By. Jim Crooks
The Gettysburg Gun
Seven score and six (146) years ago, this very week, a battle took place along a ridge in southern Pennsylvania from July 1st to the 3rd that would turn the tide of the Civil War, and in turn, change the course of American history. There are literally thousands of stories of heroism on both sides that fought that day, but one of the most interesting and locally relevant is that of the Rhode Island "Gettysburg Gun."
According to thegettysburggun.com, "The original Gettysburg Gun in the picture above stands now in the portico at the Rhode Island State House. At Gettysburg, this gun was a part of the 1st Regiment Rhode Island Light Artillery Battery B. On July 2 and 3, 1863, 'The Gettysburg Gun' was one of the six guns firing on the Confederate positions before 'Pickett's Charge' began. While attempting to load the cannon. a shell hit the bore of the gun at the muzzle and killed the two cannoneers servicing the piece, William Jones and Alfred G. Gardner. The remaining cannoneers led by Sargeant Albert Straight tried to load the cannon but the bore had been damaged badly. In the face of an onslaught of 15,000 Confederates they attempted to load the 12 pound ball into the damaged bore with an axe, but it became stuck and held fast. As the muzzle cooled down the ball became permanently lodged in the mouth of the gun where it still resides today."
According to the John H. Rhodes letter about the Gettysburg Gun, total losses suffered by Battery B at Gettysburg were 39 men and 65 horses. One officer killed and two wounded. Five enlisted men killed, 30 wounded, and one missing. The lion's share of the casualties came from the states of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine. In 1874, the state of Rhode Island successfully petitioned to have the field piece returned to her home state where upon inspection it was found to have been struck by 3 shells and 39 bullets during its tour of duty, proof of the willingness of her crew to stand up in the face of withering fire. Most of his fellow soldiers felt that Sgt. Albert Straight deserved the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during Pickett's Charge. It would never come.