Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Rev. War Memorial on Cambridge Common

Cambridge Common
Harvard Square
Cambridge, Mass.

There is a minor mystery associated with these three British cannon that have been sitting on the Cambridge Common for over one hundred thirty years: where exactly did they come from and what role did they play in the American Revolution?

The easy answer is the one provided on the small cement marker next to the cannon. It simply states that the three cannon had been emplaced in Fort William and were left behind when the British forces left Boston in March of 1776. But this marker is fairly new and as I have stated before in this Blog, I have learned over the years that you can't always believe what you read.

I know from my visits to the Cambridge Common many years ago that this site used to be much simpler, with fewer monuments and the cannon used to be arrayed a little differently. I seem to remember reading a marker that stated the cannon were part of the artillery train brought to Cambridge by Col. Henry Knox in his haul from Ft. Ticonderoga and Crown Point. Also, one of the cannon is French in origin, which having been captured in Cnanda during the French and Indian War, could have been transported to one of those two places.

Now I know you can't always rely on your memory, so I investigated further. I've checked a number of sources - both off and on-line - and the sources, so far, all seem to tell the same narrative. In 1875 the Massachusetts State legislature gave these three cannon to the City of Cambridge to place on the Cambridge Common and to hold in perpetuity (as long as they were properly maintained) from stocks held at the State Armory. (John Fiskes account refers to them as "three huge war dogs").

The sources also agree with my memory that these cannon were originally brought down to Cambridge from Crown Point by Col. Henry Knox to help bring to an end the siege of Boston. That puts a different spin on things and certainly makes the cannon all the more important historically. I'm going to investigate further, but for now I'm going to side with historian John Fiske (among others).

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