Pennsylvania Military Museum

Last spring we made a stop at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania.  The visit was more of a “stop and stretch” opportunity than a planned visit.  Because the museum recently underwent renovation, I’d had it on my list for some time just never had the opportunity.  Going in I figured the majority of displays would focus on World War I and II topics.  However I found a rather noteworthy selection of Civil War artillery pieces on display.

The Museum itself dates to the late 1960s.   It spawned from the need to preserve and present the story of World War I veterans and support the 28th Division Shrine.

28th Division Shrine

The Shrine dates to the 1920s when the veterans used the former training facility for reunions.  In 1940, the veterans formally dedicated the shrine.  Since that time, the shrine expanded to include those who died in World War II.  The 28th Division, considered the nation’s oldest, contains many formations with long histories and lengthy lineages.  Proud of their unit histories, many of the veteran’s memorials on site mention regimental service in the Civil War and Spanish-American War in addition to the World Wars.

For example, the 111th Infantry Regiment traces its history back to colonial days and includes service in the Civil War as the 18th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment and later the 72nd Pennsylvania.  The 112th Infantry, 107th Field Artillery, and 108th Field Artillery Regiments also have battle honors and campaign streamers dating to the Civil War.

Civil War Honors on the 111th Infantry Memorial

With a mission to recount “the story of Commonwealth citizens who served our country in defense of the nation,” the museum expanded coverage with the recent renovation.  Now exhibits span from the colonial and Revolutionary War on to the Vietnam War.  I was told that future plans include exhibits pertaining to the Pennsylvania National Guard service in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The Civil War section includes four artillery pieces.  The rarest of the set is a 6-pdr Griffin Gun.

6-pdr Griffin Gun

A product of Phoenix Iron Works, this type is often noted as the predecessor to the famous Ordnance Rifle and shared the same wrought iron construction technique.  However, the museum interpretation notes the Philadelphia Committee of Safety purchased a dozen of these weapons, including this piece, in the fall of 1862 when Confederates were roaming about Maryland.  As such, I’d consider this weapon more a “sibling” to the Ordnance Rifle.

A 12-pdr Model 1857 Light Field Gun, better known to us as a “Napoleon,” stands on the carriage next to the Griffin gun.

12-pdr Napoleon - Hooper #40

This Napoleon bears the marks of Henry H. Hooper & Company, registry number 40.  It was cast in 1862 and inspected by Thomas J. Rodman.  The weight stamp is 1,232 pounds.  Behind the Napoleon is a 12-pdr Confederate iron field howitzer from Tredegar Foundry.  The exhibit boundary prevented closer examination at this time.

6-pdr Model 1841 - Ames #30

The other Civil War field piece is a 6-pdr Model 1841 Field Gun.  Muzzle and trunnion stamps indicate N.P. Ames of Springfield, Massachusetts cast this gun in 1842.  It weighed 882 pounds and was inspected by James Wolfe Ripley.  The date of manufacture opens the possibility the gun once battled against a cannon sitting nearby.

Mexican 18-pdr Cannon

Pennsylvania troops captured this gun at the battle of Cerro Gordo in 1847.  The museum interpretation cites Fawcett, Preston, & Co. of London as the manufacturer, better known in our Civil War context for production of Blakely Rifles.

The non-Civil War exhibits, which were the majority for good reasons, included a Model 1917 6-ton Tank, the American licensed produced Renault FT-17 light tank.

Model 1917 Light Tank

As the display points out, a young Captain named Eisenhower used tanks like this one to train soldiers at Camp Colt in Gettysburg during World War I.  Recall that Camp Colt stood not far from where the 72nd Pennsylvania (see the 111th Infantry above) defended Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863.  I thought it was an interesting note at the time, and perhaps a good note to end my report on the museum.

The Pennsylvania Military Museum reopens for the season on March 14.  There is a six dollar admission fee, but there is a lot of history to take in. The Museum also hosts a series of military history lectures and living history events.

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