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Bell Cannon

From the Shiloh Facebook Page

In almost every community there are bells that ring throughout the town. These bells were used to call people to church and town meetings. They also rang out during special occasions such as weddings and funerals. During the Civil War they would ring out with a different sound: cannon fire.

When the Civil War broke out, the need for metal sources increased for artillery pieces. With the South being predominately based on agriculture, the need for metal was greater, especially bronze.

On March 8, 1862, P.G.T. Beauregard issued a call for all Mississippi Valley planters to “contribute their plantation bells” to be melted down into cannon. In Louisiana, all the churches in Shreveport shipped their bells to the foundries in New Orleans. Hundreds of bells from schools and plantations also arrived in New Orleans and were all stored in the Custom House.

The song “Beauregard’s Bells” was reprinted throughout the South to inspire the donation of bells. Several bells were donated to the cause and made into cannon. Several artillery units would be renamed in honor of the place that donated the bells.

Although there were no bell cannon used during the Battle of Shiloh, there is one on the battlefield today. Shiloh’s bell gun was produced by the Tredegar Foundry in Richmond on April 28, 1862. It was one of four; two six-pounders and two 12-pounder Howitzers, which were produced from bells donated from Edenton, North Carolina. The four guns formed the artillery battery Company B, 3rd Battalion, North Carolina Light Artillery; nicknamed the “Edenton Bell Battery.” The unit fought mainly in Virginia and North Carolina during the war.

Only the whereabouts of two of the Edenton bell guns is known today. One Howitzer nicknamed “St. Paul,” was discovered at Old Fort Niagara in 1999 and loaned to the Edenton Historical Commission and is located at their waterfront park.

You can find the other weapon, a six-pounder nicknamed “Edenton,” at Tour Stop 4: Ruggles’ Battery at Shiloh. It is the second cannon in line south of the Corinth Road.

Unfortunately, for the Louisianans who donated their bells upon Beauregard’s request, all the bells were lost to Union forces when the town fell. They were shipped to New York and sold at public auction.

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