How NOT to unload your Municipal display cannon..."The Bombardment of Waterloo"

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USS ALASKA

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Remembering the time when a guy freed stuck cannonballs from the town cannon and things went ... wrong
Updated Sep 15; Posted Sep 15
By Johnathan Croyle

A small taste of the Civil War came to Waterloo, N.Y. on Sept. 12, 1923, 58 years after the war ended

Residents of the Seneca County village, best known for being the birthplace of
Memorial Day, must have been surprised when three cannon balls were fired from a cannon from Lafayette Park while people and schoolchildren walked home for lunch.

The park had recently been struck by vandals, believed to be "mischievous boys," who had taken the eight-pound cannon balls from a pyramid-shaped display and dropped them down the muzzle of the cannon nearby.

Park commissioners tried to remove them and successfully got all but three out of the cannon.

That is when Charles Genung, who lived next door to the park, decided to try to help.

Armed with two ounces of gunpowder and a fuse from a firecracker, Genung thought he could fire the balls out, figuring that the small amount of powder would prevent the balls from traveling too far.

The Medina Daily Journal wrote that the powder Genung used should "have been only sufficient to dislodge the balls."

Unfortunately, Genung was unaware of the extra powder already inside of the cannon, left over from a previous firing. Or he may have used more gunpowder than he figured.

Instead of merely dislodging the three cannon balls, they were sent "soaring over the trees."

(Thankfully the cannon was displayed with its muzzle pointed up rather than parallel to the ground which would have sent the balls screaming into a street of pedestrians.)

One ball clipped large limbs from trees and landed in the yard of Charles Terwilliger. Another traveled 500 feet and crashed through the second story of the Waterloo Hotel.

The third plowed into the west side of Genung's home, cut through one of the upper rooms and lodged inside a front wall.

No one was injured in the so-called "Bombardment of Waterloo," though Mr. Genung may have been a bit embarrassed after the story was picked by newspapers across New York State.

"Fools Not All Dead Yet" was the front-page headline of the Medina paper.

Full article with pics can be found here - https://www.syracuse.com/vintage/2018/09/the_bombardment_of_waterloo_civil_war_cannon_fire_skakes_village_in_1923.html

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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poorjack

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Similar thing happened in Richmond on Monument Ave in the 1950s. Prankster put powder in a static mounted gun and fuse in the vent. Well the powder went off alright, just not his. The gun was still loaded from the War and the ball went sailing down Monument Ave and blew off part of the hand of one of the statues. Reason I know about it, the perp finished dental school shortly after and was my mom's dentist. Got the clipping somewhere in one of her scrapbooks.
 
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unionblue

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@USS ALASKA ,

Had something similar happen at Ft. Devens, MA, when I was a young soldier there for my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in learning Morse Code.

The post had a WWII 75mm Pack Howitzer in the corner of the fort's parade field, next to the post flag pole. The cannon is fired, with a blank shell, every morning during the week to signal reveille and the playing of such by bugle at o dark thirty (0600 hrs).

Apparently, some of the trainees there hated that cannon blast and decided to play a trick on the soldiers assigned to fire it. One dark morning, as my formation of soldiers were marching on the way to class past the cannon, right at six o'clock, the gun was fired and an enormous amount of toilet paper burst forth from the barrel! We all had a good laugh and cheered at the sight, until our Sergeants ordered silence in the ranks and marched us the remaining distance to class.

It was a few weeks later when another incident took place and the gun crew had gotten out of the habit of swabbing the gun tube before firing it. This time it was a tad more serious. Someone had placed a billiard ball in the barrel and when it was fired, the 'ball' soared through air at a high enough angle as to send it through a third story window while a class was being seated.

Needless to say, STRICTLY enforced procedures were established concerning the proper swabbing the canno before ANY attempt at firing it again. :smile:

Unionblue
 
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Vicksburger

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Vicksburger

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Hah!

I've heard a lot about the McRaven ghosts, but nothing about a cannon.
Well we were told a whale of a story when we took the house tour in 2006. This happened I think in the 50's when the two spinster sisters living in McRaven saw an ad in the paper by the Park service offering to remove for FREE any ordinance around Vicksburg. There was an un-exploded cannon ball stuck in between the floors of McRaven, some how had been wedged in there during the war. First, the Park Service balked, saying we meant if it was "stuck in the ground". But the ladies pointed out the promise didn't specify "where"... So a couple of employees show up, dig the ball out of the house, put the ball in the truck bed, and drive away. NOTE.... Harrison St. is VERY bumpy and ridden with POTHOLES. Guess what happened next???

Yes, the truck hit a pothole and BLAM...truck DESTROYED. Employees not injured thank goodness. PARK SERVICE renders bill to the sisters for compensation for their TRUCK. Sister's lawyer deftly argues that Park Department promised no charge. Sisters win the argument. If true a great story.
 
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Pat Young

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I was in Waterloo last year. It is near Seneca Falls and has several sites associated with Women’s Rights and Abolition. There is a small Memorial Day museum and a site associated with the GAR. Folks visiting the Finger Lakes might want to plan an hour or two in Waterloo.
 

unionblue

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Well we were told a whale of a story when we took the house tour in 2006. This happened I think in the 50's when the two spinster sisters living in McRaven saw an ad in the paper by the Park service offering to remove for FREE any ordinance around Vicksburg. There was an un-exploded cannon ball stuck in between the floors of McRaven, some how had been wedged in there during the war. First, the Park Service balked, saying we meant if it was "stuck in the ground". But the ladies pointed out the promise didn't specify "where"... So a couple of employees show up, dig the ball out of the house, put the ball in the truck bed, and drive away. NOTE.... Harrison St. is VERY bumpy and ridden with POTHOLES. Guess what happened next???

Yes, the truck hit a pothole and BLAM...truck DESTROYED. Employees not injured thank goodness. PARK SERVICE renders bill to the sisters for compensation for their TRUCK. Sister's lawyer deftly argues that Park Department promised no charge. Sisters win the argument. If true a great story.
@Vicksburger ,

If the above story ain't true, it ought ta' be! :smile:

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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tbuckley

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There is a cemetery near where I live that has a 12lb howitzer tube that is bulged and split. Back in the 1950s, someone decided it would be fun to fire it.
 

USS ALASKA

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@USS ALASKA ,

Had something similar happen at Ft. Devens, MA, when I was a young soldier there for my Advanced Individual Training (AIT) in learning Morse Code.

The post had a WWII 75mm Pack Howitzer in the corner of the fort's parade field, next to the post flag pole. The cannon is fired, with a blank shell, every morning during the week to signal reveille and the playing of such by bugle at o dark thirty (0600 hrs).

Apparently, some of the trainees there hated that cannon blast and decided to play a trick on the soldiers assigned to fire it. One dark morning, as my formation of soldiers were marching on the way to class past the cannon, right at six o'clock, the gun was fired and an enormous amount of toilet paper burst forth from the barrel! We all had a good laugh and cheered at the sight, until our Sergeants ordered silence in the ranks and marched us the remaining distance to class.

It was a few weeks later when another incident took place and the gun crew had gotten out of the habit of swabbing the gun tube before firing it. This time it was a tad more serious. Someone had placed a billiard ball in the barrel and when it was fired, the 'ball' soared through air at a high enough angle as to send it through a third story window while a class was being seated.

Needless to say, STRICTLY enforced procedures were established concerning the proper swabbing the canno before ANY attempt at firing it again. :smile:

Unionblue
Young men, pool balls, toilet paper, explosives - what could possibly go wrong? :whistling: Now just add some beer and let the party begin!

I must be getting old - when I first took up Uncle Sam's shilling, I would have been the one right in the middle holding the cue ball and a beer...these days I would just watch...from a distance. Guess I'm not as immortal as I used to be...
295

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
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