The History And Significance Of Pallas & Tantae


Joe Giammarco, United Train Of Artillery

Early History and Description

Pallas and Tantae are two bronze French cannons that were cast at the foundry in Strasbourg in 1760 by foundry master Jean-Francois Berenger. The guns were named and decorated with ornate engravings as impressive as the firepower these pieces brought to an eighteenth century battlefield. On top of the barrel toward the rear of each piece was the royal crest of the French monarch so all would know the power of France. Toward the muzzle on the topside of the barrel, was an engraved banner bearing the name of the piece. Also on the top of each barrel , at about midpoint on the gun, were two handles fashioned to resemble dolphins or carp. Upon the rear reinforcement band appears the name of the city and the date of the casting. These guns were as much great works of art as they were weapons of war.

Arrival in America and service to the American Cause

From sources in the 1800s, including an oration by the Colonel of the United Train of Artillery in 1873 (who based his history on earlier written records which survive to this day including a letter from the Commander of the United Train of Artillery to the US War Dept. dating to 1815-17 and in the possession of the Rhode Island Historical Society) it appears that Pallas and Tantae arrived in America with a shipment of French ordnance given to the Continental Congress in 1778. A limited number of these guns survive today and most are in the possession of the National Park service. General Sullivan of the Continental army was given a portion of this shipment to outfit his expedition to liberate Newport, RI in the summer of that year. General Sullivan gave the United Train of Artillery in Providence Pallas and Tantae and told the artillery company to leave their iron guns behind in Providence. With their new Rhode Islander crews, Pallas and Tantae took part in the Battle of Rhode Island in August, 1778. After the battle, Pallas and Tantae remained in the possession of the United Train of Artillery (the UTA's iron guns having been absorbed into the national artillery park in exchange). In the war of 1812, Pallas and Tantae served just over 100 days of state service with the United Train of Artillery in manning Rhode Island's defenses.

Town of Warren takes Possession

In 1842, Rhode Island experienced the Dorr Rebellion. The Dorrite rebels stole Pallas and Tantae from the United Train of Artillery's gun house on Canal Street in Providence, but fortunately were unable to fire them. A militia company from the Town of Warren, loyal to the Governor of Rhode Island, came upon the guns and, knowing right well to whom the guns belonged, removed them from their carriages, carting them away when they returned to Warren. The Warren militia became the Warren Artillery Company. After the rebellion dissolved, the General Assembly, as a reward for loyalty to the State in a time of crisis, bestowed Pallas and Tantae upon Warren "on loan from the State." The United Train of Artillery protested vigorously and publicly, claiming that neither the State, nor the Warren Artillery had any claim to the guns as they were gifted outright to the United Train of Artillery by a representative of the Continental Congress (General Sullivan) and that the guns were baptized with the blood of members of the United Train of Artillery. This sparked a feud between the two companies which lasted for about 60 years. To make a long story short, the United Train of Artillery did not win the argument (nor did they lose it with a particularly good grace, given the tone of the Colonel of the UTA's oration in 1873).

The Warren Artillery Company furnished the cannons with new carriages and limbers. These items are some of the first examples of single trail carriages in the United States, precursors to the style prevalent during the Civil War. As such, they are extremely rare today. Shortly after the turn of the last century, the Warren Artillery ceased operations as a chartered command. The guns remained in the Town of Warren.

Pallas and Tantae's Present Condition

As many may remember, Pallas and Tantae were stolen on April 10, 1981 and were severely vandalized. The royal crests, the banners with their names, the place of origin, the identifying numbers stamped upon their trunions, all were ground down in an attempt to prevent identification. The dolphin handles were cut off and each barrel cut into segments. The pieces were then discarded in the pond at the Roger Williams Park, where they remained for approximately 13 years. When they were finally recovered, the dolphin handles were not to be found, and one muzzle is still missing (though a recent diving expedition in the pond had a promising hit). The gun segments remained in the evidence room of the Warren Police Station until the fall of 2003 when the Federal Blues of the Town of Warren were granted permission to display them in their museum on Baker Street in Warren for the annual Open House during Warren's Holiday Festival. The United Train of Artillery, assisted by the Federal Blues of Warren and various conscientious citizens of the Town of Warren, are engaged in an effort to restore Pallas and Tantae, arguably the two most important cannons in the history of Rhode Island. The effort has received the blessing of the Town Council of the Town of Warren. Though the guns will never fire again, they can be restored to look as they did when they arrived on our shores in 1778.

Restoration Progress

The first barrel is currently being restored by Cannons Online of Maryland. The various fundraising efforts, which began in late July of 2004 (and which have ranged from direct mail solicitations and raffles to serving up fast food at sporting events), have generated $25,422 towards our goal of $34,000. The 1840s limbers are nearly completely restored, and the carriages (of the same period) will be ready to receive the barrels once completed. We are still welcoming donations to this cause and are grateful for any amounts received. Checks may be made payable to The Federal Blues (a 501c3 organization) and mailed to Cannon Restoration Project, C/o Joe Giammarco, 76 Belvidere Blvd., North Providence, RI 02911.

Passas & Tantae at the turn of the 20th century.


Copyright © 2006 Joe Giammarco. All rights reserved.