Gettysburg Gun, North Portico, State House, Providence, RI

Gettysburg Gun, North Portico, State House, Providence, RI.

The Gettysburg Gun is a M1857 12-pdr. Napoleon, registry no. 2, cast by Henry N. Hooper & Co. in 1862 that belonged to Battery B, 1st Rhode Island Light Artillery, during the war.

The recorded history of this gun, now enshrined in the north entrance hall of the State House, began shortly after 1 PM on the afternoon of July 3, 1863 at the battle of Gettysburg. It was during the fierce exchange of artillery just preceding Pickett's charge, a massive Confederate assault on the Union lines. What happened next is a reconstruction from "The History of Battery B, First Rhode Island Light Artillery", by John H. Rhodes, a sergeant in the battery:

"During this fierce cannonade, one of the guns of Battery B was struck by a rebel shell which exploded, killing two cannoneers who were in the act of loading. The first, William Jones, had stepped to his place in front, between the muzzle of the piece and the wheel on the right side, and having swabbed out the gun, stood with the rammer waiting for the charge to be inserted by the second, Alfred G. Gardiner. Gardiner had stepped to his place between the muzzle of the piece and the left side wheel, and was in the act of inserting the charge when a shell struck the face of the muzzle just to the left of the bore and exploded. Jones was killed instantly by a fragment of the Rebel shell. Alfred G. Gardiner was struck. He lived but a few minutes and died shouting: 'Glory to God! I am happy! Hallelujah!' His sergeant and friend bent over him to receive his dying message, which was to tell his wife he died happy, and that she be sent his Bible.

The sergeant and the remaining cannoneers tried to load the gun, but found it impossible to ram a cannon-ball home.

Again and again, with hammer and an axe, they endeavored to drive in the shot, but their efforts were futile, as the depression of the muzzle was too great, and the attempt had to be abandoned as the piece cooled, contracting so that the shot was wedged in more firmly than ever."

The shot, which was placed in the gun after the Rebel shell hit it, still remains firmly fixed in the bore.

For more information on Rhode Island monuments contact Don Babiec, Rhode Island Department Monuments Officer.

This site created by Leo F. Kennedy
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Site last updated 2 April 2004

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