Friday, October 9, 2015

Cannons of Boac 1

Those intriguing cannons of Boac


Three pieces of history


Three intriguing pieces of history, those cast iron artillery that have been allowed to sleep side by side temporarily where they used to lay aimed toward east, gazed upon in awe by Boac residents, a few steps away from the main door of the old Casa Real. In those old days they must have glistened no end and were touched with great respect by the many disembodied hands that came to and fro from the elegant Casa.

But it probably could help us to better appreciate their historical value if we have an inkling on who made them in the first place, exactly where they came from and how they got there. We could only start by closely examining these mute objects hoping to find clues, right? 

"IEC"
Yesterday when the sun directly shone on these Spanish cannons, I decided to have a look-see myself. At first I expected to find only two cannons but found a baby cannon in the middle of the two big guns. I just took a few photos. I examined the biggest and best preserved one and found the letters “IEC” embossed and clearly visible on the face of its right trunnion. So that was a good start, I thought.


Then I searched for possible answers on the Internet, came across some interesting reports. One was about the analysis of the remains, particularly artillery found in an 18th century shipwreck in a location not pinpointed (like the location of buried treasures, that’s how naturally secretive they are).  At once, my heart pounded fast in excitement. Right on, it stated that artillery analysis could reveal details about who manufactured it, as well as the artifact end user. Manufacturing information, the report said, comes from the artifact itself: "composition, style or markings".


Similar cannon from a shipwreck with IEC markings


And as it turned out, one of the five out of twenty five cannons found on the shipwreck that had been fully cleaned and examined also contained the master founder’s mark “IEC”. “IEC” was embossed on the face of the right trunnion of one of the cannons! The report claimed that this indicated that the gun was produced at the Ehrendal foundry in Sweden. 

Hmmm, so let’s read on:
“Jesper Eliaeson started the Ehrendal foundry as early as 1689 and was master founder until his death in 1722. Thomas Roth, head of research at the Army Museum in Stockholm, Sweden states, “As far as we know the mark “IE” (for Jasper Eliaeson) was used on one of the trunnions from 1689 to 1695 but it is possible that the mark could have been altered after that year until 1722 when his son Olof, began using “OEC” (Roth 2004). The addition of the “C” to Jesper’s mark may have coincided with his 1695 ennoblement by the Swedish monarchy, and subsequent surname change from Eliaeson to Ehrencreutz (Jobling 1990). A sixty pounder mortar in the Tojhusmuseet in Copenhagen has IEC on the right trunnion and 1721 on the left, indicating its manufacture one year before Jesper Ehrencreutz’s death (Brown 2005).”

"1 7 5 1"?
I just had to go back at once to the three cannons, particularly the best preserved one to check if it was possible to move the object to check for markings on the left trunnion. That part was almost touching the ground and just an inch away from the baby cannon and it was not possible for me to move the gun even an inch as it was extremely heavy.

Engr. Luna "Pongkoy" Manrique (MPDC), happened to be standing by the Casa’s main door when I got there this afternoon, he said “Hi” and I said “Hi” and asked him if he could help me with something, pointing my finger at the sleeping artillery. 

“Am checking on marks on these objects”, I said, “found some letters on the right trunnion, but couldn’t move it to be able to check the left trunnion, that should indicate the year it was manufactured”, I matter-of-factly stated.

The engineeer probably also got too excited himself as he at once made an effort to move the cannon in question just by himself, but he was a big man, and voila! 

The left trunnion was marked with numbers! It wasn’t so clean but the numbers “1”, “7”, and what appeared like “5”, and a clear number “1” were quite visible. That's the casting date! So that discovery could nicely indicate, for now at least, and this claim should be considered preliminary, that the said cannon was probably produced in 1751. Certainly subject to further examination.


The two other cannons will have to be cleaned very carefully to check on their individual markings. I have taken photos of the other artillery’s trunnions for further investigation but couldn't see much with the result I got.


I thought of asking Engr. Manrique if he thought the baby cannon in the middle was made of bronze, telling him that the report I came across stated that small caliber artillery in those days were typically produced in bronze. “That could be bronze, but I really could not be certain”, he said.

Then the Boac Engineer related to me that he has personally inspected the artillery at Intramuros to check how well the Intramuros Administration has managed to preserve those mounted or loose Spanish cannons there. Others he has seen elsewhere were even kept in glass casings. 

“Yes, it would, of course, be interesting to construct carriages for these pieces”, I said, “maybe of hardwood or a mix of wood and concrete?” He said the Municipal Government of Boac under Mayor Bert Madla has a fairly good idea about what to do with the cannons of Boac, where they should find permanent place in the plaza, etc. They are all starkly aware of their cultural, historical and touristic value. “That would come next, na but may not be rushed!”, he added.

And as to the question, how did the cannons get there in the first place? The report said:

“The two largest producers of cast iron artillery in the last half of the 17th century and throughout the 18thcentury were England and Sweden. (Frantzen 2004). Ordnance exports from both countries were prevalent throughout Europe and anywhere Europeans traded. The reality is that the international ordnance trade was so complex that once guns left the foundry they could end up on ships of any nationality”.

Naturalmente, there were many Spanish ships that ruled our part of the world in those days.  So, as far as the two other cannons are concerned, they may still be very British or Swedish in origin and those things will certainly be known by the curious, like you and me, in no time at all.

So next time you see those cannons, you know they have more stories to tell.
- Eli J. Obligacion, Marinduque Rising, first posted June 8, 2012

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