mainly as a
seacoast defense weapon, located in fortifications
along rivers and coastal waterways. According to military records,
this model was manufactured in
Members of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil
War Camp No. 49 refurbished the Johnson Grove Cemetery Columbiad
cannon in 2015. Shown removing the rust are from left, Tom Oestreicher,
the late Wes Wilson, Brandon Lyon, Jim Lyon, and Bill Shipper.
(Photo courtesy of Marcia Wilson)
There are no records of where this particular gun was used
or whether it even saw action during the Civil War. Pranksters
and thieves have stolen the cannonballs over the years, so they
had to be replaced and cemented together. The same is true for
the cannonballs in Sandwich.
Rice gave me a fascinating account of a Clinton Township
Board of Trustees meeting in 2000. The Museum of the Union and
Confederacy in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, identified it as a rare
Confederate gun and offered to buy the piece for $20,000 and
replace it with a replica. Nearby farmers Louis and Emily Hardy
and other residents spoke in favor of keeping the monument for
the Civil War dead, so it was not sold.
The township supervisor at the time, Ken Moeller, told
me this week that a private collector had upped the offer to
$50,000, plus would give them a similar replacement cannon he
owned, but they still turned it down. Later, it was learned that
the Illinois Legislature had passed a law prohibiting the sale
of cemetery monuments such as this.
The cannon had fallen into disrepair, and a coat of rust
contributed to its deterioration. The E.F. Dutton Camp No. 49
of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War in Sycamore
came to the rescue, giving it a thorough scrubbing and several
coats of black paint in 2015. Jim Lyon of Camp No. 49 said they
also added a flagpole and intend to rededicate the monument next
spring. In case anyone wonders, there are 37 veterans of the
Civil War buried there.
Over in Sandwich, that columbiad was obtained a year earlier
by the local Womens Relief Corps Auxiliary, according to
Hardekopf and newspaper clippings she shared. No mention was
made of it being used in battle. It was a memorial to the Grand
Old Army of the Republic Post 510 veterans. There are 137 of
them buried at Oak Ridge.
According to Post 510 records, this instrument supposedly
weighed 8 tons, twice the weight that the Johnson Grove weapon
reportedly weighed. I wonder who will take the challenge of determining
which figure is correct? Please let me know.
An article from the Sandwich Free Press on March 2, 1905,
gave a lengthy description of the dedication ceremony. Mrs. J.M.
Hummer of the Relief Corps gave the main address and presented
the memorial to Dr. Charles Winne of the GAR post.
I quote from a small portion of the 1,500 word news account:
Winne accepted the priceless gift with one of his
characteristic happy speeches. ... The program was interspersed
with selections appropriate to the occasion by the male quartet.
The Second Review of the Grand Army was beautifully
and impressively given by Esther Sweeney.
was toastmaster, and an elegant supper was served.
I wish writers today could use such lavish, descriptive language.
NOTE: A more comprehensive article on all the military
cannons in the county will appear in the December issue of Cornsilk,
magazine of the DeKalb County Historical-Genealogical Society