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Fundraiser for historic cannon nearing its target

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/REZA MARVASHTI / THE FREE LANCE–STAR Donations are needed to restore the model 1841 cannon, known as ‘Old Sam,’ in downtown Fredericksburg.

Donations are needed to restore the model 1841 cannon, known as ‘Old Sam,’ in downtown Fredericksburg. /REZA MARVASHTI / THE FREE LANCE–STAR

The Fredericksburg Guard Association is closer to its goal of raising $14,000 to restore a historic cannon in the city.

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

David James, a retired National Guard lieutenant colonel heading up the project for the association, said a recent fundraiser at the Fredericksburg Armory brought in about $1,200, pushing the amount raised to date to more than $10,000.

The association says about $14,000 is needed to refurbish the gun.

James, president of the association and an amateur local military historian, said in an email that he’s preparing two requests for proposals. One would restore the barrel; the other would be for construction of a reproduction carriage. Association members are pitching in half their annual dues toward the project.

Unlike many of the cannons displayed in area Civil War battlefield parks, this one was evidently never fired in anger. The piece was used by local militia in parades, gunnery practice and celebrations.

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

The name 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’s archives indicate that the cannon was fired on July Fourth celebrations to mark the opening of the Falmouth Bridge in March 1886, and at one point, was owned by the Democratic Party of Fredericksburg.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431


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:

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