The was a time yesterday when I thought I might by an antique cannon from this guy. I am alert for field pieces from this era, as part of the effort to identify and bring back a genuine example of one of the guns made in Salisbury, Connecticut during the Revolution.
I had noticed it out in front of Jimmy D's Antique's Plus, undoubtedly one of the strangest salvage yards you will ever come across, while driving back from a meeting on Thursday. It was a small piece about three feet in length with visible reinforcing rings and mounted on a iron ceremonial gun carriage. I had none of my cannon recording forms or other implements of assessment with me, but it seemed to me too good to pass by so I did a U-turn across 4 lanes of traffic and pulled up in the nearly blocked driveway to take a closer look.
My first impression was that it was indeed a cast iron barrel and somewhat roughly made. It had been cast in two halves and there were pronounced join lines both on the gun tube and on the separately made cascabel. The bore was rough and pitted, about 2 1/4 inches in diameter. A very small field piece, perhaps, not much larger than a swivel gun, but these were made n Salisbury as well.
The proprietor told me he had picked up the piece in North Carolina where it had been used ceremonially to fire confetti. The vent, he told me, had been filled in, though I saw no clear evidence of this. The only identifying marks were "RM 1" on the side of the gun carriage, I have seen pictures of 18th century cannon mounted on 19th century carriages such as this, and the general design of this gun tube with its muzzle flair and reinforcements was of a type manufactured prior to the Napoleonic Wars. But was it a genuine field piece?
The cannon was listed for $600, which if genuine would be an absolute steal. The proprietor immediately knocked it down to $500. I told him I would need to make a phone call and might return with a friend who was more knowledgeable.
In consultation with the chair of the Salisbury Cannon Committee, we agreed that it was worth going back to take a closer look, and that if it was indeed a period cannon we should buy it. We went back the following day with $500 in twenties and a heathy skepticism, which unfortunately lead us to conclude that what we were viewing was an old non firing replica, perhaps manufactured around the centennial of the Revolution.
The iron was very thin and there was no evidence that it had ever had a vent for firing. When we shined a light down the barrel, we saw the hollow insides of the reenforces and it appeared that the bore widened along with the gun tube diameter. The trunnions were shaved down to a much narrower diameter to fit the gun carriage, which was not a characteristic associated with period field pieces. Much as we might have wished it to be otherwise, we concluded that the cannon was merely decorative.
My companion still took pictures and measurements, and we both agreed it was a worthy expedition and that the more of these cannons we are able to study the better we will become in assessing whether something is too good to be true, or a trash heap treasure.