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Cool Things - Union Army Veterans Cannon

GAR  cannon

Recycling is an excellent way to re-use materials, but over a century ago it cost the wife of one veteran a good brass kettle to help manufacture this cannon.

After the Civil War, a group of Union army veterans in Kansas wanted a cannon to fire salutes at Memorial Day and Fourth of July celebrations. Unable to locate one, the veterans instead solicited contributions of scrap brass to cast a new gun. It appears the metal was not always given up willingly. One housewife in Newton, Kansas, discovered that her large preserving kettle had disappeared. She learned much later that her husband, forever loyal to the Union cause, had confiscated the kettle.

GAR cannon, front view

Grand Army of the Republic

This cannon belonged to members of the Judson Kilpatrick Post No. 36, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The GAR was a veterans organization for Union soldiers and sailors. Local posts were established throughout the country, and by 1880 the GAR was a well organized fraternity with over 360,000 members nationwide. It served as a powerful lobby for veteran interests, providing homes and funds for soldiers' widows and orphans, and care for disabled and elderly veterans.

The Kansas Department of the GAR claimed 19,000 members in 478 posts by the end of the 1880s. The organization founded soldiers' homes at Leavenworth and Fort Dodge, as well as an orphanage in Atchison. The GAR also was instrumental in constructing a Memorial Building in downtown Topeka. Upon its completion in 1914, the building became the home of both the GAR and the Kansas Historical Society.

Close-up of names engraved on cannonThe cannon was cast by GAR member Robert Denny in his foundry at Newton, Kansas. In addition to the brass kettle, it incorporated metal contributed by the Santa Fe Railroad. It was used by the Kilpatrick Post until 1931. At that year's annual encampment (reunion), the cannon was donated to the state department of the GAR by the post's surviving members. Department Commander E.W. Phillips thanked them for the transfer:

"Since this post was organized . . . it has enrolled nearly 300 comrades. Most of all of them shared in the pride they had in having a real home-made brass cannon. True, it had never killed anyone, but it has belched forth the defiant language of Kansas."

At that time, the 14 remaining members of the Kilpatrick Post had their names engraved on the barrel, as follows: Aaron W. Parkhurst, William J. Puitt, Frank L. Barnhisel, Zachary T. Cook, Arthur B. Gilbert, John W. Johnson, John S. Faulkner, Edward Marshall, John C. Johnston, Joshua Perkins, Michael Bartley, George W. Reed, Phillip Landers, and Peterson Roff.

Thereafter the cannon was placed in the GAR Museum located in the Memorial Building in Topeka. The GAR eventually passed out of existence along with the last Union army veteran, and the objects from its museum were absorbed into the collections of the Kansas Historical Society, which now operates the Kansas Museum of History.

Entry: Cool Things - Union Army Veterans Cannon

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2005

Date Modified: September 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.