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December 2012


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Steve Benson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
A LISTSERV list for discussions pertaining to New York State history." <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 9 Dec 2012 13:53:17 -0500
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Hi, there,
I'm wondering if anyone can point me in the direction of any primary sources that might substantiate 
the story of the "Old Sow", a 32-pound cannon used in the first battle at Sackets Harbor on July 19, 
1812.  Several nineteenth-century histories say that the residents of Sackets came up with the name 
after seeing the cannon lying half-submerged in mud along the shoreline.  Originally destined for 
the Oneida, the cannon was set aside in 1810 by Lieutenant Melancthon Woolsey as too cumbersome 
and unwieldy aboard that vessel.  Resurrected as part of a shore battery in 1812, but without 
appropriate shot available, the defenders of Sackets wrapped 24-pound cannonballs in carpeting to 
make it fit.  When a 32-pound ball arrived on shore from a British gun, it was picked up, loaded and 
fired back, raking the Royal George and inflicting calamitous damage and many casualties and 
convincing the Brits to flee the scene.  Accounts include references to British sailors laughing at the 
incompetence of American artillerymen in the early stages of the battle and a band on shore sending 
off the Brits to the tune of Yankee Doodle.

The stories have been labeled apocryphal by some, and I'd like to be able to determine exactly what 
was fact and what was fiction about the encounter.

Steve Benson