Friday, March 25, 2011

The Athens Double-Barrelled Cannon - Athens, Georgia

The Double-Barrelled Cannon
It was a "secret weapon" of the Confederacy that wasn't all that secret: a double-barrelled cannon that its designer hoped would become the ultimate anti-personnel weapon of the Civil War.

The famed Athens Double-Barrelled Cannon now rests on the grounds of City Hall in the North Georgia city and - besides the Georgia Bulldogs - is perhaps the most photographed attraction in Athens.

A Civil War Landmark
Cast in 1862 at the Athens Foundry, the cannon was designed by John Gilleland, a home builder and home guard private. He envisioned a weapon that would fire a load that could best be described as "extended chain shot." Parallel barrels fired two 6-pound iron balls simultaneously. The barrels of the gun diverged by about 3 degrees, allowing the balls to spread out as they emerged from the double muzzle. An 8-foot iron chain connected the cannonballs and as they were fired, the entire load was expected to begin spinning and cut an 8-foot wide swatch through any attacking enemy infantry force.

Local legend holds that the gun didn't work as expected. It is said that it was impossible to fire the twin barrels simultaneously and that the chain broke in the test firing causing the balls to speed off in different directions, killing a cow, destroying a chimney and demolishing a field of corn.  War-time accounts, however, indicate that the cannon might have been more effective than is traditionally thought.

To read more and learn about the Athens Double-Barrelled Cannon, please visit

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