The Grand Army of the Republic (the GAR) was organized by Civil War veterans. The Cannon Falls George McKinley GAR Post #92 closed its minutes on February 1, 1897, with this note: "We Must Have a Gun." Its members were determined to acquire a Civil War cannon for Cannon Falls as a symbol of their shared sacrifice and to honor Colonel William Colvill, hero at the battle of Gettysburg. It took more than 10 years, but in 1910, a Civil War cannon was shipped from the Benicia Arsenal in California.
This original 3-inch wrought iron ordnance rifle was one of the most reliable and accurate guns of the Civil War. It could fire a 10-pound shell over a mile at 5-degree elevation, or could use a canister at closer range. The tube was made by the Phoenix Iron Company in Philadelphia and weighs 817 pounds. Over 1,000 ordnance rifles were manufactured and around 350 remain today. Historians are confident it saw action in the Civil War because of its low serial number, N183, and its early manufacture, 1862.
The cannon was placed in the cemetery where Col. Colvill had been buried in 1905 and where his statue was erected in 1909. The carriage is an exact replica, with an oak frame and cast aluminum wheels. Funds for the restoration of the cannon were provided locally and from other interested parties.
One can almost hear the cry from the battle at Gettysburg on July 2, 1862, when General Hancock commanded Col. Colvill and the approximately 290 men of the First Minnesota to "charge those lines." The fight at Gettysburg that day was won by the Union, and it is generally thought the battle was the turning point of the war.