Rodman Gun Located at Little Rock Township Cemetery Plano
An authentic canon used during the Civil War was acquired by the Plano R. B. Hays Post 120
of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1899. Following is information about the gun.
The following information was taken from an article published in the Plano Record May 20, 1999
written by Roger Matile Editor.
The old veteran served for more than 30 years protecting the East Coast of the U.S. from possible
invaders. Upon his retirement, he was sent to a quiet spot to spend the rest of his days watching
over some of his old comrades.
That was exactly a century ago, and the old fellow still stands guard over his former comrades-
in-arms along a shady lane at the Plano Cemetery. The old vet--actually an eight-inch Rodman Gud
that forms the Plano Cemetery's Civil War Memorial--will be honored May 31 during a special
Memorial Day rededication ceremony at the cemetery.
Plano's Rodman Gud was obtained in 1898 with the help of U.S. Rep. Albert J. Hopkins, the
area's Republican Congressman. It was delivered to R. B. Hayes Post 120 of the Grand Army
of the Republic in Plano, who built an Imposing stone pedistal in the cemetery to receive it.
The grand old cannon was dedicated on Memorial Day, 1899 during a moving ceremony
at the cemetery in honor of the living and dead Civil War soldiers from Plano and Kendall County.
The memorial gun is no miniature, weighing in at 8,415 pounds. Designed for coastal fortress
defense work, the gun was cast of iron at the Fort Pitt Foundry in Pittsburgh in 1863. According
to research provided by artillery expert George H. Murphy of Naperville, Plano's cannon was the
21st of its type cast at the Foundry. After casting it was inspected by Charles P. Kingsbury and
shipped to Fortress Monroe in Virginia, where it was installed and manned by Coastal Defense
Artillery troops of the U.S. Army.
Rodman type guns were the largest cast iron cannons ever made in the U.S.--and probably
the world. Thomas Jackson Rodman invented the casting process by which they were made, and
even invented a special gun powder variant to increase the range of his new cannons' projectiles.
Casting huge cannon from iron presents a number of problems, mainly because cooling takes place
from the outside in. As the iron cools, the metal contracts towards the outer surface of the barrel
and creates--especially in very large castings like giant coastal artillery tubes--internal strains and
structural irregularities that weaken the barrel.
In practical terms, that meant very large cannons tended to blow up with dismaying frequency
But Rodman figured if he could cool the cannon from the inside out after casting, the problems
would be minimized because the strongest, densest metal would concentrate around the bore of
the cannon where stress is greatest when the gun was fired. His patented process called for casting
each huge gun around a hollow core that was cooled with running water. The rate of cooling could
be--and was--regulated by controlling the flow and temperature of the water flowing through the
hollow core. After the cannon tube cooled, it was turned on a gigantic lathe to smooth the outside into a
distinctive soda bottle shape with no angular reinforcements or decorative rings then common in
The War Department was impressed with Rodman's results and ordered his distinctive guns
for it fortresses guarding the East Coast. Each sported short trunions for use on the kind of wrought
iron carriages used in fixed fortifications. In addition, they were shorter than many similar-sized guns
because they used Rodman's patented hollow-grained progressive-burning cannon power as their
propellant. The special gun powder propelled the solid shot and hollow bursting shells fired by
Rodman's guns much farther than their longer-barreled counterparts.
Plano's 8-inch Rodman gun served at Fortress (now Fort) Monrod through the end of the Civil
War and almost to the 20th Century, although it was obsolete by the time it was taken out of service.
In 1898, it was moved to Plano where it became a part of the city's history as a memorial to
Civil War soldiers. Interestingly enough, however, although it has remained a part of Plano's
history all these years, officially, it is still owned by the GAR to whom it was given a century ago.
Memorial Day 1989 there was a rededication ceremony honoring the old Civil War vet who still stands
guard more than 150 years after his birth in a firey furnace in Pittsburgh.
Continued next page.
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