How Mobile, Alabama lost its famous Civil War Cannon to New Orleans
By Paul Brueske
In an effort to sell Mobile Mardi Gras tourism over New Orleans, Mobile, Alabama Mayor Sandy Stimpson engaged in a Twitter duel with former Crescent City Mayor Mitch Landrieu a couple years ago. Over 120 years ago, another duel occurred that led to New Orleans acquiring something from Mobile, an old cannon that was used during the 1865 siege of Spanish Fort. In the 1890’s the cannon, known as Lady Slocomb, was displayed prominently on Mobile’s Government Street but vanished before the turn of the century. Much to the indignation of many residents of Mobile, the cannon ended up in New Orleans. For years, Mobilians wanted to know why their old gun mysteriously wound up in the Crescent City.
The Blue and Gray Veterans Union, a group of Union and Confederate veterans living near Mobile, Alabama, was organized on July 4, 1890, on the battlefield of Spanish Fort. It was there, to their amazement, the old veterans discovered the Lady Slocomb cannon. On March 7, 1891, Augustus W. Sibley, owner of the land where the battle of Spanish Fort took place, sold the title to the cannon to the Blue and Gray Union for a dollar. The following week the big gun, at a cost of $285.25, was transported to downtown Mobile where it was dedicated as a monument commemorating the “Valor of American Soldiers and the Sweet Dawn of Peace.”
During the siege of Spanish Fort, the cannon manned by the Washington Artillery’s Fifth Company who named it the Lady Slocomb after their Captain’s wife. The cannon caused the besieging Federals much suffering until two Union shells disabled it. The dismounted gun was placed on the ground nearby where it rested for nearly 25 years. Before the cannon was moved to the city, a charge of canister was discovered still in the barrel and removed.
Mobile residents, Dr. Seymour Bullock and Thomas P. Brewer, were instrumental in forming the Blue-Gray Union and bringing the old cannon to Mobile. Bullock, a 49-year-old, was president of the Union. After the war, the U.S. Army veteran from New York relocated to Mobile to practice medicine. Brewer, an ex-Confederate, was vice president of the Blue and Gray Union was well known in the city and even ran for mayor. The two became friends through their association with the Union. However, a falling-out occurred, causing them to become mortal enemies. Their feud led to a tragedy near Fort Morgan, where both men had summer cottages.
Brewer attempted to avoid a confrontation after a family member warned that Bullock intended to shoot him. As he fished from the shore of Navy Cove on Thursday, October 15, 1891, Bullock approached in his boat and fired his shotgun at him, missing due to the rocking of the boat. Before he could shoot again, Brewer returned fire with his shotgun and killed him. There were no witnesses, however, a subsequent investigation found both double barrel shotguns had discharged one round. Brewer was acquitted, as it was determined to be a case of self-defense. He later became the city treasurer of Mobile.
It is believed the tragic shotgun duel led Mobile’s Blue and Gray Union to dissolve. Henry Badger, a prominent Confederate veteran and citizen of Mobile, paid for the transportation of the cannon from Spanish Fort to Mobile in 1891. When the Blue and Gray Union ceased to exist, ownership of the big gun was transferred to him. After Badger passed away on May 28, 1896, his estate proposed selling the Lady Slocomb to the highest bidder. Washington Artillery veterans from New Orleans, who had unsuccessfully tried to acquire the cannon ever since it came to Mobile, stepped up with the funds to buy it. After much deliberation, it was decided the cannon should be sold to the group of Louisiana veterans and brought to their hometown. In March 1899, they arrived in Mobile to complete the purchase of the big gun. It was then moved to the Crescent City, where it was dedicated to the memory of their Captain, Cuthbert Slocomb, and “the men who gave their lives for its defense.”
In this way, the Port City’s old cannon came to rest in New Orleans. Today, the Lady Slocomb can still be seen outside the Memorial Hall Museum on Camp Street, directly across the street from the World War II museum.