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Collections Corner: The No. 14 Cannon

The cannon which is now positioned on the corner of South Sixth Street and Washington Avenue outside the Museum is No. 14 of 70, 5 inch (127 mm) Model 1897 cannon, which is considered rare. All Model 1897 cannons were designed by Watervliet Arsenal, in Watervliet, New York, on the Hudson River. The five inch cannons, like No. 14, were for shore battery use by the U.S. Army Coastal Artillery Corp (CAC) and were mounted on M1896 balanced pillar carriages. All 70, five inch cannons were cast at Bethlehem Steel in Bethlehem, PA. The cannons were machined at Watervliet Arsenal and some of the cannons were sent to the proving grounds at Fort Handcock, Sandyhook, New Jersey, which was used from 1890 to 1919, for testing.

The cannon placed at its new home, the Historical Museum

This five inch cannon weighed 7,583 pounds and had a De Bange type Hydro-spring breech. The manufacture of No. 14 was finished in 1901. After being decommissioned, about 1200 pounds of concrete have been poured into the barrel bore, so it can never be fired again. The bore length is 225 inches (18.8 feet, 7.7 m), overall length is about 20 feet. The cannon could fire a 45 pound projectile up to 13,000 yards (7 miles) by a bagged separate loading charge of 22.25 pounds (10.1 kg) of powder. The five inch cannon was also called a rapid fire rifle, since a crew could fire up to six rounds per minute, which was better than the two rounds per minute of larger guns.

The M1897 and its variant the M1900, along with other sizes, were coastal artillery pieces installed to defend major American seaports between 1897 and 1920, operated by the United States Army coast Artillery Corps, 52 of the 70 were used for U.S. coastal emplacements. Battery Mcgrath was built in 1899-1900, at a cost of $18,203.71, at Fort Rosescrans, San Diego, CA. Battery McGrath was transferred to the U.S. Army, CAC for use on November 17, 1900. No. 14 along with no. 7 were mounted on Model 1896 Balance pillar carriages and installed.

During World War I, a total of 28 five inch, coast defense guns were removed from fixed emplacements and sent to Morgan Engineering Company in Alliance, Ohio to be mounted on M1917 wheeled carriages as field guns, including No. 14 and No. 7, which were replaced with three inch rifled cannons at Battery McGrath. These 28 cannons equipped the 69th Coastal Artillery Regiment, which was formed on May 27, 1918, arriving in France, for training on the five inch field guns. However, due to the Armistice, the regiment did not complete training in time to see action, and reportedly never received ammunition. In June 1919, after the Treaty of Versailles was signed, the field carriages and five inch guns were declared obsolete. The carriages were scrapped and none were returned to the States.

Preparing to place the cannon at the Historical Museum

Following World War I, the guns were returned to the States, probably to the Watervliet Arsenal in New York or Aberdean Proving Grounds in Maryland. A number of gun types deployed in small numbers were scrapped, including the coast defense five inch guns. A number were donated to local governments for use as war memorials, including no. 14, which went to the VFW Post 1989 in Indiana, PA for more than 60 years. On August 2, 2021, the No. 14 cannon was transferred to the Historical Society.

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