Park Historian Ove Jensen stands with volunteers Fred Hybart, Ralph Banks, Greg Wilson, Jim Landers, Joe Thompson and Charles Winchester next to the cannon. | Austin Nelson photo

Archived Story

Park’s cannon demonstration draws 100

Published 3:41pm Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More than 100 people visited Horseshoe Bend National Military Park Saturday to see demonstrations of an 1,100-pound cannon firing, according to Park Historian Ove Jensen.

Even though the volunteers demonstrating the cannon’s power were only firing blanks, volunteer Ralph Banks, formerly of Dadeville, said the cannon itself – a cannon similar to one the U.S. Army would have used during the War of 1812 – is still a powerful weapon.

“It would take a half dozen people to move it around on the battlefield,” Banks said. “There are hooks all over the place on it … and the artillerymen would wear a leather strap with a rope and hook on it and hook themselves to various points on the gun to move it around the battle field.”

Banks said oxen, mules or horses were used to carry the cannon to the field, but the artillerymen were in charge of the maneuvering in battle.

“Every time they fired it when they were using real cannon balls, the recoil would bring it back between 4 and 10 feet,” Banks said. “They had to pull it back into place every time it was fired.”

Banks estimated a cannon ball fired at a 45-degree angle from the cannon would travel at least a mile.

“(Artillerymen of the time) rarely tried to fire it more than 500 yards … because they never got a cleared area more than that,” Banks said. “They shot it entirely by line of sight. Any closer than (300 to 500 yards), and they’d use canister shots, which are cans of 30-40 much smaller balls – it’s like a gigantic shotgun.”

Banks said he was happy to see so many people attend this weekend’s demonstration.

“Sometimes we’ll be out here and not have more than half a dozen people show up,” Banks said. “I think people are starting to check out (events) closer to home.”

Banks, who grew up in Dadeville, said he got involved in being a volunteer with the park’s demonstrations in 1997.

“I used to think i wanted to do Civil War reenactments, but I didn’t have the time or money,” Banks said. “Back in 1997 I heard about having the March anniversary of the Battle (of Horseshoe Bend) event, so I came out here to see what it was all about … I thought they were doing an excellent program and I just asked the first guy in uniform that I saw, ‘How do you get into this kind of thing?’

“That guy turned out to be Ove (Jensen), and he said they were having an organizational meeting looking for volunteers … I’ve been doing it ever since,” Banks said. “We started out doing regular U.S. Army musket firings, and then we got the cannon and started doing that. I’ve been hopelessly hooked ever since.”

Banks and Jensen said they hoped to see a large crowd at the military park’s next event Aug. 11.

As previously reported in The Outlook, the event will be a miniature anniversary program in which demonstrators will fire cannons and muskets and have an Indian hunting camp set up.