Saturday, March 3, 2012

Where Do All the Big Guns Come From?

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Over the past two weeks, I have been spending a lot of time at Rosedale Cemetery in Los Angeles. First, it was to find Gone With the Wind star Hattie McDaniel's grave, then I was there to look up a very prominent Union Civil War veteran, Allen Allensworth. One of the cemetery's dominating features is the big cannon guarding the entrance to the soldiers' plot. Although heavily damaged from years of exposure, neglect, and vandalism, the gun still strikes an imposing posture before the graves of the nation's men at arms.

If you have visited cemeteries with special sections for soldiers, you have certainly seen  a gun or two. If the cemetery is old enough, it will probably be the final resting place for Civil War soldiers - and the gun will more than likely date to the Civil War era. But have you ever wondered how the gun got there? I was especially intrigued by this one. Los Angeles was a long way from the action during the war, but there is a Civil War cannon here nonetheless.

I took a few pictures, noted the various markings, and sent them to fellow Civil War blogger Craig Swain for further information. Craig got back to me in short order with more details than I had expected. This 10-inch Rodman probably served as part of network of seacoast defensive fortifications in the northeast. How can he tell? A postwar rifling insert indicates that the gun was modified from its original casting as a smoothbore - the markings on this insert give precise dates and other details. This one was converted by South Boston Foundry in 1877 (where most of the guns from the northeast wound up) - it was the 36th conversion made in the series. It was inspected by Cullen Bryant and weighed 16090 pounds.

But how did it get to California? In the late 1860s, Irvin McDowell, the Union general who lost at Manassas, was in command of the department of the West. He requested that these guns be shipped to California for use in coastal defenses. This Rodman more than likely made its way west after 1877 - it would not have been cost effective (the Army was tightening its belt in those days after a protracted war) to ship it east for rifling and then ship it west once again.

So my best guess is that this gun has never fired a shot in anger. In 1908, the Stanton Post, GAR procured the gun (somehow...I am going to figure that out next) then dedicated it as a monument to their comrades buried at Rosedale. And now it sits rusting, covered with graffiti and filled with garbage in a seldom-visited cemetery that suffers from neglect. If you're ever in the West Adams neighborhood of Washington and Normandie - stop by for a visit.




  1. From my understanding, a city or civic organization could request one from the War Department for decorative purposes. I believe the guns remained the property of said Department as well. Macomb, Illinois, has a 30 pound Parrott in our city park which was procured in that manner.

    Speaking of big guns, you should see how General Rodman's grave is decorated. The link shows an image of his grave on the Rock Island Arsenal. The piece in the center is a 15-inch sea coast gun.

  2. Thanks Bob - that is pretty much how I figured they got them. I am going to try and trace down the Stanton Pst's records from the early 1900s and see if I can indeed find such a request. And thanks for the link!

  3. How very sad to hear that Rosedale suffers from neglect these days. I remember it well from my childhood. When I was a teenager (more than 40 years ago) I regularly used it as a transit route between Washington and Venice (to my great-grandmother's stern disapproval) because it was so lovely and peaceful, with its rows of swaying palms that could be seen even from a good distance. I remember my mother taking my siblings and me to see Hattie McDaniel's grave and explaining to us that Rosedale was the first cemetery to permit burials of anyone of any race.

  4. Just found your info after googling Stanton post g.a.r. I was at the cemetery to play Taps for a veteran and drove by the memorial that I remembered From a past service.
    Thanks footer the information!.