On Memorial Day in 1901, the Alexander Macomb Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution dedicated two cannons on the courthouse grounds – one in honor of Maj. Gen. Alexander Macomb and the other to Macomb County’s soldiers and sailors of the Civil War. A parade marking the event was held on Cass Avenue, with citizens participating both on foot and in carriages. The crowd that gathered on the courthouse square that day was said to have numbered 6,000.
Through the efforts of Rep. Edgar Weeks, the government donated both cannons to the Common Council of Mount Clemens through the Condemned Cannon Distribution Act of May 22, 1896. The city received two 42-pounder guns weighing 8,450 pounds each from Fort Mefflin, Pennsylvania, that were used to defend the city from Lee’s army in 1863. A pyramid of cannon balls, though not of the right caliber, stood at each base.
The Civil War cannon was rededicated in September 1914 by H.D. Terry Post #216, Mount Clemens, Grand Army of the Republic in honor of Col. John Stockton and the 8th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. The addition of a bronze plaque mounted on the side of the cannon base acknowledged Stockton’s leadership and training of the men of the 8th Cavalry during the Civil War.
When the old courthouse was torn down in 1930, the cannons were moved until the completion of the County Building, when they again flanked each side of the facility. In 1942, the County Board of Supervisors contributed the two cannons, along with 18 cannon balls, to the WWII scrap drive. They were removed by an Army Air Forces wrecking crew from Selfridge.
Both bases remained intact near their original placements, sans cannons, for over 60 years.
In 2005, the Macomb County Historic Commission was intent on replacing the two cannons, and Vice Chairman Donald Green brought this vision to reality. Also a member of the Mount Clemens Rotary, Green presented the idea of funding the replacement cannons (approximately $17,000) in honor of the rotary’s 100th birthday, which they generously consented to.
The new cannons were selected to reflect the type of cannons utilized by Alexander Macomb in the War of 1812 and by the 8th Michigan Cavalry during the Civil War.
The Alexander Macomb base and cannon were placed on the courthouse grounds on Main Street near the Alexander Macomb statue and the state historical plaque with his name. The six-pound cannon, named for the balls of lead or iron fired that weighed six pounds, weighs a total of 1,100 pounds and has an overall length of 68 inches. It is a replica of one of Navy ship H.M.S. Nimrod’s cannons recently recovered from Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts. The British and Americans used these cannons during the War of 1812, and it was in this war that Brig. Gen. Alexander Macomb distinguished himself during the battle of Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain in 1814.
Empty cannon base on the Cass & Gratiot (now Main) corner with the old jail in the background. (early 1950s)
Above, far right: Former Blue Coat & Civil War reenactor Larry Stockemer guards a cannon on the courthouse grounds during the dedication ceremony in 2005. His uniform represents his ancestor Elisha Chamberlain, 22nd Michigan Infantry, Co. F, who died during the Civil War.
The cannon base on the southwest corner of the County Building holds a 10-pound Parrot Rifle cannon similar to those utilized by Battery M (an artillery battery) of the 1st Michigan Artillery. This unit was assigned to the 8th Michigan Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War and also trained at Camp Stockton in Mount Clemens.
The rededication of the two new cannons took place on Aug. 27, 2005 during the Bath City Festival, which included Civil War re-enactors and a visit by a later day Abraham Lincoln.
Cynthia S. Donahue is a historian for Macomb County Facilities and Operations. This article was featured in Macomb Matters in May 2014.