ROADTRIP: Civil War Double Barrel Cannon in Athens, Georgia

By D. Lanier Shook                             June 6, 2018

One of the most interesting sights I’ve seen are different kinds of militaria on display. Typically these are gate-guards — retired pieces of hardware placed at military bases, museums, parks, or veterans halls. But when I visited Athens, Georgia I saw a whole different kind of militaria.

Athens, Georgia is an eclectic college town in the mountains of North Georgia. Visitors from Asheville will feel right at home among the small shops, the historic downtown, and the hills. Athens shares alot with Asheville, including preserving its past. Athens’ city hall is a Renaissance Revival style building in perfect condition and out front is my one of a kind find.

This double barrelled cannon and the City Hall are two well preserved gems worth visiting.

It is a double barrel cannon the only one in existence. It was designed during the American Civil War by a member of Athens Home Guard who hoped it would be a decisive anti-personnel weapon. Their idea was to load both barrels with a chain connecting the two cannonballs. But technical failures turned the idea into a fascinating gate guard.

A view of the back of the cannon. The small details on the top of the barrel are where the fuses extended to be lit. It was the firing synchronization between these barrels that grounded the project. You can also see part of beautiful downtown Athens in the background.

The cannon is one of the most interesting pieces of militaria I’ve ever seen and the concept is actually based on reality. Naval vessels would fire “chain shot” to take down enemy masts and rigging, but apparently they never cast the barrels together. However, this was fired from one barrel, not two. According to this article in Wikipedia, it was actually used during the Civil War by Union artillery at Gettysburg. The article references a similar type of shell that can be fired from a shotgun that I’ve also heard of.

The cannon is a must see for Civil War enthusiasts, military historians, or Southern historians. Athens is an easy two hour’s drive from Asheville especially if you take Exit 166 off I-85. This is the Highway 106 through Carnesville and Ila. Not only is it an incredible two lane and not only does it takes you directly to Athens, but it goes through some beautiful North Georgia country. Here are a few websites that will give you more information.

A short history of Athens City Hall

A short history of the restoration of Athens City Hall, including how the eagle weather vane was damaged when they shot at it to drive off pigeons.

The Athens, Georgia Convention and Visitor’s Bureau website

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One response to “ROADTRIP: Civil War Double Barrel Cannon in Athens, Georgia

  1. Pingback: ROADTRIP: Highway 106 Through Carnesville Is a Wonderful Example of Why to Drive the Backroads | WNC Travel Intelligence·

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