Restoring a piece of history

Civil War cannon to be placed at Veteran’s Memorial Park

It was a massive undertaking to move the historic cannon, and required use of a forklift to ensure the cannon safely arrived to Bosschem's workshop. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

It was a massive undertaking to move the historic cannon, and required use of a forklift to ensure the cannon safely arrived to Bosschem’s workshop. (Dylan Savela/News Advocate)

MANISTEE — Many of the major wars that shaped this country occurred in a time where photos and video were less commonplace, and are commemorated by the memories of those who served.

With this in mind, it is a rare treasure to have a physical piece of history that looks as if it were pulled straight out of a history book.

Several local residents are paving the way to do just that, by having a Civil War cannon permanently installed at Veteran’s Memorial Park on Memorial Drive.

Paul Bosschem said he was able to use most of the original steel components, although he enlisted help for a few small pieces. (Courtesy Photo)

Paul Bosschem said he was able to use most of the original steel components, although he enlisted help for a few small pieces. (Courtesy Photo)

Paul Bosschem is leading the effort to restore the cannon to its former glory, and said the cannon played a role in American history.

“The cannon sat in Washington D.C. and it was one of the cannons that protected the capital during the Civil War,” he said. “It is a Howitzer cannon and was designed to shoot a 16-pound ball, so that’s a good sized cannon.”

An article in the March 6, 1993, edition of the Manistee News Advocate discussed the history of the cannon:

“The U.S. Army would officially label this old gun as an “Infantry Support Light Artillary Gun” with an effective range of 1,500 yards with solid or explosive balls. The gun also fired canister shot (a form of large buckshot). The barrel of bronze is an American variation of the French ‘Napoleaon.'”

The article also discussed the history of its presence in Manistee:

“The cannon stood for many years at Douglas Park where now stands the American Legion and Chamber of Commerce buildings … it then stood on Memorial Drive where it was vandalized to the point where someone attempted to roll it down into the river.”

Ted Arens, who adopted Veterans Memorial Park in 2009, said Bosschem was eager to get involved in the restoration effort.

“He helped, along with his friend Bruce, to restore the cannon at the VFW (Walsh Post No. 4499) and he was eager to get involved with this one as well,” he said. “My wife Pam and I adopted this park about eight years ago. There are several monuments throughout town to honor veterans, and this is another important piece of that.”

After restoring the VFW cannon, the Civil War cannon at the American Legion was the next project.

“It had sat in front of their building for some time, but then it was falling into disrepair so they took the wheels and axle off of it and put it in a box, in their building,” said Bosschem. “I took a look at it with one of my buddies and said, ‘Piece of cake.’ So I took it to my shop and began working on it.”

He said the wood components have all been redone and painted, and the steel parts have been refinished as well.

The original wheels of the cannon needed to be replaced, and a new set from Wisconsin was recently delivered. Attaching the wheels is the final step in the restoration process. (Courtesy Photo)

The original wheels of the cannon needed to be replaced, and a new set from Wisconsin was recently delivered. Attaching the wheels is the final step in the restoration process. (Courtesy Photo)

“It’s two pieces of wood put together for the carriage. There was a gap all the way through there from all the years where water had gotten into it, and I took the bolts out of it and split it apart,” said Bosschem. “I ran it through a thickness planer to straighten it out then rebolted and glued it, so it looks brand new.”

Although the wood components needed major repairs, Bosschem said he was able to use many of the original parts.

“The barrel is bronze, and we’re not touching the barrel. We’re leaving that in the original state, it’s beautiful and is still in good shape,” he said. “Most of the steel is original. There’s only a couple of pieces that we fabricated for it, the rest cleaned up great and I could reuse it.”

Bosschem said the project is nearly complete, and the final step is to complete the wheels.

“The wheels we ordered new six weeks ago from an outfitter in Wisconsin, and they were supposed to be brought to us at no charge,” he said. “After I get the wheels I have to prime and paint them, get them set and put on, and then we can display it at Memorial Park.”

Bosschem said it has been a fun and rewarding project that represents a rich history.

“I’m not sure if the cannon has ever shot anything, I could make it work but I’m not sure we want to do that,” he said with a laugh. “You don’t find these in every place. There’s probably a few of them around, but they’re one of a kind.”

There have been others from the community willing to support the project. Bosschem said Bear Lake Ace Hardware provided materials at no cost.

“There’s people behind the scenes on projects like this that are always working and always willing to help you,” he said. “I have a buddy who I can call up and say, ‘I need this made out of steel,’ and he’s a magician with that kind of thing. Within a few hours he has something that is better than new.”

Arens said the cannon will be stored until spring, and there will be a ceremony to celebrate the new addition to the park.

“We will be installing a cement pad with help from the Swidorski Bros. and will be installing brick pavers as well,” he explained. “The cannon will be placed there permanently after we finish with all of that.”

Bosschem said it is not only an important symbol for the community, but also for the country.

“It’s something that is very old but will look like new, and it will bring attention to the Veterans Memorial Park,” he said. “This is representing America, as far as I’m concerned, and our freedom.”

 

Leave a Reply