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Cannon, Relic of the 19th century Oyster Wars, on Display in Annapolis

cannonThe Maryland Department of Natural Resources is exhibiting its historic cannon at the Casper R. Taylor Jr. House Office Building in Annapolis now through spring 2014.

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 observed its 145th anniversary last March, is a descendant of both the State Oyster Police 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 agency 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.

The cannon has also been displayed at the Delmarva Discovery Center, the Annapolis Maritime Museum, the Calvert Marine Museum, the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum and Baltimore Inner Harbor Visitor’s Center.

The House Office Building, named for the former House speaker, is at 6 Bladen St., just off State Circle.

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