Volunteers get a shot at making park ‘booms’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 25, 2009

Want to fire the 12-pounder “Napoleon” cannon at the Vicksburg National Military Park?

Park rangers are calling for volunteers who’d like to spend time on weekends portraying Civil War soldiers. The job entails learning to fire the famous big brass cannon as well as muskets and rifles, dressing in period uniforms and being part of the park’s living history demonstrations.

“Our volunteers are going to come from the Vicksburg area,” said ranger Tim Kavanaugh said, “and this is their big chance to come and play in the park.”

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It’s not really play, of course, except in the sense of playing a role. At an information session for volunteers Saturday, Kavanaugh emphasized the artillery is fun but can be dangerous.

“The volunteers will be getting a lot of training,” Kavanaugh said. “There is still a danger today in firing these things.” Each firing uses a pound of black powder and produces 25 to 30 feet of muzzle flare.

The official name of the cannon, an exact reproduction of a Civil War original, is the “Model 1857 U.S. Army light field howitzer.” It fires both solid shot and hollow exploding-shell cannon balls. “This would have been the pride of your battery,” he said. “You’d keep it polished and mechanically perfect — your life would depend on it.”

Vicksburg resident Reggie DeLorme, a sergeant with the National Guard’s 114th Military Police unit and veteran of Afghanistan, has attended both sessions, last week with his 12-year old son, Hunter. “He’s big-time into it,” DeLorme said. “He’s the one who pushed me to get involved.” Hunter is a student at Warrenton Elementary School and will portray a powder monkey, his father said.

Both men and women are welcome. To the women, Kavanaugh said, “Tuck your hair up, put a slouch hat on and you’re ready to go.”

“Volunteers don’t have to be people with military experience,” said John Sparks, who is volunteering with his wife, Sharon. “If you love history or just like to make things go boom, we’ll take all comers. All you need is an interest.”

Meetings are held in the park’s maintenance classroom Saturdays at 9 a.m. Volunteers receive a small stipend for travel expenses, free admission to the park for their families and a discount at the park bookstore.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at phitchins@vicksburgpost.com