RODMAN GUN, John Paul Jones Park

by Kevin Walsh

John Paul Jones Park is the site of one of the three 20-inch Rodman guns ever produced. Fort Hamilton, in 1864, tested this new cannon, designed by Capt. Thomas Jefferson Rodman, which weighed 58 tons and fired shot weighing 1080 pounds up to 4 1/2 miles. A derrick had to be used to load the cannon. The cannon’s effectiveness was judged minimal after it failed two trials.

Shortly after being mounted the piece was fired four times with 50-, 75-, 100- and 125-pound charges. In March of 1867 it was again fired with charges of 125, 150, 175 and 200 pounds of powder. At an elevation of 25 degrees a range of 4-1/2 miles, was obtained.

These were the guns that established the International “Three Mile Limit” for territorial waters. In the 19th and early 20th century a nation “owned” those waters that it could defend with cannon fire.

One of the two Rodman guns produced wound up here, along with a goodly number of cannonballs in what is commonly known as Cannonball Park. The second was located at Fort Hancock in New Jersey, and is now on display at the Sandy Hook National Park Site. The third was sold to Peru. Records of this cannon were lost during Peru’s war with Chile from 1879-1883.

John Paul Jones Park, 4th Avenue and 101st Street in Bay Ridge, is named for the US naval hero (1747-1792), who, through victorious leadership in the American Revolution, became known as “the father of the Navy.”

Enlisting in the newly established Continental Navy in 1775, Jones distinguished himself as captain of the sloop Providence, as First Lieutenant of the flagship Alfred and captain of both the warships Ranger and Bonhomme Richard. On September 23, 1779 Jones’s ship slipped into the midst of a British mercantile convoy. In attacking the convoy’s escorts, the H.M.S. Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough, Jones’s smaller vessel suffered severe damage. His vessel afire and sinking, Jones refused the enemy’s demand for surrender, replying “I have not yet begun to fight.” Three hours later, the Serapis surrendered. After this and other Revolutionary War victories, Jones received honors from all over the world, including a gold medal from the newly formed Continental Congress, and a gold-hilted sword from King Louis XVI who made him a chevalier of France. {NYC Parks]

The Guns of Bay Ridge [FNY]

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redstaterefugee July 17, 2019 - 11:16 am

Were Thomas Rodman & Samuel Rodman (the NYPD firing range is named for him) related or is this a coincidence? Click the link below:

Edward Findlay July 24, 2019 - 3:31 am

It took me a couple of days to find the right site, but it turns out that not only are they related but aren’t too far off as I originally thought!

Thomas Rodman is indeed related to Samuel Rodman. Thomas was Samuel’s great-nephew, his grandfather was Samuel’s younger brother.

Bill Tweeddale July 17, 2019 - 6:23 pm

My father took a picture of me with my head and arms sticking out of that cannon in the early 1950’s. I wish I knew what happened to it…

Ken Woods July 17, 2019 - 8:59 pm

John Paul Jones was also a Rhode Island native and served proudly in the Continental (before the United States Navy) Navy. A True Continental Colonial Hero.

Robert Traina July 23, 2019 - 3:32 pm

In 1787, Jones served a year in the Russian Navy as a rear admiral fighting the Turks. Various intrigues in the Russian court caused him to leave, embittered.

Edward Findlay July 24, 2019 - 3:43 am

He was from Scotland. And his only ties to the US before the war was his brother who lived in Virginia.

If he hadn’t killed a crew member in 1773 he might never have joined the Continental Navy in the first place- he’d have been with the Royal Navy as a privateer. But as he was on the run from the law and would have been hanged for murder, he had nothing to lose in joining the colonies in the rebellion.


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