15-inch Rodman Cannon

A very large black cannon
One of Fort Foote's two original 15-inch Rodman cannons on a reconstructed base


Quick Facts

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits, Information Kiosk/Bulletin Board, Trailhead

The sheer immensity of the two Rodman guns at Fort Foote made them objects of curiosity wehn they were first brought to the Fort. Visitors frequently came to see them. The 15-inch Rodmans weigh about 49,000 pounds, and required 300 to 400 soldiers to move them up the bluff from river to fort. The balls fired by the smooth-bore Rodmans weigh 500 to 600 pounds and took about fifty pounds of black powder, a type of gunpowder.

It was a special occasion each time the big guns were fired. On February 27, 1864, three shots were fired from the 15-inch Rodman. Crowds of visitors beheld the occasion. Again, on April 1, 1864, a large party from Washington came to witness the workings of the big guns. The Rodman was fired at a 25-degree elevation at a range of three miles. Because the guns put off an intense concussive force, it was noted that observers would raise their toes and open their mouths to lessen the effects.
The cannon closest to the river is of particular importance. Engraved on its 15-inch muzzle is 'No. 1' and the initials 'TJR'. The 'No 1' is in reference to the fact that this cannon was the first produced by Cyrus Alger and Company. The initials are of the individual who inspected the gun, in this case Brigadier General Thomas J. Rodman who also designed the weapon. 

Civil War Defenses of Washington , Fort Foote Park, National Capital Parks-East , Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail

Last updated: April 21, 2021