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Civil War Cannons At Cumberland Gap National Historical Park Magnets For Graffiti


Time and time again staff at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park are finding their Civil War cannons are the object of graffiti. NPS photo.


Not likely, as his graffiti rose to fame during World War II. Nevertheless, present-day graffiti artists are finding the Civil War cannons at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in Kentucky irresistable for their scribblings.

Perhaps park officials have it right: "Nothing says love like carving your name on a heavy artillery piece used in the Civil War."

That's the conclusion the Cumberland Gap staff reached after watching the continuous vandalism occurring at historic Fort Lyon near the Pinnacle Overlook. Carving on the cannon is not a new problem, but lately as soon as staff repaints the tube covering names and initials, someone else has written his or her name to take its place, the park noted in a release.

"In this commemorative time of the Civil War," park Historian Martha Wiley observes, "we're trying to preserve our Civil War past; yet much of our time is spent just trying to repair the damage a few visitors are doing to park resources. It's frustrating!"

Cumberland Gap was continuously occupied during the Civil War, and signs of that occupation by both Union and Confederate forces can still be seen throughout the tri-state area. The national park has the good fortune to be the steward of many of these remnants; visitors can walk the trails and see remains of rifle trenches, earthworks, and old military roads.

Some of the most prominent symbols of the war at the Gap are the park's three cannon, located at the visitor center and Forts McCook and Lyon on the Pinnacle. "People might not realize that these cannon were actually used at the Chickamauga/Chattanooga battlefield," said Historian Wiley. "They deserve respect as symbols of the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of soldiers, not this desecration we're seeing."

The park has been monitoring the cannon for several months with strategically placed video cameras. "We realized that we have to do more to protect these cannons," Chief Ranger Dirk Wiley said. "From this video evidence, in the past year, we've made five cases, four just in the last two months alone."

In addition to fines, the subjects are ordered to pay restitution to help pay for the repainting.

"In an era of decreasing budgets and complaints of the waste of federal money, what could be more wasteful than having park employees repainting the cannon every week or two?" Chief Ranger Wiley said.

Visitors are encouraged to report any vandalism they observe anywhere in the park to park staff. Reports of vandalism can also be made by calling the park visitor center at 606-248-2817, extension 1075.


I don't understand WHY people vandalize, especially HISTORICAL objects or places!

When working on a deer study many years ago, we used a large net that was fired by small cannons to fly out over the deer and capture them. Worked just great.

Maybe the park could use one of those. Can you imagine the scene when other visitors approach and find the loving couple of vandals tangled hopelessly in the net? And since it takes an expert to unravel the captured critters, it might even require an overnight stay for them beside the cannon of their choice if the expert is not readily available. And imagine the educational opportunities if the whole thing is posted to YouTube.

Nice scene, Lee.

Don't call those vandals "Artists."

Lee has it right. I would like to see you try this .

I was just there. The cannon near the Pinnacle Overlook now has a fresh coat of black paint. The fall colors were spectacular this past weekend. We had a guided tour of the Hensley Settlement, occupied from 1904 to 1951 and now preserved by the NPS. The guided tour into Gap Cave was outstanding, thanks to the exceptional knowledge and communication skills of ranger Lukas Wilder.

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