An antique cannon nicknamed the “Old Sow” resides in the LDS Church History Museum. There’s a story behind the nickname. However, it should be noted that this isn’t the first “Old Sow” cannon in American history. Nor is the legend behind it entirely unique.
The “Old Sow”, a cannon that fired 18-pound cannon balls, was placed on a hill above Springfield, New Jersey in the time of the American Revolution. When fired, the cannon served as an alarm signaling the “Minute Men” to action. Historians conjecture that its booming, a contrast to the small and piping sounds of musket and pistol, was reminiscent of an old sow.
A heavy, one-ton mortar, thought to be named “Old Sow” because of its weight, was located at Fort Ticonderoga and later used by George Washington in his siege of Boston.
A 32-pound “old sow” cannon located at Sackett’s Harbor played a part in the War of 1812. The gun was designed for the ship Oneida, but being too heavy, was placed near the shore, wallowing in the mud. From its appearance there, the cannon was said to have acquired its name.
These stories seem, by their very nature, to be folklore. I wondered, since there were so many of them, if an “old sow” was a particular kind of cannon, or had a certain meaning in colonial days which has been lost to us over time.