Cannon OK’d

ALPENA–The Alpena Board of Commissioners on Monday gave the go-ahead to a pair of interested residents who sought permission to place a cannon on the county courthouse lawn.

The Civil War-era military weapon was authorized as a memorial to honor the 170-some residents buried in Alpena County who served in that war.

Organizers Don Londo and Bruce Zann, of Alpena, presented their request to commissioners as representatives of the local post of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

More than 50 men who lived in Alpena stepped forward in the city’s early days, volunteering to fight for the Union Army. A letter from a reader published in The Alpena News in 1932 depicted touching enlistment ceremonies on the lawn of the courthouse, then located at the site of the current Centennial Building. The volunteers knelt for prayer and a blessing from a local clergyman before marching to nearby docks, boarding a ship, and heading to Detroit and then the battlefield, the letter said.

Two of Alpena’s Civil War volunteers didn’t return from the battlefield, one dying from disease and the other mortally wounded in battle and buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

In later days, around 170 veterans of the war lived in Alpena, many of them serving in leadership positions as teachers, lawyers, law enforcement officers, and elected officials.

“They had a vast influence on this county,” Londo said.

Londo and Vann wish to place a Civil War-era cannon on the northwest corner of the courthouse lawn to serve as a reminder of the role the county has played and will continue to play in the future of our country. The cannon, a Parrott rifle used extensively during the war, has been used as a monument on a number of Civil War battlefields.

A Napoleon cannon, lesser-used in the Civil War, was included in Memorial Day parades in Alpena in the late 1880s and was occasionally fired. Unfortunately, the gunpowder inside wasn’t cleaned out properly, Londo said, and the gun blew up in front of the Centennial Building just before the turn of the century, hurting one.

Londo has once before been given permission to seat a memorial cannon on the courthouse lawn. In 2002, commissioners OK’d the proposal, but the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War were unable to secure hoped-for federal funding to make the memorial a reality.

This time, Londo said, project planners hope to raise the $25,000 needed to purchase the non-firing cannon through contributions from local organizations, a goal he hopes to meet in the next year.

If fundraising efforts are successful, the cannon will join another long-standing piece of artillery in Alpena. The cannon on the front lawn of Alpena’s City Hall once fired from the battleship Maine, of “Remember the Maine!” fame, which was destroyed by explosion outside Cuba just before the Spanish-American War. The cannon was loaned to the city when the ship was recovered in 1912, drawing more than 7,000 visitors for the relic’s unveiling.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com.


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