The Old Museum at Manassas
Jul 13, 2005
The Parrott Rifle of Rock Hill Farm
On the morning of August 29, 1862, Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery under Captain James H. Cooper advanced to a position on the Brawner Farm, northwest of Groveton, in conjunction with elements of George G. Meade's Brigade of John Reynold's Division of Pennsylvania Reserves. An intense, close range artillery duel on Stony Ridge with several Confederate batteries posted on the right flank of Stonewall Jackson's line followed. Captain William T. Poague of the opposing Rockbridge Artillery wrote that the encounter "resulted in his [Cooper] being driven from his position with a gun disabled and left on the field." The unit history for Cooper's Battery only concedes the loss of a caisson, but shortly after the battle the younger sons of John Cross, owner of the neighboring Rock Hill Farm, found a 10-pounder Parrott rifle with a burst muzzle abandoned on the Brawner Farm. Cooper's Battery was the only Federal battery equipped with Parrott rifles on that part of the field.
The Cross boys claimed the disabled gun as a war trophy, dragged it home and hid it until the end of the war. Afterwards the family positioned the gun tube between two large rocks (the carriage had since deteriorated) and fired it on New Years Day, the 4th of July and perhaps other special occasions.
John "Hill" Akers inherited Rock Hill Farm and the gun tube about 1905. The above photograph of the cannon was probably taken around 1930. The older woman standing behind the tube is believed to be Mrs. Lelia Akers while the older man at right is Barzillia R. Cross, a son of John Cross who likely had a hand in recovering the Parrott rifle in 1862.
Park records dating back to 1947 reflect an awareness of the cannon's existence and a strong interest in acquiring the piece for the battlefield museum. However, there is no documentation of any actual attempt to obtain it. If the park ever approached Mr. Akers on the subject, he was evidently unwilling to part with the tube.
Mr. Akers sold the farm in 1965 and shortly after the family vacated the property, the Parrott rifle disappeared under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The gun was allegedly taken at night, but one source indicates that Mr. Akers gave an unnamed individual permission to take the tube and that party still has it today.
The tube is a U.S. Model 1861 10-pounder Parrott rifle with a 2.9-inch bore and what appears to be more than a foot missing from the muzzle. According to notes taken by a former park superintendent, the foundry number "231" appears on the right rimbase, the initials "R.P.P./W.P.F." (Robert Parker Parrott/West Point Foundry) on the right trunnion, and "1861" on the left trunnion.
Manassas National Battlefield Park has no legal claim to this relic from the Second Battle of Manassas, but has a continued interest in its acquisition should it become available. At the very least we would be satisfied just to know its present location and that it is being adequately preserved. Any information that may solve this mystery would be greatly appreciated.
Email if you have any information as to the whereabouts of this cannon.