The quest for revolutionary war Salisbury Cannon took me to the waters of the Brandywine and the fields of Valley Forge last weekend. At the former I found nothing beside three European gun barrels inside the sadly depleted museum - a victim of state budget cuts- though I did find my way to the "Plowed Hill" where my Ogden and Dayton ancestors held the line in Stirling's Division against the British and Hessian onslaught. However on Sunday a friend and I struck gold, or rather what was occasionally gold painted iron, at Valley Forge.
I made an effort to slip loose the surely bonds of gender and ask for directions at the visitor center, only to be informed by the official I had selected that there were no American made revolutionary cannon at the National Historical Park, nor yet any cannon at all for that matter. My companion commented that had I selected one of the young, buzzcut rangers instead of the sedentary fellow at the tourist information desk, I might have gotten a different response - gender fail - but as it turned out we needn't have been discouraged because the place is swimming in artillery of a decidedly locally made character.
We came upon the 3 gun battery in the picture above at a redan near where Conway's Division encamped in the winter of 1777-1778, and determined that they were of two different calibers (4 or 6 pounders, perhaps) and at least one was a wooden replica (at right), which I believe rules it out as a Salisbury survivor. We ate our lunch and as we wove our way along one way roads through he part on various genealogical errands as well as on the look out for more guns we found many more iron cannon, ranging from light artillery to siege guns and mortars.
I wanted to pay a visit to the Washington Memorial Chapel, when my ancestor Thaddeus Thompson was said to have had a memorial tablet placed by his daughter Rhoda, one of the last real daughters of the Revolution still alive near the end of the 19th century. We asked after it at the gift shop, and while the volunteers there were initially uncertain whether we would find anything, I was able to say I thought it would be in the chapel itself and sure enough, it was one of just two large brass plaques in gothic script on either wall and had been polished by our guide without her really knowing its history! Old Thaddeus was just one of thousands of men who endured that winter, and was later wounded in the trenches at Yorktown and one of the first veterans to receive a pension for his injuries after the war. Whatever pull his daughter Rhoda had as one of the last tangible links to that era got him his solitary plaque on the church wall.
At the site of Knox's artillery park were a number of 4-9 pounders arranged on their gun carriages and painted a flat yellow in imitation of bronze although they all were of iron. I am analyzing my images to see whether there are any patterns which will help us determine which batches may have come from the same foundry. I found few distinguishing marks, though one large cannon by the Chapel had what looked like 20 C engraved just before the vent.
We also came upon a monument to Maxwell's New Jersey Brigade, with my ancestors Matthias Ogden in command of the 1st and Elias Dayton in charge of the 3rd NJ regiments. The bronze soldier atop the pedestal is wrapped in a blanket and seems to be wearing woolen stockings.
The enemy never attacked Valley Forge, which is today besieged by an invasive sea of microstegium and excessive herbivory by white tailed deer but is treasured as open space by joggers and sunbathers. I had an absolutely delightful time, even if the answer "Yes, we have no artillery" proved unfounded.