Friday, June 14, 2013

Civil War Cannon Has A Story To Tell

By Mike Maloy, Staff Writer,

A 1862 Civil War cannon is on display in front of Story County
Administration building in Nevada. A dedication of an engraved
stone commemorating the cannon will be at noon on Friday.
Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar, AmesTribune

NEVADA — Story County’s cannon has a story to tell, and now it has some help.

Gov. Terry Branstad will be among the dozens of guests on hand at noon Friday for a dedication of an engraved stone commemorating the 1862 Civil War cannon located on the ground of the county administration building in Nevada.

The cannon’s spoked wheels have been parked at the same location since 1901, but for more than a century, anyone seeing it had to ask about its provenance. Now, chiseled into a nearby boulder, is the story of Jason D. Ferguson, first person from Story County to die in the Civil War. He was killed at the Battle of Shiloh, fought in April 1862, in southwestern Tennessee.

The cannon, brought to the two-day battle by the Confederacy, was made in Vicksburg, Miss., the year before by the AB Reading and Brother Company. Its serial number is 1.

Ames’ Gretchen Triplett, 75, long has been a researcher of history, and she spent much of the winter spinning through microfilm and pouring over yellowing newspapers to learn more about the cannon.

“It’s all out there, you just have to go look for it,” Triplett said.

There were 425 volunteers in the Union army from Story County — about a tenth of the county’s population at the time — and at least 85 that died “either through disease or killed in action or because of poor medical care,” Triplett said.

The bronze cannon captured by Union troops in the battle, later transferred to the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois and eventually obtained by the Grand Army of the Republic branch in Nevada. The group is a now-dissolved fraternal organization that served union soldiers after the war ended.

The cannon’s story is told in clippings inside the administration building, but until now there was no explanation near the cannon itself.

Triplett spoke at a Story County Supervisors meeting last October, urging them to have some accounting of the cannon next to it. Board Chairperson Rick Sanders was more than willing to take on the project and has spent the past few weeks promoting the event.

“It should be outstanding,” Sanders said.

More than 200 people are expected to attend. In addition to Branstad, Col. Todd Jacobus, Troop Commander at the Iowa National Guard Readiness Center, will speak.

The Ames Children’s Choir will sing the national anthem and the Heart of Iowa Senior Band kicks off the event at 11:30 a.m.

“This is a once in a lifetime ceremony so we’re hoping employers will give people time off from work,” Triplett said. “Bring a lawn chair.”

– Published in the Ames Tribune, Ames, Iowa, Wednesday, June 12, 2013.  Used by permission.

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