My Very First Cannon: Taking the Battlefield Home

By McKenna White ‘25

Visitors to Gettysburg will not be hard-pressed to find a cannon; however, most cannons of Gettysburg are larger than two inches and are meant to be filled with cannon balls, not pencils. Yet, visitors to the Civil War Store will find just this type of unique cannon amongst a wall of other oddly shaped pencil sharpeners ranging from trees to tanks.

Coming in at one inch tall by two inches long, this pencil sharpener masquerading as a cannon looks remarkably similar to the real thing. Raised rivets painted copper to appear to have an “antique finish” and working movable wheels help this cannon-sharpener to appear as realistic as possible.

As previously established, there is an abundance of cannons on the Gettysburg battlefield, so much so that they have become a staple of battlefield promotional photographs and the subjects of countless Gettysburg sunset pictures. Gettysburg would simply not be complete without cannons.

In a way, it is quite ironic how the cannons at Gettysburg have become such a romanticized symbol of the battlefield. What were once mass-killing machines have become props for thousands of photographs and “cool” playgrounds for young children visiting the battlefield.

For many visitors to Gettysburg, especially these young visitors, their battlefield experience revolves around seeing, touching, climbing on, taking pictures in front of, etc. a cannon. It is a pivotal experience that many remember long after their trip to Gettysburg ends. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that they would want to memorialize their cannon experience with a tactile, albeit miniature, replica. The fact that it doubles as a pencil sharpener is a bonus that can be used to convince parents to purchase the cannon or allow them to bring it to school to show off to their friends.

Now every time that a child has to sharpen their pencil in school, they can pull out their cannon-shaped sharpener and remember their wonderful experiences from their trip to Gettysburg. In addition, they get lots of admiration from their friends and classmates regarding their super cool new tool/toy, prompting further conversation regarding their trip to Gettysburg, what they have learned, and likely a few statements along the lines of “Gettysburg had cannons everywhere, it was so cool!”

Most young visitors come to Gettysburg on trips with their schools or families. They stay for a few days, learn about the battle that took place for three days here, and then head back to their regularly scheduled, often boring, classroom work. Yet, for a select few, Gettysburg will stay with them beyond the battlefield, in the form of a cannon-shaped pencil sharpener.

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