June 22, 2018
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Bucksport thunder might be man-made

By Brian Swartz, Of the Weekly Staff

When the Sixth Maine Battery speaks, Bucksport listens.

A few weekends each tourism season, Civil War re-enactors from the Sixth Maine Battery bring a cannon to Fort Knox State Historic Site in Prospect and demonstrate to onlookers how such a weapon is loaded and fired.

Placed on the Prospect bluff overlooking Bucksport, the cannon roars and belches smoke when a gunner pulls the lanyard. As Fort Knox visitors cover their ears, thunder echoes from the Verso Paper mill downriver to the Route 1 bridge between Bucksport and Verona Island.

Founded years ago by Bill Lannon and the late Gordon McRae of Eddington, the Sixth Maine Battery actually has two 10-pound Parrott “guns,” full-size replica cannons based on plans of actual Civil War cannons. Each cannon could fire a 10-pound artillery shell.

Each cannon barrel is mounted on a gun carriage resting on 14-spoke wagon wheels. In battle, a cannon was fastened to a two-wheeled, horse-drawn limber, which mounted an ammunition chest and provided seats for gunners. Limbers were often made from white oak.

Although some live in the Penobscot Valley, members of the Sixth Maine Battery are drawn from across the state. For Ben Trudel of Old Town, joining the 6th Maine Battery 10 years ago made sense: “I used to be in artillery in the military (Army), and I’m a history buff. The two kind of go together,” he said.

Now a corporal with the 6th Maine, Trudel has participated in Battle of Gettysburg re-enactments as well as in Maine-based living history events. Self-employed, he attends events as his schedule permits.

Peter Knowles of Charlotte joined Co. B, 20th Maine Infantry, nine years ago and outfitted himself with an infantryman’s complete ensemble, including a wool uniform and a rifled musket. He joined the 6th Maine Battery three years ago because the unit has “bigger guns than the 20th. It’s fun shooting this big gun.

“It’s amazing how little powder you need to make that thing go,” Knowles said.

The replica 10-pound Parrott rifle — distinguished from a smoothbore cannon by the rifling inside its barrel — can shoot a full-size cannonball and gunpowder charge. For demonstration purposes at Fort Knox, however, the cannon will shoot only 9 ounces of powder, a sufficient charge to provide a muzzle flame, smoke, and a deafening “bang” that echoes off the Verso Paper Co. mill directly across the river.

Knowles “always loved the Civil War” before becoming a re-enactor. When his daughter attended Dickenson College in Carlisle, Penn., he traveled to nearby Gettysburg National Military Park, where a re-enactment was taking place.

The event intrigued Knowles and led him to join the 20th Maine. “When you put the uniform on and go out there and sweat … you’re living history,” he said.

Employed as the University of Maine grounds coordinator, Eric Stoup of Hampden joined the 6th Maine Battery four years ago. “I started out with the 20th [Maine] Infantry. I wanted to try a different branch,” he said.

“I like getting out with the guys … [and] reliving the history,” he said.

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