July 12, 2011

Russian Guns in Kingston–Tracking a History Mystery

I ran across some mysterious guns (cannons) when visiting Kingston, Ontario, in June 2009. Intrigued by what I thought were Imperial Russian markings on them, I went on a quest to discover how they had come to Canada.


A close-up of one of the guns in Macdonald Park. The double-headed eagle caught my eye. . .

So as we continued visiting historic sites in Kingston, I kept asking about the guns.


I had no luck at this nearby Martello Tower. The student on summer duty did his best, even searching the Internet, but came up with no information. Also had no luck at the Marine Museum of the Great Lakes not too far away, though it was fascinating in its own right.

Later we were out at Old Fort Henry, and that's where I hit pay dirt. Touring the fort was a wonderful experience, especially watching the re-enactments of drill, musket firing, and big gun firing.




It occurred to me to ask for the curator's email address, and I sent him my question. He had the grace to respond quickly, while I didn't even get around to posting on my blog until two years later. Sorry! Here's his answer:

Dear Paul,

Mark Bennett, our Supervisor of Programs passed along your request for information regarding the two guns with double-headed eagles in front of the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald, our first Prime Minister.

The guns are Russian, hence the Czarist, double-headed eagle emblems. Following the Crimean War, 1854-55, an offer was made by the government in London England, for guns captured at the great naval base of Sebastopol in the Crimea to be displayed in cities throughout the British Empire. The fortifications were taken by assault and the abandoned stores were captured and returned to England at the conclusion of the war. Many cities in the Empire applied for these trophy guns and they were subsequently delivered in the following years. The City of Kingston received two of these guns, whereas most locations received only one. I know of several cities in Canada that have Crimean Guns.

The Sebastopol guns are famous for another feature. Queen Victoria instituted a new medal for gallantry at this time. It is known as the Victoria Cross and has become the most sought-after decoration for gallantry arguably in the world. The simple bronze crosses are made of bronze from the cascables of guns  that were captured at Sebastopol (identical to the ones you saw in Kingston).

I hope that this answers your question. Thank you for visiting Fort Henry and we hope you will visit us again soon.

Ron Ridley
Fort Henry National Historic Site of Canada
St. Lawrence Parks Commission
Ontario Ministry of Tourism

Now that's what I call service. Thank you Ron, my apologies for my tardy post, and hope everything at Fort Henry is going well!

Posted by Paul at July 12, 2011 09:35 PM