The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is exhibiting its historic cannon at the Cas Taylor House Legislative Office Building in Annapolis to help kick off their 150th anniversary celebration of the Natural Resources Police. NRP Historian Greg Bartles, our officers and House staff helped position the 1,450-pound cannon in the lobby. Later, Bartles and NRP Col. Ken Ziegler posed with the gun, which was on board patrol boats that battled oyster pirates in the Chesapeake Bay.
A relic of the Oyster Police of the 1800s, the cannon was used to protect the Chesapeake Bay’s bounty during the “oyster wars” of the 19th century. The Maryland Natural Resources Police, which will observe its 150th anniversary on March 30th, is a descendant of both the State Oyster Police Force and the Office of the State Game Warden, created in 1896.
Hunter Davidson, the first Commander of the State Oyster Police Force, acquired the cannon in 1868. It was then 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 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.
The department obtained the cannon in December 2010 from the American Legion Post 116, which had owned it since the 1950s. The legion regularly loaned it to a group of Civil War re-enactors who took part in North-South Skirmish Association competitions. Click here to learn more about the cannon.
The cannon has also been displayed at the Delmarva Discovery Center, Annapolis Maritime Museum, Calvert Marine Museum, Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, Baltimore Inner Harbor Visitor’s Center, the Deep Creek Lake Discovery Center and other short-term venues.
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