History – The Placerville Courthouse Cannons

ROOTS AND GOLD DUST Genealogical Society - August 2011

PLACERVILLE, California (InEDC) Dec 29, 2022 — Almost no one notices the cannon located on either side of the entry steps of the El Dorado County courthouse on Main Street in Placerville.

A careful look reveals very little about them. One cannon has no markings at all — the other one simply has U.S. stamped on the barrel. The only other identification is a small plaque that states “Placerville Post No. 108”. It is a unique story behind that plaque and how the cannon came to be placed there. After the Civil War, an organization of Union veterans was formed known as the Grand Army of the Republic or G.A.R. At its peak in 1890, its membership numbered over 400,000. In 1912, the membership was 191,346, but as veterans died, the membership declined until in 1948 the number of survivors was only 16. The local G.A.R. was the Placerville Post No. 108. An 1886 listing shows 26 members from a variety of services and from several states.

In June of 1912, Congressman John Raker of California introduced a bill which was passed in January 11, 1913. It allowed for the transfer of condemned brass and bronze cannon from the War Department to be distributed from the arsenal at Benicia to various northern California G.A.R. posts, among them Placerville Post No. 108. While our cannon are not specifically described, a similar gift to the San Andreas post mentions that their cannon were 1841 model mountain howitzers designed to propel a 12-pound shot and used on the east coast during their early years and they probably saw service during the Civil War.