737-pound cannon returned,on display at convention center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 7, 2002

Gwen Edris of the Vicksburg Convention Center advisory board and Robert Hubbard, city improvement coordinator, examine a locally manufactured Civil War cannon on display in the foyer of the Vicksburg Convention Center Wednesday.(The Vicksburg Paper/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[02/07/02]After 140 years, a Vicksburg-made gun was welcomed home and placed on display near where it was made.

The gun weighs 737 pounds, is made of bronze bell metal and bears the mark A.B. Reading and Brother, a foundry that turned out cannon for the Confederate States Army. Its new home is the lobby of the Vicksburg Convention Center where it will stay for five years.

History is the single biggest thing Vicksburg has going for it in bringing visitors to the city, said Larry Gawronski, executive director of the convention center, in opening a brief dedication ceremony in the center lobby Wednesday. He also said it was appropriate that the third gun tube cast by the Reading Foundry is now on display near where it was cast between December 1861 and April 1862.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said one of the city’s major downfalls is it has not taken advantage of its many resources to increase the number of people who visit here.

“I think it is time that Vicksburg changed its attitude because it has been sitting idle for at least 40 years now,” he said, adding that the Reading cannon may be something to help the city tap into more of the 800,000 to 1 million people who visit the Vicksburg National Military Park.

When it came time to decide where to display the Reading gun, Park Superintendent Bill Nichols said he and his VNMP staff could not come up with a better place than the lobby of the convention center. Although the gun was made by the Reading foundry, located near what is now First East Street, it was finished at the A.M. Paxton Foundry, located on virtually the same site as the convention center.

Later Nichols said he hoped the park will be able to display it at the Pemberton Headquarters on Crawford Street.

In discussing the history of the gun, which is a 3-inch rifled gun marked as the No. 3 gun that came from the Reading foundry, Park Historian Terry Winschel said he first became aware of its existence when he transferred from here to the park in Fredricksburg, Va., in 1978 and visited the park in nearby Petersburg. Petersburg, he discovered, had three guns that could be proved to have come from the Reading Foundry. When he returned to Vicksburg, Winschel said he began his attempts to get one of the Reading guns for Vicksburg. But Petersburg was not interested.

“The chief historian asked me, Terry, what part of no don’t you understand?'” Winschel said.

The man then said at some point he would be transferred, would retire or would die. At that point, Winschel might have a chance.

Twenty years later, the man retired, Winschel contacted his successor and was told, “Why not?”

The gun was then sent to Vicksburg after the local park sent a gun to the park at Fort Washington, which then sent a gun to Petersburg.

“This (cannon) should remind people not only of history but also the potential Vicksburg has,” the historian said.

By strange coincidence, Gawronski noted, there is a Reading gun on display in Ames, Iowa, where the headquarters of Compass Facility Management is located. Compass is the private company that manages the convention center for the city.