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Historic Oyster Cannon on Display on The Eastern Shore

Oyster Cannon

Annapolis, Md. (June 16, 2011) — The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is partnering with the Delmarva Discovery Center in Worcester County to exhibit a historic cannon — a relic of the Oyster Police of the 1800s — from now until September 12. The cannon was used to protect the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters during the “oyster wars” of the nineteenth century.

“We are thrilled to have this wonderful piece of DNR and Chesapeake Bay history on display. The oyster wars marked a dramatic time in Chesapeake Bay history and played an integral role in shaping the past of so many Eastern Shore communities,” said Brian Garrett, executive director at the Delmarva Discovery Center. “The Delmarva Discovery Center has exhibits that highlight the oysterman culture of the Bay in the 1900s. This cannon adds a unique and tangible perspective on this turbulent period of time.”

The cannon was acquired by Hunter Davidson, the first Commander of the State Oyster Police Force, in 1868. It was installed on the original steam-powered patrol boat of Maryland’s “Oyster Navy,” the Leila. In 1884, this ship was replaced by the Governor R. M. McLane, which fought many spectacular battles against the oyster pirates. The McLane was equipped with a 12-pound Dahlgren boat howitzer in 1888. While accounts are not definitive, authorities believe that this gun may have been the original cannon from the Leila.

DNR acquired the canon in December from the American Legion Post 116, which owned it since the1950s. The legion regularly loaned it to a group of Civil War re-enactors who took part in the North-South Skirmish Association competitions.

“This cannon is not only a terrific piece of Maryland history, but a representation of our State’s commitment to protecting our valuable natural resources” said Secretary Griffin. “We are honored to make this great artifact available for all Marylanders to enjoy.”

For more information about the history of the cannon and the oyster wars, visit

For information about the Delmarva Discovery Center, visit

In 2010, Maryland implemented Governor Martin O’Malley’s Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan, which increases the State’s network of oyster sanctuaries, increases the area open to aquaculture leasing and streamlines the permit process, and maintains 76 percent of the Bay’s remaining quality oyster habitat for a more targeted, sustainable, and scientifically managed public oyster fishery.

   June 16, 2011

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly a half-million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at