An 18th century cannon from a British Royal Navy frigate was found loaded with a cannon ball and gun powder yesterday at the Central Park Conservancy in New York, sparking a 911 call alert.
New York City Police said that the removal of a plug in the cannon’s barrel during routine cleaning by staff at the Central Park Conservancy (a non-profit body that manages Central Park) exposed its melon-sized cannon ball and 1¾ pounds of gunpowder wrapped in wool. The cannon came from the Royal Navy ship, HMS Hussar, a 28-gun frigate which was part of the British fleet in North America during the Revolutionary War 1775–1783.
In 1780 New York was occupied by British forces, but its position was shaky as a French army had joined forces with George Washington’s troops north of the city. It was decided that, for safety, the British Army’s payroll be moved from the city to Long Island. On 23 November 1780, with gold rumoured to be aboard, the Hussar’s captain unwisely decided to sail through the treacherous waters of Hell Gate between Manhattan Island and Long Island. Just before reaching Long Island Sound, Hussar was swept onto Pot Rock and sank.
The British immediately denied there was any gold aboard the ship, but reports of millions of dollars worth of sunken treasure prompted many salvage efforts over the next 150 years. This continued even after the US Army Corps of Engineers “blew the worst features of Hell Gate straight back to hell” with 25 tons of dynamite in 1876. Hussar’s remains, if any survive, are now believed to lie beneath landfill in the Bronx.
Except for the loaded canon in Central Park, which has now been made safe by bomb disposal experts. NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said: “In theory you could have fired that cannon because the powder was still working. We silenced British cannon fire in 1776 and we don’t want to hear it again in Central Park.”
Source: New York Times