The Mountain Howitzer: A Memory of the Civil War in the West

Like most memories, the memories of the American Civil War in the West appear to be fading with time. However, the memories of the American Civil War in the West are in far fewer numbers than the memories of American Civil War in the East. Therefore, I have taken this opportunity to try to preserve and share a local memory of the American Civil War in the West.

 While recently visiting the El Pueblo History Museum in Pueblo, Co, I came across a research document that accompanies the howitzer cannon at the El Pueblo History Museum. In the research document, historian Dustin Clasby writes about the El Pueblo History Museum’s howitzer cannon in the following information:

Mountain Howitzer Cannon – El Pueblo History Museum

“The 12-pound mountain howitzer that sits in the international hall of the El Pueblo History Museum has a long and varied history. The cannon was forged in 1847 in Boston, MA, by Cyrus Alger Iron Company. Cyrus Alger was a big name in the manufacturing of arms for the United States military. He is best known for making shot and artillery during the War of 1812, but his cannons were also used in the Mexican-American War (1846-48) and the American Civil War (1861-65). Alger was the first to create a rifled barrel cannon in the United States.”[1]

“The particular artillery piece that sits in the museum is designated as a mountain howitzer because of its small size and weight, making it mobile enough to traverse rough terrain in the American West. The cannon is made of brass and weighs 220 pounds. It is capable of shooting a twelve-pound shot over 1000 yards with a half pound of black powder.” [2]

 “This howitzer was inspected for military use by James Wolfe Ripley. The ‘43’ on the front of the barrel is the inspection number and Ripley’s initials ‘J.W.R.’ are imprinted on the cannon. Ripley later became chief of ordnance of the Army and was instrumental in the modernization of the American artillery.” [3]

 “In 1861, the cannon was surrendered to the Confederate Army of Texas. It was then commissioned for use in the Army of New Mexico led by Henry Hopkins Sibley. The cannon may or may not have been used in the major engagements of the campaign. When the Confederates retreated back to Texas, supplies were destroyed at the Battle of Glorieta Pass. The retreating soldiers buried their remaining artillery and used the carriages to transport their wounded and supplies. The artillery was buried in Albuquerque, NM in 1862.”[4]

 “In 1892, Trevanion Teel, the artillery commander for the Confederates in the Army of New Mexico, led an expedition to recover eight buried cannons. In 1898, four of the cannons were donated to the state of Colorado. The Pueblo howitzer was kept in Denver, except for a short display at Fort Garland, until 1993 when it was officially given to the El Pueblo History Museum.”[5]

 As you can see from the photograph of the mountain howitzer cannon and the information provided within Clasby’s research documentation, the El Pueblo History Museum has in its possession a unique and interesting artifact from the great American Civil War. Upon closer inspection of the artifact’s history, revealed is a history that can be traced across the United States. Teachers can use the howitzer cannon as a tool to help carry on the memory of the great American Civil War and how the war affected the West.

 The El Pueblo History Museum also has a “History Mystery” educational activity, which is a fun way to learn about the museum’s howitzer cannon. The educational activity can be used with a variety of ages. For more information on the educational activity or to schedule a school field trip/large group, please contact the museum. Contact information for the museum can be found at the following web link:

Click for El Pueblo History Museum – History Colorado Website

 

In closure, I hope that by sharing this information, I have helped preserve the memory of the American Civil War in the West. I believe, when a person learns about something that they can relate to first, it then opens them up to the mental urge of wanting to learn about broader topics because they now see how the broader topics relate to them personally.

 


 

[1] Dustin Clasby, “The Howitzer Cannon at El Pueblo History Museum” (Research Documentation, El Pueblo History Museum, 2007)

[2] Clasby, 2007

[3] Clasby, 2007

[4] Clasby, 2007

[5] Clasby, 2007

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1 comment
  1. catymark said:

    The Civil War in the West is more often than not a forgotten history. By explaining the history of a single piece of artillery and sharing it with cities and states that were not important in the war itself does help to explain the war in a context that is probably not taught in many classrooms and most certainly not remembered in most Civil War films. I agree that if you can relate a fact of history to an individual’s life it will be remembered. I share the hope that by sharing this information it will enlighten many about the war in the West.

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