Cannon fired in Lewisburg and Cornersville Saturday

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Tribune photo by Karen Hall Members of White's Battery fired a 12-pound mountain howitzer in the park at Cornersville Saturday.

By Karen Hall

Staff Writer

Fall weather was perfect Saturday for the firing of a cannon on the squares in Lewisburg and Cornersville to celebrate the new Civil War Trail plaques recently placed in both locations.

"Nothing is ended until it is forgotten," said Cathy Gordon Wood, president of Giles County Chapter #257 of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

The monument in Lewisburg commemorates the 408 men from Marshall County who died as a result of the War between the States. It was constructed and dedicated in 1904, and dedicated again Saturday.

"No matter how they died, they were patriotic men," said Wes Pullen of Marshall Rangers Camp #297 Lewisburg. "I suspect there were more Marshall County men killed whose names are not on the base of this statue. Let us not forget these men, for they fought for a cause which they thought was right."

Parson Tim Morrison, commander of John R. Massey Camp #152 Sons of Confederate Veterans, spoke movingly about duty, honor, and country, and encouraged everyone to "fight for our Southern heritage, and to preserve our Southern monuments."

Members of White's Battery honored the memory of these fallen heroes by firing a salute with their 12-pound mountain howitzer.

White's Battery owns the small cannon, which is a reproduction of a Civil War original, explained Jason Boshers. The 12-pound designation refers to the fact that the gun can fire a solid cannon ball weighing 12 pounds. More often, during the Civil War, cannons fired canister or grapeshot (similar to a giant shotgun shell) for close-range fighting. The mountain howitzer is different from other artillery because it can be disassembled. With special pack saddles, its barrel was carried by one horse or mule, while another transported the wheels and carriage, and a third brought along the ammunition. Thus the mountain howitzer did not need a road, but could travel along a path just wide enough for a single animal. It was often used by General Nathan Bedford Forrest for the rapid, close-contact combat he favored.

White's Battery has eight men to shoot its gun, Boshers said, each with his own job. They've fired the gun nearly 100 times this year. For ceremonies like last Saturday's, they fire 8 ounces of black powder, which produces an impressive bang, jet of flame, and cloud of smoke.

"It makes you deaf at times," Boshers exclaimed.

Firing the gun in Lewisburg required stopping traffic on the north and east sides of the square, so the battery only fired three shots, but in Cornersville, where traffic is minimal, the gun was fired six times.

Wood called the dedication ceremony in Cornersville, "the most unique I've ever done," because it was for a rooster. Jake Donelson, an adopted member of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry, accompanied his owner, Lt. Jerome McCanless, into battle and into prison. Surviving all these adventures. Jake was mustered out of the army in Vicksburg and retired to Cornersville, where he died in 1864.

"No one else had a Jake," Pullen said. "We want to remember Jake as a good Confederate."

"This is a first for me, and I'm proud to do it," said Wood, as she dedicated the marker in honor of Jake Donelson.

Of 885 men from the Cornersville area who joined Company E 3rd Tennessee Infantry in 1861, leaving home for a conflict they anticipated would be short and victorious, Pullen said, just 50 were still alive when surrender came in 1865.

"These men were heroes," said Pullen, inviting everyone to give a Rebel Yell for the bravery of the men, and for Jake, their faithful rooster.

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 18, Wood and the men of White's Battery, among others, will be in Minor Hill, south of Pulaski, at the site where Sam Davis was captured 149 years ago, to dedicate another Civil War Trails marker. Once more the 12-pound mountain howitzer will ring out, this time to salute the man who was hanged as a spy on his 21st birthday.

"I would rather die a thousand deaths than betray a friend," Davis is reported to have said, refusing to divulge how he came to be in possession of Union battle plans.