Beverly Schaefer

“Hardly a chummy entrance, that!” Woodrow Wilson 1879 exclaimed during a walk down Prospect Avenue just before moving to the White House.

He was eyeing the cannon standing in front of Cannon Club. The weapon pointing menacingly toward the street seemed to symbolize the burning antagonism between him and the eating clubs.

The provenance of the 3.5-ton iron Cannon Club gun always was hazy. Even when it arrived in 1901, the gift of an alumnus from Elmira, N.Y., it was described by The Daily Princetonian only as being “used throughout” the Civil War.

Examining the gun last fall, Civil War artillery expert Jack Bell of the U.S. State Department instantly recognized a weapon made long before the Civil War: an Army 32-pounder, Model 1816.

The Cannon Club gun appears to be identical to 11 other cannons that were removed from Castle Williams, Governors Island, N.Y., just before that 1811 fortress was converted into a prison in 1903. These were scattered among various locales as memorials, including the Brandywine Battlefield in Pennsylvania.