Three members of the Gettysburg National Military Park (GNMP) staff delivered two reproduction cannon carriages to the Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) on May 21. These two aluminum carriages replaced two cast iron carriages that had fallen into disrepair. They were set up and painted to the same stringent specifications as all the cannon carriages that stand as silent sentinels on the Gettysburg battlefield. The cast iron carriages have been returned to the park for future rehabilitation.
In July 2018, LEAD staff contacted Gettysburg GNMP for technical assistance about restoring two cast iron cannon carriages which sat near the LEAD headquarters facility since 1975 but had recently been removed due to their poor condition. After GNMP Cannon Shop staff visited the base to view the conditions of the carriages, LEAD staff located documents that indicated the park had loaned the cannon carriages to LEAD in 1975 for a two-year period as part of their bicentennial observation.
The two agencies worked together and concluded the park would provide LEAD with a pair of aluminum reproduction carriages in exchange for the historic cast iron carriages that had been displayed at the base since 1975. This decision allowed the base to continue to proudly exhibit its 1862 and 1863 12-pound Napoleon smooth bore cannons outside its headquarters while the park restores the original carriages.
The story of the battlefield’s historic cannon carriages dates back to 1895 when Calvin Gilbert, a veteran of the Civil War who served with the 87th Pennsylvania Infantry, was awarded the contract to manufacture reproduction cannon carriages, and many of the government markers and signs, after the battlefield land was transferred to the federal government from the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association. The care and maintenance of these historic carriages is the responsibility of two preservation workers, Brian Knepper and Michael Wright, as well as a team of highly dedicated volunteers.
Letterkenny Army Depot is a subordinate of U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command. The installation is home to Patriot maintenance as well as other missile systems such as Avenger, Tube-launched optically tracked Wire-guided (TOW) missile, Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), Advanced Fire Control System (AFCS), High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Hellfire and Javelin.
The parallels continue when you consider Letterkenny Army Depot was established in 1941 at the onset of World War II and Dwight D. Eisenhower was promoted to lieutenant general and appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in 1942. Gen. Eisenhower surely depended on Letterkenny Army Depot, and other depots like it, for war materiel as World War II continued on two fronts. Later, then-First Lady Mamie Eisenhower visited Letterkenny Army Depot in November 1978 as the special guest of the Letterkenny Ladies Club.