Marker text: The Athens Double-Barrelled Cannon
This cannon, the only known one of its kind, was designed by Mr. John Gilleland, a private in the ÒMitchell Thunderbolts,Ó an elite Òhome guardÓ 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 Òmow down the enemy somewhat as a scythe cuts wheat.Ó It failed for lack of a means of firing both barrels at the exact instant.
It was tested in a field on the NewtonÕs 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.
Georgia Historical Commission, 1957