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Blast from the Past: Artillery in the War of Independence

Special Exhibition on Display Through January 5, 2019
Blast from the Past logo American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

As the last great victory of the American Revolution, the 1781 Siege at Yorktown is known for the use of artillery by General George Washington’s Continental Army. Through interactive elements and artifact displays, the “Blast from the Past: Artillery in the War of Independence” special exhibition features artillery used on all fronts of the American Revolution by the American, French and British forces.

From June 10, 2018, through January 5, 2019, the special exhibition explores a range of topics from innovations in artillery design and technology to the individual roles of an artillery crew. Topics examine artillery deployment and transport, as well as the range of fire and science behind these powerful weapons.

“Blast from the Past: Artillery in the War of Independence” highlights the chronology of the weapons and reveal the technology and innovation that delivered the last great victory of the Revolution – a victory that forever made Yorktown, Virginia, the place where the subjects of a king became the citizens of a nation.

Bronze Lafayette Cannon, ca 1759 CNHP Yorktown collection

British 12-pounder bronze “Lafayette” cannon, circa 1759, on loan from the National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown Collection.

American, French and British artillery pieces featured in the six-month special exhibition include:

-British Light 3-pounder bronze field cannon, cast by Jan and Pieter Verbruggen, circa 1776, on loan from the U.S. Army Center of Military History

-“La Perileuse” French 4-pounder bronze field cannon, cast by Jean Bérenger at Strasbourg, circa 1758, on loan from the National Park Service Springfield Armory National Historic Site

-British 12-pounder bronze “Lafayette” cannon, cast by William Bowen, circa 1759, on loan from the National Park Service, Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown Collection

-American 6-pounder iron cannon, cast by Samuel and Daniel Hughes, circa 1775-1783, on loan from the Mayor and Council of Boonsboro, Maryland

-“La Bellone” French 4-pounder bronze battalion cannon, cast by D.E. Dupont at Rochefort, circa 1773, on loan from the National Park Service, Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historical Site

Visitors can take in the size and scope of American, French and British artillery featured in the special exhibition and then explore the museum for a range of hands-on experiences.

Explore Foundries to Field Pieces in “Blast from the Past”
Gunners Calipers, 18th century, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection

Gunner’s calipers signed by British instrument maker, George Adams, circa 1740. Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation collection.

-Discover types of artillery – cannons, mortars and howitzers – and types of ammunition – from shot and shell to canister and grape.

-Figure out the right artillery tool for the job – types of shot and essential implements of rammer, sponge and linstock – in a hands-on display.

-How does one move a gun? Lift a door to determine the strength by men and horses to advance a light or heavy gun.

-Examine an artilleryman’s pocket guide. See interactive 18th-century artillery field manuals that served as reference to determine tasks such as how to draw a 6-pounder up a steep cliff or bluff.

Immersive Artillery Experiences at the Museum

Historical interpreter holds an artillery worm implement -Enlist as a member of a Continental Army artillery crew each day in artillery amphitheater. After the drill, cover your ears and make ready for soldiers to fire the gun!

-In the laboratory tent at the Continental Army encampment, help manufacture cartridges and learn the science and math used to load, aim and fire an artillery piece.

-Just beyond the large 24-pounder French siege gun in the gallery, see the “Siege of Yorktown” experiential film to experience the decisive 1781 Revolutionary War battle with wind, smoke and the thunder of cannon fire.

Artillery crew at the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown “Blast From the Past” Programs

A series of programs, demonstrations and musical performances highlighting the role artillery played during the Siege of Yorktown and the American Revolution accompany the special exhibition from June through December.

The special exhibition opened June 9 and 10 with an “Artillery Through the Ages” weekend, which examined the evolution of artillery and its important role during military engagements.

On October 20 and 21, in conjunction with the annual Yorktown Victory Celebration event, visitors can enjoy “A Weekend of Revolutionary Noise” with re-enactor encampments. On October 21, the weekend event will conclude with an evening performance of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture,” as well as other compositions, by the College of William and Mary Symphony Orchestra.

On November 8, visitors can enjoy an evening public lecture, “From Aprons to Armaments: Women’s Role in Artillery.” At 7 p.m., Ali Kolleda, archivist with the U.S. Army Women’s Museum at Fort Lee, will look at the history of women in artillery. Admission to the evening public lecture is free. Advance reservations are recommended at (757) 253-4572 or

About the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown

The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown tells anew the story of the nation’s founding, from the twilight of the colonial period to the dawn of the Constitution and beyond. Comprehensive indoor exhibits and outdoor living history capture the transformational nature and epic scale of the Revolution and its relevance today.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (until 6 p.m. June 15-August 15), the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown is located at 200 Water Street, in Yorktown, Virginia. Parking is free.


2018 admission is $15.00 for adults, $7.50 for ages 6 through 12, and free for children under 6. A value-priced combination ticket to the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Jamestown Settlement is $25.50 for adults and $12.25 for ages 6-12.  Admission for residents of York County, James City County and the City of Williamsburg.

Special exhibition made possible in part by grants and donations
to the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, Inc.