Off with a BANG!

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Artillery unit adds to first-time event in Lebanon

By Stephen Lega

Jordan Sims checked the angle of the bronze Napoleon canon. It was on target, so he raised his arms much like a referee signaling a touchdown.   The canon was ready to fire.

Sims, 6, was part of a team that simulated the firing of the Civil War era canon under the guidance of re-enactors portraying the 12th United States Colored Heavy Artillery, one of the African-American Army units formed at Camp Nelson.

The re-enactors were at Centre Square Saturday celebrating Lebanon's African Civil War soldiers as part of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Juneteenth Celebration. Juneteenth is officially June 19, and marks the day in 1865 when the Union army took control of Texas, thus freeing the slaves in that state.

The Lebanon Human Rights Commission Subcommittee hosted the event. Angela Nance of the commission was pleased with the scores of people in attendance for this first-time event.

"The diversity was very, very good," she said.

Sgt. Robert Bell, of the artillery unit, shared some of the history of African-American soldiers in the Civil War. He also noted that Lebanon served as a recruiting station for African-American soldiers during the war.

More than 2,000 soldiers were mustered into the service in Marion County.

The Lebanon Community Choir, the Marion County High School band, the MCHS ROTC and the Marion County Veterans Honor Guard participated in the event. Lebanon Mayor Gary Crenshaw offered the invocation at the start of the program, and Tyler Thompson read the Emancipation Proclamation.

The members of the 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery also executed a live demonstration of how its canon was fired. After the demonstration, the crowd was invited to ask questions and to re-enact the firing procedure (although without using any ammunition).

Cpl. Alonzo Brown, the gunner with the unit, answered questions about the types of ammunition used to attack structures, opposing artillery units and soldiers. The canon could fire a solid 12-pound shot, a shell (a hollowed out ball filled with gunpowder), K shot (which was similar to a shell, but filled with steel balls) and a cannister (which was filled with several lead or iron balls)

"[The cannister] turned your canon into a big shot gun," Bell said.

He added that the artillery unit could fire up to three cannisters a minute, but only two of the other types of ammunition per minute.

"With the cannister, you don't have to aim," Bell said.

Nance said she was pleased with the event and with the turnout.

"I hope and pray that people will be open to future events that honor our American history," she said.