Saratoga County

Cannon back at scene of victory

A blast from the past has found its way back to the Saratoga Battlefield after a 231-year hiatus.

A blast from the past has found its way back to the Saratoga Battlefield after a 231-year hiatus.

A British cannon used against American forces in the American Revolution during the pivotal 1777 Battles of Saratoga is on loan to the Saratoga National Historical Park and will be on display there starting Saturday through Oct. 30.

More than two centuries ago, a group of German soldiers manned the cannon at Breymann Redoubt, a stronghold that guarded the British flank at Saratoga Battlefield.

Those German soldiers, popularly known today as Hessians, no doubt prepared to fire the cannon on the afternoon of Oct. 7, 1777. The Americans were coming.

In the Battles of Saratoga, the Colonists fought back British forces led by Gen. John Burgoyne, who was attempting to drive his army south from Canada to Albany.

The Americans captured the cannon in the victory that would later be called the turning point of the American Revolution.

The cannon, cast in bronze, weighs more than 560 pounds. It was used to fire 6-pound artillery balls.

“It’s such a tangible artifact that we can connect back to a very specific place on a very specific day,” said Saratoga National Historical Park Curator Christine Robinson. “That’s extremely rare that you can do that with any artifact.”

Historians have been able to trace the 5-foot cannon back to the Battles of Saratoga because of an inscription put on it by Americans after the war that references the date and place of the battle.

By some accounts, Benedict Arnold, who would later betray his country to the British, was the hero on Oct. 7, 1777. Some historians claim he recognized a weakness in the British forces and led a charge to the Breymann Redoubt.

A blank spot on the inscription — where Arnold’s name would have been — is all that remains of whatever honor he had earned that day.

That honor was apparently erased by his treason when the cannon was engraved several years after the war.

“We know so much about that particular battle on that day, and Arnold’s role makes it all the more significant,” Robinson said.

Douglas Cubbison, a civilian historian for the military at Fort Drum, has researched the history of the cannon. He said there is evidence it was used by Americans in the War of 1812 against the British.

The British recaptured the cannon in Detroit in 1812, but the Americans recovered it again at another battle in 1813.

The next record of the cannon’s location that Cubbison uncovered is at a small private museum in Ohio in 1908.

Cubbison believes it caught the eye of Webb Hayes, the son of U.S. President Rutherford B. Hayes. Hayes was helping to plan a library and museum in Fremont, Ohio, to honor his father.

Cubbison said he thinks Webb Hayes purchased the cannon and moved it to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, where it had remained since the museum and library opened in 1916.

“It saw the battlefield valor of Benedict Arnold and all of the men who served with him at the battle,” Cubbison said. “It was right there when Arnold swept in and captured the redoubt.”

Workers have mounted the cannon on a replica carriage where it will sit while on display at the battlefield.

Park Ranger Joe Craig said all of the cannons that sit outdoors at the battlefield today are replicas that were made for the 200th anniversary of the battle.

“There were two guns [at Breymann Redoubt]. There are two gun platforms. We can put it on one or the other and have a 50 percent chance of putting it exactly where it was,” Craig said. “That’s goose bump time.”

Cubbison will give a presentation about the history of artillery seized by the Americans at the Battles of Saratoga at the battlefield Visitor Center Sunday at 2 p.m.

Another event with the cannon to commemorate the battle is planned for October.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply