Cannon firing sought on Courthouse lawn

Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Earl Wesley (Wes) Pullen, an adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Marshall County and a volunteer for the Civil War Trails program, says the trails program is "a state group and a private group together. It is part of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War."

A cannon may be fired on the Marshall County Courthouse lawn to commemorate posting of an historic marker in conjunction with another leg of the Civil War Trail through Tennessee, but only if Lewisburg officials agree.

That's the decision reached last week by the County Commission's Building Committee as led by Chairman Kevin Vanhooser. A request for permission to fire a cannon on the Courthouse lawn was relayed to the committeemen by County Budget Director Freda Terry.

"He needs to talk to the city," Terry said in a reference to Earl Wesley (Wes) Pullen, an adjutant of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in Marshall County, a friend of Civil War re-enactors and member of the Marshall County Historical Society.

Pullen is also a volunteer for the Civil War Trails program which, on Tuesday, he described as "a state group and a private group together. It is part of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.

Ultimately, the County Building Committee unanimously voted to grant Pullen's request, but only with conditions that grew from discussion about one of the ways the Civil War Trails will be opened.

"They want to dry-fire a cannon," Terry said of cannon fire with black powder, but no projectile.

Pullen clarified the cannon firing: "It's going to be a quarter load, dry powder."

A "three-pounder" cannon would be fired, according to Pullen who said he has access to cannons from "a friend of mine over in Mt. Pleasant and, if I need to, from a fellow in Tuscumbia, Ala., or one in Winchester, Tenn."

He hopes to be able to fire the cannon "from First Avenue over Rock Creek," Pullen said; "basically over the jail house is what I'm anticipating, but that's me."

The cannon would be placed on the northeast corner of the courthouse lawn near the monument to honor the men who are named on the Lewisburg Confederate monument, he said.

County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett had asked Terry to place Pullen's request to the Building Committee.

"I reminded Joe (Boyd Liggett) that we are in the city," the budget director told the Building Committee.

Pullen went to meet with City Manager David Orr Tuesday afternoon, he said.

"I will go with whatever Mr. Orr tells me to do," Pullen said.

Terry advised the Building Committee that Cornersville officials have approval for cannon fire for the unveiling of the Civil War Trails marker there.

Lynda Potts, vice president of the Marshall County Historical Society, is among the county residents working toward placement of the Civil War Trail markers.

Heritage tourism is recognized by economic development groups as a way to bring money into a local economy with very little cost. The Tennessee Civil War Trails is among a number of programs to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States. Interpretive signs have been and have yet to be posted. More than a dozen signs in Columbia and Franklin outline a critical phase of Confederate Gen. John B. Hood's 1864 campaign to regain control of the state.

The interpretive sign planned for posting at Cornersville will tell the story of Jake Donelson, a rooster taken through battle and a prisoner of war camp. Another sign is planned for the story of Nathan Bedford Forrest's boyhood home near Chapel Hill.

The sign planned for the Courthouse lawn, according to Potts, might best be seen as one that provides directions to other sites and stating that the courthouse was raided but not burned during the war.

As for a ceremony to mark the placement of the signs, Potts emphasized, "We don't even know when that will be."

She's written what's proposed for the interpretive sign on Lewisburg's public square, but "It's not been approved by the people at the state."

She has "no opinion" on the proposal to mark the event with cannon fire, but Don Jeter, president of the Historical Society here, has an opinion.

"I don't know why they need to fire a cannon," Jeter said.

Ceremonies had been held in conjunction with the placement of the monument honoring Confederate casualties and soldiers

County Commission Chairman Tom Sumners is a member of the Building Committee and he made the motion during its Aug. 29 meeting to authorize the canon fire, "so long as the city ... approves it."

Before the vote, Commissioner Don Ledford asked, "Who's liable" if something goes wrong?

"You'll want," Terry responded, "a hold-harmless clause in the agreement."

With that qualification added to Sumner's motion, the committee agreed.