"The Hancock" is a rare Revolutionary War cannon with an extraordinary tie to Concord. It may have played a significant role in the start of the war itself. It is on display at the North Bridge Visitor Center, Minute Man National Historical Park (174 Liberty St. Concord, MA.) through the courtesy of the Bunker Hill Monument Association.
In September of 1774, Boston Patriots brazenly stole four brass cannon right from under British guard. The cannons were smuggled out of Boston and added to the growing caches of Colonial arms.
General Gage showed a special interest in recovering the four brass cannons. Because they were stolen, he may have felt more justified in seizing them. Also, brass cannons were valuable as field artillery than iron because they were lighter and more maneuverable.
In February of 1775, records of the Committees of Safety and Supplies indicate that the stolen cannons were moved to Concord. In March, Gage received a spy report from Concord that four brass cannons were "Conceal'd at Mr. B, (Lately chose or appointed Minute Colo.) Suppos'd to be deposited in his cellar." Concord's new Colonel was James Barrett.
Ten iron cannons were also reported to be in the town. In April, Gage ordered the expedition to Concord for the purpose of seizing and destroying colonial weapons stockpiles, including cannon. Barrett's farm, a mile and a half beyond the North Bridge, was the furthest point from Boston that was searched by the British troops.
The cannons were not found, since the Colonists had enough advance warning to move them. The four brass cannons were used through the Revolution. Two of them, while in Canada, were captured by the British.
After the war's end, the remaining two were returned by Congress to Massachusetts, christened "The Hancock" and "The Adams" and inscribed. In 1843, they were installed at the top of the Bunker Hill Monument, where "The Adams" remains to this day.
The inscription on the cannon reads:
The Hancock ~ Sacred to Liberty. ~ This is one of four cannon, which constituted the whole train of Field Artillery, possessed by the British Colonies of North America, at the commencement of the war, on the 19th of April, 1775. ~ This cannon and its fellow belonging to a number of citizens of Boston, were used in many engagements during the war. The other two, the property of the Government of Massachusetts were taken by the enemy. ~ By order of the United States in Congress assembled ~ May 19th, 1788.
For more information, contact an Interpretive Park Ranger at (978) 318 - 7825.