When you bicycle U.S. Civil War battlefields, you can see some pretty strange things. At Antietam, what’s up with the upside down green cannon on the side of the road? (Actually, there are six of these located throughout the battlefield.) It’s different at Gettysburg, where fourteen cannon barrels are mounted rightside up — and where most are black iron and not oxidized (green) bronze. So, what’s the story?
Antietam Mortuary Cannons
An upside down green cannon?
An upside down green cannon marks the approximate location that one of six generals was killed or mortally wounded at the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg, Maryland) on September 17, 1863. As of this writing, the Civil War Trust estimates that 22,717 soldiers (12,401 Union and 10,316 Confederate) were among the battlefield casualties (killed, wounded, missing and captured). Other casualties included thousands of military and farm animals.
The U.S War Department erected bronze mortuary cannons at Antietam National Battlefield in 1898. They memorialize the deaths of the following military generals:
- Brig. Gen. George B. Anderson (CSA), buried in North Carolina
- Brig. Gen. Lawrence O. Branch (CSA), buried in North Carolina
- Maj. Gen. Joseph K. F. Mansfield, buried in Connecticut
- Maj. Gen. Israel B. Richardson, buried in Michigan
- Brig. Gen. Isaac P. Rodman, buried in Rhode Island
- Brig. Gen. William E. Starke (CSA), buried in Virginia
Interesting diversions for bicyclists…
My guess is that bicyclists are more likely to notice Antietam’s mortuary cannons than auto-tourists. That’s because bicyclists are primed to spot interesting diversions and to ride over to explore almost any new find. Whereas constant stopping and starting is annoying to auto-tourists, bicyclists are explorers who relish pedaling around to find things — and taking little breaks for water and conversation.
Assembled together, the following images are strikingly colorful. Hover over the image to read the caption (or on a mobile device, lightly touch and hold the image).
Want to read more about Antietam mortuary cannons?
For details about each memorialized general (three Union and three Confederate), please see this Civil War Cycling page: Antietam Mortuary Cannons.
Gettysburg Headquarter Cannons
At Gettysburg National Military Park, black (iron) and green (oxidized bronze) cannon barrels are mounted rightside up. The U.S. War Department (1895-1933) erected cannon barrels to mark the location of army corps headquarters at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
What are they?
Ten headquarter monuments for the Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg are shown below. Notice that the Union monuments feature (mostly) black cannon barrels. Hover over the image to read the caption (or on a mobile device, lightly touch and hold the image).
Four headquarter monuments for the Army of Northern Virginia at Gettysburg are shown below. Notice that the Confederate monuments feature green cannon barrels. Hover over the image to read the caption (or on a mobile device, lightly touch and hold the image).
Want to read more about Gettysburg headquarters cannon markers?
For details about each memorialized general (three Union and three Confederate), please see this Civil War Cycling page: Gettysburg Corps Headquarters Monuments.