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Clarke County Historical Markers

The Athens Double-Barrelled Cannon

  • Source: David Seibert
  • Marker: The Athens Double-Barrelled Cannon
  • Location: Athens City Hall Square, Corner of College and Hancock Avenues, Athens


This cannon, the only known one of its kind, was designed by

Mr. John Gilleland, a private in the “Mitchell Thunderbolts,” an

elite “home guard” unit of business and professional men

ineligible because of age or disability for service in the

Confederate army. Cast in the Athens foundry, it was intended

to fire simultaneously two balls connected by a chain which would

“mow down the enemy somewhat as a scythe cuts wheat.” It failed

for lack of a means of firing both barrels at the exact instant.

It was tested in a field on the Newton’s Bridge road against

a target of upright poles. With both balls rammed home and the

chain dangling from the twin muzzles, the piece was fired; but

the lack of precise simultaneity caused uneven explosion of the

propelling charges, which snapped the chain and gave each ball

an erratic and unpredictable trajectory.

Lacking a workable firing device, the gun was a failure. It

was presented to the City of Athens where, for almost a century,

it has been preserved as an object of curiosity, and where it

performed sturdy service for many years in celebrating

political victories.