Shooting off a preservation campaign
There are two M1902 field guns, each with a 7-foot barrel length used by the U.S. Army in World War I, that sit in Harry T. Hanson Veterans Memorial Park, a football-sized space. They border the American Legion Patchogue Post 269 and Patchogue Village Hall.
Referred to as a cannon, the heavy artillery sits on wheels.
It wasn’t used in the First World War for combat, explained American Legion Commander Jonathon Ralph, but it was used for training in the States. Made between 1902 and 1905, the guns fired 3-inch-wide artillery shells, he said. And they were the U.S. Army’s first nickel steel, quick-firing field gun with a recoil mechanism, a forerunner of the French version, which won the war.
Ralph’s presentation at Monday night’s village board meeting dusted off engaging local history and a chuckle or two that resulted in a partnership between this important veteran’s group and the village, which will split the renovation costs for the splendid, but timeworn, artifact. The agreed upon amount was not to exceed $29,000; the American Legion will start up a GoFundMe account on their end and approach the chamber.
One other thing. There are only about 38 left of these harbingers of battle in the U.S.
“On Aug. 15, 2019, our post will be 100,” Ralph emphasized. “I don’t want to be standing in front of a dilapidated cannon,” he said.
Ralph thought the cannon showed up at the American Legion in 1939. But village attorney Brian Egan said its emergence went back further. “There was a mention in the Long Island Advance about a 1921 board meeting,” he said. The cannon was a gift from the War Department and that largesse was recorded in that year’s Dec. 13 minutes. It was then officially accepted via ordinance, then delivered March 8, 1922.
There was a bit of a holdup on the Long Island Rail Road tracks that day; the conductor was waiting for a $9.77 check from the village for freight payment before he could release it. It was all sorted out and the cannon officially made its debut here.
Cannons Online Inc., artillery historians based in New Windsor, Md., has agreed to refurbish the cannon; Ralph said their cost includes permits because they are firearms. “They will come and pick it up, refurbish the broken pieces and make new wheels,” he said. The current ones are wood and could use some help.
Ralph said he would ask Legis. Rob Calarco’s (D-Patchogue) office for help.
“The county does have some funds with the hotel-motel tax specifically for historical purposes,” Calarco said. “The next budget cycle starts in the fall and I’ll look into what we can do and help preserve a piece of our history.”
A lure for kids, Mayor Paul Pontieri, who spent all his life in the village, said he was one of many who would straddle the cannon after a Memorial Day parade. “It’s been one of the iconic things in the village,” he said. “It’s on village property and we committed to $14,500. If Rob [Calarco] can help, that’s great.”
Like what you have read? Click here to subscribe to the Long Island Advance so you can read more stories like this, and find out everything that’s going on in your town!