August 9, 2017
In our midst is a little bit of history that most take for granted. Kids of all ages climb on it. Parents take pictures of little ones perched on it. Most every minute of every summer day someone is around it, on it, or gazing at it.
It is the cannon in Pennsylvania Park next to the Meyer Hardware store off of Mitchell Street. What’s remarkable about this piece of hardware is the incredible history attached to it. Imagine if it could talk? The stories it could tell.
After President Lincoln and his Cabinet decided they would fight the Civil War on a “thousand-mile front,” Admiral David Farragut became the scourge of the Confederate Navy. Farragut’s ship, the USS Hartford, saw action at New Orleans, as the North conquered the port and occupied the city. The Hartford then saw action at Vicksburg where General Grant laid siege until the city surrendered on the same day the Battle of Gettysburg ended; Port Hudson; and finally, the largest and most famous of naval battles at Mobile Bay, Alabama.
It was during this last engagement where Admiral Farragut was secured to the mast so he could watch the action and it was then he uttered his most famous of lines, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.” The torpedoes were actually tethered mines in the water, and his ship survived. In 1864, the taking of Mobile Bay, the largest of the Confederate ports, secured President Lincoln’s second term and brought the South to its knees prior to surrendering at Appomattox.
This Dahlgren IX inch cannon weighs in at 4.5 tons, hurled a 90-pound shell up to two miles, and needed a gun crew of sixteen men. It was one of 26 such guns on the Hartford.
How did it come to be in Petoskey? Congressman George A. Loud, and Postmaster, James Buckley obtained the weapon, and it was installed in 1905 at its current site. Having outlived the officers, sailors, and the ship itself, Petoskey’s cannon silently reminds us of how our present was shaped by a past we hope never to repeat, but should never take for granted.