Appomattox Mission in Action Museum News

Cannon Restoration Project at ACWM-Appomattox

This restoration story exemplifies how your support enables the American Civil War Museum to carry out its mission to explore, inspire, and promote public understanding of the Civil War. Support from our donors allows us to continue expanding our research and providing educational opportunities such as hands-on demonstrations and learning opportunities.

The American Civil War Museum – Appomattox welcomed hundreds of visitors to the site for the Commemoration of the Surrender and Freedom Day weekend, April 8th and 9th, 2023. Living history interpreters, musket firing demonstrations, hearth cooking in the cabin, lectures, and special programs provided a variety of engaging activities for our visitors to enjoy.

Certainly, a highlight of the weekend was the firing of a newly restored cannon. Trained ACWM staff provided incredibly informative programs and cannon-firing demonstrations throughout the weekend. Cast by the Steen Cannon and Ordnance Works in Ashland, Kentucky, the cannon is known as the 12-pounder, named for the weight of its shot. Having been at the ACWM Tredegar for years, it was relocated to ACWM-Appomattox this past winter.

ACWM Director of Visitor Engagement Bob Sayre, along with ACWM-Appomattox Facilities Specialist, Will Thomas, began to prepare for the cannon’s on-site restoration well in advance of taking delivery of the piece, meticulously researching the aesthetics of mid-19th century artillery. Using an 1861 Instruction for Field Artillery manual and the help of Andrew De Lisle, a master wheelwright in Providence Forge, Virginia, the process of color mixing began, as did the restoration of the wheels.

The 1861 manual stipulated that all the ironwork be coated in a simple flat black called Lampblack and all the wooden pieces—the caisson, carriage, and limber—be a green color called Liquid Olive. In the 19th century, this Olive paint would have been made in two parts: First, a thick Olive Paste would be made, essentially a paint concentrate. The next step was to mix the paste with oils and drying agents to create the desired Liquid Olive Color

Despite the specificity of the recipe, this olive color was by no means standard. The yellow ochre used to make the Liquid Olive could vary quite a bit. Derived from clay, ochre is a family of earth pigments ranging from yellow to red to brown and has dozens of variations depending on the amount of oxidized iron in the clay. Even within the yellow ochre family there is a spectrum of color.

The clay sourced around Richmond had a higher iron content which meant a yellow ochre that had a reddish quality to it. This created a darker, more subdued color than the olive drab we are used to today, especially when laid over the lead-gray color of the primer. Through the research of artillery that still has some of the original colors, a proprietary mix of maroon, deep gold, and black resulted in the final paint coating for the ACWM-Appomattox cannon. We plan to utilize the cannon through educational demonstrations and programs. We would like to express our gratitude to a generous donor who has provided the necessary funding for the restoration project.

Contributions to the American Civil War Museum allow us to expand our research and provide educational opportunities, such as hands-on demonstrations and learning opportunities. As we continue our mission to explore, inspire, and promote public understanding of the Civil War, your involvement is invaluable and appreciated.

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