Manistique’s Civil War Cannon Mystery


Manistique’s Civil War Cannon on the Courthouse grounds. Photo Courtesy Mary Riley

     In 1896, the United States Navy Department donated a Civil War era cannon to Manistique’s George F. Fuller Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. The cannon had seen service on the James River in Virginia during the years 1861-65. After it arrived in Manistique, the cannon was placed on the Courthouse grounds where it soon became an honored emblem of national pride. The cannon played an important role in the life of the community. It was paraded through the streets of the city on Decoration Day and on the Fourth of July.  Its thunderous boom could be heard on National holidays and on extraordinary occasions, such as at the death of President McKinley in 1901, when the Presidential Salute was given. It took two men to fire the cannon, and the duty fell to Civil War Veterans, Henry Brassel and John Gayar.

     As the years rolled by some of the luster of the once honored artillery piece was worn away. Citizens regarded it more as a relic of a bygone era, than as a symbol of a nation’s struggle for freedom. In the early 1920’s, the cannon was being drawn through the streets in celebration of another national holiday. When the parade was halted at the World War I Soldiers and Sailors Monument plot near the siphon bridge, the firing of a salute startled the horses. They bolted, breaking the hitch. When the parade resumed, the cannon was left behind. Two days later, city workers lifted the cannon onto the grassy triangular monument area where it remained for several years.

            Finally, in 1926 complaints from citizens began to mount. The cannon was perceived as an eyesore that

Photo taken August 13, 1922 at the conclusion of the ceremony to dedicate the 2nd World War I Memorial. Manistique’s Civil War cannon can be seen next to the monument. Photo Courtesy Maurita Holland.

detracted from the World War I memorial, and as a hazard to drivers blocking their view of traffic on Elk Street. City officials decided that the cannon had to be removed. They contacted the county and offered to

return the cannon to the courthouse grounds—but the offer was summarily rejected. County officials shunned the old cannon, wanting instead, a WWI trophy to replace the aged field piece.

            The old cannon was moved to the city warehouse where it remained forgotten for over a year.  Then, in July of 1927, the Women’s Relief Corp, an auxiliary organization of the G.A.R., rescued the artillery piece from oblivion.

            Restored to a place of honor, the cannon stood as a silent sentinel, guarding the graves of the veterans of Bull Run and Gettysburg, at the veteran’s plot in Lakeview Cemetery. It was given a fresh coat of paint and stood on a cement slab. Oh, what a wonder it would be if the relic was still there today? But the fate of Manistique’s Civil War cannon seems to have been forgotten with the years. If you have a photo of the old cannon or information about what became of it, please contact the historical society. We would love to hear from you. You can email us using the tab at the top of the page.


The last known location for Manistique’s Civil War Cannon was in Lakeview Cemetery, where is stood guard over the graves of Civil War and Spanish American War veterans. Photo Courtesy Larry Peterson

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