Was cannon tube now at Hanover Junction used at the battle of Gettysburg?
Four vintage Civil War-era cannon tubes are mounted along the York County Heritage Rail Trail (the old Northern Central Railway right-of-way) at Hanover Junction, Pennsylvania. Hundreds of bicyclists pass by these four guns and a nearby modern art metal sculpture of a horse and rider without passing to give them much thought. This quartet of gun tubes once were mounted on wooden carriages and they ringed the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Penn Park in downtown York. After being removed and put into storage, the Captain E. M. Ruhl Camp #33 of the Sons of Union Veterans refurbished them and moved them south to Hanover Junction, where they now sit by the railroad tracks.
Recently, York County Civil War living historian and weapons expert Ronald Bupp had an article of his published in the summer edition of The Artilleryman Magazine, Vol. 37, #3. His interesting research indicates that at least one of these guns likely was present in the artillery of the Union Army of the Potomac during the battle of Gettysburg. And, of keen interest to me personally, the gun appears to have been part of Captain R. Bruce Ricketts’ Battery F, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery as the veteran gunners blazed away at the oncoming Louisiana Tigers and Avery’s North Carolinians during the evening of July 2, 1863. A bitter, hand-to-hand melee swirled about the guns in the gathering darkness while three of my great-great grandmother’s older brothers took part on the counterattack of the 7th West Virginia Infantry to help drive the Tigers off the hill.
Ron’s research is impeccable and well reasoned. His conclusions are that gun tube #378 at Hanover Junction indeed was part of Ricketts’ Battery during the Civil War and was most likely engaged at Gettysburg. It was likely issued to the battery in September 1862.
All photos in this Cannonball post are by Scott Mingus unless otherwise designated.
This muzzle is stamped 378 and the year 1862. Ricketts had six 3″ Ordnance Rifles, numbers as 42, 64, 325, 375, 378, and 379. Each had the inspector’s initials T.T.S.L. and the years produced at the Phoenix Iron Company in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, either 1861 or 1862.
Ron Bupp’s photo (used by permission) clearly shows the muzzle markings.
This wayside marker at Hanover Junction tells the story of the four gun tubes that once were at York and now are trackside in North Cordorus Township in front of the old Junction Hotel (managed by John Scott during the Civil War). In June 1874, they were placed in York’s Penn Park along with stacks of cannon balls (these guns actually fired cylindrical shells, not round balls, however). The General John Sedgwick Post No. 37 of the Grand Army of the Republic originally bought the guns from the government at a cost of $300 and later transferred ownership in 1902 to the Capt. E. M. Ruhl Camp No. 33 of the Sons of Union Veterans. According to Ron Bupp’s research, the Spring Garden Band played during the transfer ceremony.
Postcard from blogger Scott Mingus’s collection shows one of the old cannon at Penn Park.
The tubes were removed from Penn Park in 1975 because of vandalism and deterioration of the carriages and put into storage. In 2009, the local SUV members placed them at Hanover Junction. According to Bupp, ownership “is still retained by the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, U.S. Army and are subject to recall by the U.S. Government ‘if needed.'”
Was this one of the guns that once crowned East Cemetery Hill in the twilight as Harry Hays and I. E. Avery launched their ill-fated and unsupported attack on the second day of Gettysburg? Did three of my great-great-uncles pass within yards of this very gun tube as the 7th West Virginia rushed toward the Rebels? Ron’s investigation seems to say, “yes.”
Monument to Ricketts’ Battery on East Cemetery Hill on the Gettysburg National Military Park.
My heartfelt thanks go to Ron Bupp for graciously allowing me to share some of his research with my readers.
To read Ron’s fascinating article, please pick up a copy of The Artilleryman Magazine, Vol. 37, #3.
And, to read more on Ricketts’ Battery at Gettysburg, try my book The Louisiana Tigers in the Gettysburg Campaign (LSU Press, 2009).