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Group still seeking cash to save cannon

The Fredericksburg Guard Association is halfway to its goal of raising $14,000 to restore a historic cannon downtown.

The gun, thought to be a Model 1841 6-pounder and known as “Old Sam,” sits across from the post office on Princess Anne Street.

The guard association, a veterans’ association of the local National Guard, began a campaign last year to rescue the deteriorating artillery piece, which has a colorful history.

David James, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel, president of the guard association and amateur local military historian, is heading up the effort to save the cannon.

“We still need your help to save our cannon from the ravages of time, as it is in desperate need of preservation,” James said in an email this week, noting that the piece was used by local militia in parades, gunnery practice and celebrations.

Unlike many of the cannons displayed in area Civil War battlefield parks, this one was evidently never fired in anger.

Still, “We feel it is very important to preserve an actual artifact of our own military heritage,” James said. Guard association members are pitching in half their dues toward the project.

The money raised will be used to refurbish the unusual cast-iron gun, and to buy a new carriage to replace the worn, homemade carriage that supports it.

At-large City Councilman Matt Kelly has done research on the gun’s history, and is helping in the preservation effort.

While much is known about “Old Sam,” some of its history has been lost.

“Old Sam” refers to 1876 presidential candidate Samuel Tilden, who lost a contentious election to Rutherford B. Hayes. Tilden, a Democrat, won the popular vote, but lost the contest in the Electoral College. Local legend has it that the gun was forged in anticipation of Tilden’s election.

The Free Lance–Star archives said that the cannon was fired on July 4th celebrations, to mark the opening of the Falmouth Bridge in March 1886, and at one point, was owned by the Democratic Party of Fredericksburg.

Read more about “Old Sam,” at


To help fund the restoration of “Old Sam,” send a tax-deductible donation to: Armory OIC, Jefferson Davis Highway, Fredericksburg, 22401. Checks should be made out to the Fredericksburg Guard Association. Donations can also be made online at: