Civil War cannon clamors to campus

The newly unveiled six-pounder cannon sits outside the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential library.

Feb. 3 marked the unveiling of a historically significant Model 1841 cannon outside the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library on Mississippi State University’s campus. On loan from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, the cannon came complete with a carriage donated by Shiloh National Military Park and restored by East Mississippi Community College students. The artifact carries almost two centuries of American history, as stated in an MSU press release. 

According to Eddie Rangel, assistant to the executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, the unveiling went well and signals the culmination of an effort by MDAH Board of Trustees member and MSU President Mark Keenum to bolster the library’s historical theme. 

“I think the cannon adds one more interesting piece to our museum and to the Presidential Library, being that it is an 1841 Model ‘6-pounder’, and it saw action in both the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, (with) those two wars being prominent engagements during which Ulysses S. Grant fought,” Rangel said. 

Rangel noted the cannon is one of many artifacts displayed within the Ulysses S. Grant Library space. A copy, or in many cases an original, of every letter Ulysses S. Grant ever wrote or received, as well as photographs, weapons and life-size statues representing Grant at various stages of his life can be found there. In addition, a small section dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln is available as well.

David Nolen, the associate editor for the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library, said he believes the cannon is the attention-grabber needed to bring students who might be interested in the Civil War inside the library itself to view other artifacts displayed. 

“I think that it was just such a great opportunity as a partnership to work with the Department of Archives and History and the students at East Mississippi and the folks at Shiloh … all of those different entities coming together to make that happen was a great way to allow visitors to see something special. You read about cannons and you read about artillery and things like that in the Civil War, but to see an actual artillery piece live and in-person to get the scale of it really helps you get into the shoes of and see things from the perspective of people from that time,” Nolen said. 

By connecting the cannon to Grant himself, Nolan said Grant likely crossed paths with it during the Mexican-American War.

Since Nov. 2017, MSU’s Mitchell Memorial Library has housed the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library on the fourth floor in response to the Ulysses S. Grant Association becoming affiliated with the university in 2009.

The cannon unveiling consisted of a small ceremony in which Keenum spoke on the significance of the event. Keenum was also presented with a small replica of a cannon from Dean of Libraries Frances Coleman in commemoration of his involvement in the Model 1841’s acquisition. 

“This cannon is history coming to life, which we get to share with the many visitors that come to see the Grant Library and the Frank and Virginia Williams Collection of Lincolniana,” Keenum stated in a press release. “I am very proud of the fact that Mississippi State is a destination for scholars and historians to come and study this time in our national history.”

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