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*Cannons on ROBT, E. LEE/Natchez etc.*

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Old 06-18-2012, 01:27 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573
Default *Cannons on ROBT, E. LEE/Natchez etc.*

Steamboating colleagues:
'Signal cannons' on steamboats much more common than I had thought linking to previous postings on the subject. Keith narrowed down RE: the ornamental cannons once on the grounds of the Howard Museum. I dug out TALES OF THE MISSISSIPPI, Ray Samuel, Leonard V. Huber, Warren C. Ogden, Hastings House Publishers, New York, 1955. And there it was on Pg. 96 in chapter 'The Race Of The Giants.' If weight and wind resistance was the issue on the Lee, then Capt. Cannon didn't stint on keeping his signal cannon on deck. My copy, bought for $7.50 on the DELTA QUEEN, June, 1962, is autographed by: 'Prof' E. J. Quinby, Bruce Edington, Robert McCann, Chief Purser, Happy Brisco, Lou Dallalio, Purser, George Hill, Asst. Purser, Larry & Ethel Walker, Dorothy Frye, Delly Robertson, Louise/Kathy Sanguinetti, Natchez, Miss., Capt. Jesse P. Hughes, Letha C. Greene etc.

"...a thousand watch cases snap open. Their owners look for the puff of white smoke to come from the LEE's cannon. "Bang!" goes the little signal piece. Five o' three", note the countless timekeepers. There is a pause as the LEE waits, pawing the water. The watch cases snap open again. "BANG!" say the "Big Injins" gun(s). Five-o-six is the time. The NATCHEZ is three minutes behind her adversary, but nobody, least of all Capt. Leathers, gives it a second thought." Text read "guns" plural. Could be a misprint or did the NATCHEZ have more than one signal gun?

Further digging on eBay, I found a Dec. 6, 2011 posting/ad for a 'River Steamboat Signal Cannon 1870 - 1880' SOLD for $500 plus $40 USPS. 'Bio' says, "Found at an estate sale in Downers Grove, IL, way back in the corner of the home attic. Tag reads 'Signal cannon Found 1900-1910 on Mississippi River bottom Near Perryville, MO. Cannon is 16 inches long, bore 1 & 5/8th inches, 3 & 3/4ths inches at the front [barrel]. Weight approximately 36 pounds. There appeared then to be no visible wood cannon mounting.

Signal cannons varied in size/bore. The one I saw here in our neighborhood was a good 24 inches long of a rich dark maroon steel--not rust--like what was termed 'Russian steel.' Metal straps on steamboat engines also had this 'Russian steel' in varying colors usually kept highly polished with skim of protective oil. The cannon was loaded with 'dud' powder charge with a long percusion rope pulled when you stood back. It let go with more of a loud BOOM! than a POP. Our old neighbor, now long deceased, claimed he found it in an old building down in the 'bottoms' near the old Public Landing before all of that was demolished for the then new Riverfront Stadium. That was, indeed, a LONG time ago. The fate of this cannon lost to me now.

R. Dale Flick
Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.
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