Skip to Main Content

Historic Oyster Cannon on Display in Havre de Grace


Oyster Wars Cannon

Photo from

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is partnering with the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum to exhibit its historic cannon now through September 2013. A relic of the Oyster Police of the 1800s, the cannon was used to protect the Chesapeake Bay’s oysters during the “oyster wars” of the 19th century.

DNR obtained the cannon in December 2010 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 North-South Skirmish Association competitions. DNR has also displayed the cannon at the Delmarva Discovery Center, the Annapolis Maritime Museum, the Calvert Marine Museum and, most recently, Baltimore Inner Harbor Visitor’s Center.

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 Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) is a descendant of both the State Oyster Police, created in 1868 and the Office of the State Game Warden, created in 1896. Additionally, in 2005, law enforcement duties on DNR Public Lands were transferred from the State Forest and Park Service to NRP. A total of 91 former law enforcement Rangers were added to the ranks of the NRP bringing the total sworn force to 244.

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum: