Skip to main content

The Mysterious Cannon

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

--May 31, 2012.

At the beginning of June, the piece of artillery known as the War of 1812 Cannon which history is surrounded with mystery will be taken from the lawn of Missisquoi Museum’s Cornell Mill to be reinstalled in front of the Town Hall of Lacolle to commemorate the 200th anniversary of this war.

In 1961 the cannon was found at the bottom of the Richelieu River near Noyan, Quebec. It was salvaged and sold to the Richelieu River Bridge Company which in turn, placed the cannon at the toll gate of the bridge. In 1969, the cannon was handed down to the Missisquoi Historical Society and relocated on the lawn of Cornell Mill, one of the heritage buildings of Missisquoi Museum in Stanbridge East, Quebec.

The cannon is from the reign of King George II of England (1727‐1760) and although it may have been lost by Brigadier‐General William Haviland of Crown Point, New York when he came to attack Colonel Louis‐Antoine de Bougainville at Fort Île‐aux‐Noix on the Richelieu River or by General Richard Montgomery during his march to capture Montreal in 1775, the cannon was likely lost during the War of 1812. The cannon also known as a “12 pounder” was almost obsolete by the beginning of the 19th century. Cannons of this size were in the process of being decommissioned by the British military and were mostly used to fortify smaller defense works.

Two schools of thought exist on how the cannon ended up in the Richelieu River. One theory is based on the fact that in 1813 two gun platforms, one located on Ash Island ( Île‐aux‐Têtes) and one on the nearest shore of the river, ensured a steady crossfire if American ships tried to navigate the water route. Spring flooding however sank one of the platforms along with the cannon.

The second theory is that sometime during the war one of the gun boats used to patrol the river was deliberately sunk in shallow water to block navigation. The cannon would have anchored the boat to the bottom and created a barrier in the river against American incursion. Losing the out‐of‐date cannon was not considered a great loss and its purpose would have actually better served the military on the bottom of the river.

In this 200th anniversary year of the War of 1812 and as a way to commemorate its importance to the history of this region the Missisquoi Historical Society together with La Société d’Histoire Lacolle‐Beaujeu and the Municipality of Lacolle are in the process of repatriating the cannon back to the region where it was actually used to defend the border region of Quebec. The cannon will sit at the Town Hall of Lacolle along with a plaque which will detail its journey both past and present.

This agreement between the two organizations and their respective historical societies is a perfect example of positive cooperation in a mutual effort to promote the history of our region. To learn more on the past of Missisquoi County, visit the 3 Missisquoi Museum (www.missisquoimuseum.ca) heritage buildings and its impressive collection, every day from 10 am to 5 pm until October 8, 2012.