Hi everyone, and welcome back to our Battle of Plattsburgh Edition of Artifact Corner. During the Summer of 1979, Craig Allen, a native of Peru, New York, discovered this cannon fragment (cascabel) in Lake Champlain’s Cumberland Bay during his very first open water SCUBA dive after receiving his PADI1 dive certification earlier the same year.
The cascabel segment of a cannon is the rearward portion of a muzzle-loading cannon, a knob-like feature of the cannon’s breach; and is intended for securing heavy ropes to and arresting the forceful recoil of a cannon after firing. This unique feature, having been fractured from the rest of a long gun, would have effectively rendered a cannon incapable of any further use.
The area of Cumberland Bay that the cannon cascabel/fragment was located and recovered from, was the approximate vicinity where Captain Thomas Macdonough had anchored the American naval squadron on the morning of September 11th, 1814. Macdonough, established this defensive position in advance of the British naval forces’ anticipated arrival, in what would later come to be known as the Battle of Plattsburgh. The late Dennis M. Lewis, local historian and author,2 a fellow friend and diver at the time; brought the cannon fragment to Fort Ticonderoga to be evaluated by museum personnel there. The cascabel was measured and compared to other cannons at Fort Ti and it was determined that the piece was likely fractured from a 24-pounder cannon. After carefully reviewing maps and drawings of the naval engagement and comparing triangulation bearings used for the dive that day, in addition to studying which vessels of Macdonough’s fleet mounted 24-pounder long guns, it is thought that the cannon fragment most likely came from the USS Saratoga (1814).The Saratoga is known to have eight 24-pounder long guns as part of her armament. In the Spring of 2003, Craig Allen gifted the cannon fragment to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, located in Vergennes, Vermont, for the purposes of conservation and inclusion into their collection of Battle of Plattsburgh artifacts. This was done with the hopes that others may be afforded the opportunity to view the cannon fragment and perhaps gain a little insight as to the devastation that commonly occurred aboard ships during naval battles in the 18th and 19th centuries.
We are very lucky that Craig wrote this description for us, and it is always a pleasure to work with him! He is a huge asset to the local historical community! Thanks again to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for allowing us access to their collections, and for helping to make these videos possible. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Special thanks to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for access to the LCAA collection and their collaboration in making this video possible. Visit them at www.lcmm.org.
Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot