The cannon — produced at the Noble Foundry in May 1862 — was named after Anne Lee, daughter of Gen. Robert E. Lee, who died in October of 1862 of typhoid fever at 23.
David Gibson, who heads up Boyce’s Battery of the Macbeth Light Artillery, said that the three-inch bronze field artillery piece could only be used for so long as a rifled cannon because after 200 shots, the grooves inside the barrel deteriorate and turn it into a smoothbore rifle.
“It was extremely rare,” he said. “That type of weapon wasn’t practical. It was an attempt on the part of the Confederacy to catch up with the federal ordinance department in the number of weapons. The federal ordinance department could produce their ordinance rifle in steel by the thousands and we couldn’t do that.”
The gun itself was a marvel for its time. With the grooves still in place, the cannon could launch a projectile upward of five miles and kill a man with accuracy at a mile and a half. In closer range and without the grooves, it could kill a man at upwards of 600 yards with some difficulty, Gibson said. These days, the only thing being blasted out of the end of the barrel are gunpowder charges, which do no damage to the gun.
“Bronze guns are very solidly built and very rarely have problems,” said Gibson. “There’s no projectile in the gun so therefore there’s no pressure in the tube for the gun to explode.”
The cannon itself has a particularly interesting history all its own. Though not certain of what service it did during the war, experts have previously stated that they believe it was shipped to Augusta to become part of the defenses for the city and was never used in a battle. Years later, it ended up back in South Carolina where it was put on display outdoors in Williamston, S.C., beginning in the 1940s after it was purchased from the Rock Island Arsenal for $23.50.
After the city realized what a treasure it had on its hands, the city took it off its pedestal, stored it and five years ago built a gun carriage and horse-drawn limber and a trailer for the Macbeth Light Artillery group.
Its combat role long abandoned, the cannon is now used in reenactments of battles fought 150 years ago in places like Anderson, S.C., or closer to home in Resaca.
“We’re privileged to be here at the invitation of the city of Rome,” Gibson said. “And we’re proud to have an opportunity to show you your gun.”