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First step in Battle of New Orleans Bicentennial Exhibition

Members of Abry Brothers, founded in 1840,  operating shoring contractor ----- include (from left to right) Joel Argueta, Foreman Melvin  Erazo, Project Manager John Abry, Operations Manager Scott Wolf, President and owner Greg  Abry, Anthony Marciante, Freddie Alvarado, and Edwin Perez. Greg Abry is part of the sixth  generation of the Abry family. Abry Brothers ----- which generously donated its services to the  LSM’s replica carriage project ----- erected two 20,000-pound-capacity shoring towers, spanned  these with two 250-pound cross beams, and gently lowered the massive Spanish cannon onto  the carriage’s bed via two three-ton chain hoists (one attached to a sling around the front of  the cannon, and a second attached to a sling around the rear of the cannon).

Members of Abry Brothers, founded in 1840, include Joel Argueta, Foreman Melvin Erazo, Project Manager John Abry, Operations Manager Scott Wolf, President Greg Abry, Anthony Marciante, Freddie Alvarado, and Edwin Perez. The crew built two 20,000-pound-capacity shoring towers, spanned them with two 250-pound cross beams, and gently lowered the massive Spanish cannon onto the carriage’s bed via two three-ton chain hoists. Photo: Mark J. Sindler/Louisiana State Museum

What do you do with a two-century-old canon in this age of drones and missiles?

You put it on display somewhere.

In New Orleans, one of these vestiges of long-ago wars, the one on at the entrance to the Cabildo in Jackson Square, wasn't always on display. This one was actually dumped in Bayou St. John when the city was captured during the Civil War. There it stayed until is was raised in 1872 and returned to its original location at Fort St. John. There it was an object of display until 1908, when it was transferred to the Louisiana State Museum.

At the arcade of the historic Cabildo, Mark Tullos, Jr., Director of the Louisiana State Museum system, welcome guests to the dedication and press conference for the reconstructed naval carriage that now cradles the LSM’s Spanish cannon. This storied gun - which measures 10.5-feet long and weighs an impressive 5,789 pounds - was originally mounted at Fort St. John (also known as Spanish Fort) near the New Orleans Lakefront and then was used by American defenders at the Battle of New Orleans in Chalmette (1815) and also against Admiral David Farragut’s Union fleet (1862). The LSM acquired the cannon in 1908.

At the arcade of the Cabildo, Mark Tullos, Jr., Director of the Louisiana State Museum system, shows off the reconstructed naval carriage that now cradles the LSM’s Spanish cannon. The storied gun was used by American defenders at the Battle of New Orleans in Chalmette  in 1815 and also against Admiral David Farragut’s Union fleet in 1862. Photo: Mark J. Sindler/Louisiana State Museum

Now this almost-6,000-pound behemoth has been readied for the LSM’s upcoming bicentennial celebration of the Battle of New Orleans beginning in January, 2015. It has received a new carriage of Spanish cedar, built by the master carpenters on the LSM’s maintenance crew, a replica of the original. To honor their craftsmanship, Mark Tullos, Assistant Secretary of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, who is also the LSM Director, took the unusual step of having a plaque made in their honor -- a generous tip of the hat from a director to a museum maintenance crew.

“This is a big moment for the museum staff,” Tullos said. “This whole project engendered a lot of pride for everyone here.”

Moving something almost three tons in weight was a choreographed work of pulleys and chains, human labor and patience. But the staff effort of moving the cannon onto its new carriage inch by inch was greeted by cheers and applause from an invited audience of LSM supporters and the media.

The removal process was made possible with underwriting from local law firm Baldwin Haspel Burke and Mayer and is the first in a year-long series of activities associated with the exhibition Dirty Shirts to Buccaneers: The Battle of New Orleans in American Culture, opening January 11, 2015.

Stay tuned.

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]