National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
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Replacement of Cannon Carriages

Description: Fort Sumter National Monument in South Carolina has one of the best collections of Civil War era seacoast artillery. Until recently, two of these guns, a rifled and banded 42-pounder at Fort Sumter and a rifled and banded 8-inch Columbiad at Fort Moultrie, were resting on blocks. Some time ago the carriages that supported the cast iron cannon tubes deteriorated and became unsafe, and were dismantled. A lack of funding and staff prevented the National Park Service from replacing those carriages.

The Charleston-based, School of the Building Arts (SoBA) contacted the park looking for partnership projects as they started up their new school. SoBA offers workshops in building trades such as carpentry, timber framing, plastering, iron working, and masonry.

Representatives from Fort Sumter and SoBA did a walk through of the park resources and came up with possible projects. The cannon carriages and gin pole were identified as the most important. With SoBA committed to the project, the park approached the Timber Framers Guild (TFG) in Massachusetts. The TFG referred SoBA to a civil engineering professor at Virginia Military Institute (VMI). The professor asked if his students could be involved with the project. The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina, became involved in the project as well. The final partnership involved about 60 volunteers from SoBA, TFG, VMI, Citadel, CofC and CAC.

Thanks to a partnership with several organizations, the dedicated volunteers and park staff, both carriages have been remade. A brand new carriage for the 42-pounder rifled and banded cannon at Fort Sumter was constructed through the cooperation of the School of Building Arts, Virginia Military Institute, College of Charleston, The Citadel, Clemson University, and the Timber Framers Guild. At Fort Moultrie, staff and volunteers reconstructed a carriage for the 8-inch Columbiad cannon.

The partnership also reconstructed the Fort Moultrie gin pole exhibit. The exhibit demonstrates how cannon barrels were lifted onto their carriages in the mid-19th century using block and tackle with large timbers. This exhibit was dismantled in 1989 after being severely damaged during Hurricane Hugo.

From April 2-6, 2004, the carriages were assembled, the cannons mounted, and the gin pole exhibit was put into place. Over 5,900 hours of labor, the equivalent of $94,695, were donated to the National Park Service to construct the carriages and mount the cannons.

"We've known for years that this work needed to be done," said Fort Sumter National Monument Superintendent John Tucker. "With the number of staff that the park can afford, it just was not possible. We owe everyone who contributed to these projects a debt of gratitude. Having those guns back in place will be a real improvement to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie."

Geographic area covered: Fort Sumter National Monument is located on 200 acres in South Carolina. The site includes: historic Fort Sumter located in Charleston Harbor, the Liberty Square Visitor Education Center and departure facilities in Charleston at 340 Concord Street, and Fort Moultrie, located on Sullivan's Island.

List of partners and relationships: The School of Building Arts, Virginia Military Institute, College of Charleston, The Citadel Military College of South Carolina, Clemson Architecture Center - Clemson University, Timber Framers Guild and the National Park Service.

Accomplishments to date:

  1. Construction and installation of new cannon carriage for rifled and banded 42-pounder tube at Fort Sumter.
  2. Construction and installation of new cannon carriage for rifled and banded 8-inch Columbiad tube at Fort Moultrie.
  3. Construction and installation of new gin pole exhibit for Fort Moultrie.
  4. 5,900 hours of volunteer work.
  5. Donated and reduced cost of supplies and materials.

Key success factors: Developed long term public, private and academic partnerships. Greatly reduced cost to the National Park Service.

Frustrations: Uncertainty of actual costs. As the project developed, the partnership grew and additional work was added to the scope. This provided a challenge to identify additional funding to accomplish more work.

Most important lessons learned to date:

  1. Plan for the project to grow. Enthusiasm is contagious.
  2. Anything is possible when you have a dedicated group of people and a worthwhile project. Many obstacles can be overcome.

What would you do differently next time:

  1. Allow more time for the actual cannon carriage construction. Tight construction schedule made for long work days.
  2. In general everything takes longer and cost more than original estimates. Plan accordingly. Have an alternate plan.

Suggested resource materials(related to the case study): Fort Sumter National Monument website at

For more information:

Name: Sandy Pusey
Affiliation: Cultural Resources Program Manager, Fort Sumter National Monument/Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
Phone/Fax: 843-883-3123 ext.16

Name: Jenny Dickinson
Affiliation: School of Building Arts
Phone/Fax: 843-577-5245

Partnership category(ies) (check all that apply)

Fundraising __; Capital Improvement __; Facility Management __; Trails ___; Design _X_; Program Delivery __; Visitor Services _X_; Tenant Organizations __; Concessioners __; Natural Resources Management/Restoration __; Cultural Resources _X_; Education/Interpretation _X_; Arts __; Information Services ___; Transportation __; Mutual Aid __; Fire Management __; Planning ___; Tourism ___; Community Relations ___;

Other ____________________________

Prepared by: Sandy Pusey Date posted: 5/5/04
Phone: 843-883-3123 ext. 16

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Virginia Military Institute Cadets using  the Gin Pole to lift a cannon tube in Fort Moultrie
SoBA student working on metal component of the cannon carriage. Fort Sumter parade ground and on looking visitor in background
Gin pole, completed and installed in Fort Moultrie.  Members of VMI and TFG
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