Friday, May 18, 2007
The Brooke Cannon
Here is the only Brooke cannon that ever fired a shot in anger.
Manufactured in Selma during the Civil War, this cannon was mounted on the CSS Tennessee, which at that time was a new and powerful warship, also built here. Named for Ordnance Officer John Brooke, the cannon was designed to punch holes in Union ironclads. It was very accurate, mounted to fire in three directions and could zing a 100-pound shell four and a half miles.
Other Brooke cannons were manufactured in Richmond, Va. Shipped via the Alabama River to Mobile in 1864, this cannon defended Mobile Bay in the deadliest naval battle of the war. When Union ironclad Tecumseh sank within two minutes after striking underwater torpedoes, Union Adm. David Farragut uttered his famous words: "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!" Then the CSS Tennessee plowed out to meet the enemy virtually alone. After a fierce fight, she lost the ability to fire the cannons, was surrounded and had to surrender.
While casualties totaled around 315 for the Union (most on the Tecumseh), only 22 Confederates lost their lives, but they ultimately lost the battle.
After its capture, the CSS Tennessee became the USS Tennessee and was retired for scrap metal a few years after the war. this particular Brooke cannon eventually returned to Selma more than a century later. It is mounted on the grounds of the municipal complex. Now, its base has deteriorated, and the paint is flaking. Funds have been raised for its renovation.