Bringing history to life: Sector North Carolina to lead cannon firing at Fort Macon State Park

FORT MACON, N.C. ─ Coast Guardsmen from the Sector North Carolina region prepare a Civil War era 32-pound cannon for firing during an evening gun salute here June 1, 2011. An evening gun salute is when a gun or cannon is fired at sunset to signal the lowering of the National Ensign. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Post written by Lt. Clint Seitz and Lt. David Vicks, Sector North Carolina.

As tourism season kicks off along North Carolina’s Crystal Coast region on the Outer Banks, personnel from Coast Guard Sector North Carolina are preparing to once again assist the North Carolina State Park Service through participation in the Fort Macon State Park Evening Gun Program.

The program consists of an evening gun salute, which is a gun or cannon fired at sunset signaling the lowering of the National Ensign at the end of the day.

In December 2010, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources obtained a replica of a Civil War era, 32-pound cannon and requested assistance from the men and women of the sector in the development of an evening cannon firing event at Fort Macon. The vision of the program was to re-create the historic tradition of firing an evening gun at the end of each day.

Led by Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Bentley, a crewmember from Sector North Carolina Field Office Fort Macon, 16 Coast Guard personnel from various units throughout the region volunteered to participate in the program during their off-duty time.

The program will begin May 30 and last approximately three months, with cannon firing demonstrations held on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer.

Utilizing copies of the original heavy artillery drill manuals from the 1860s, the volunteers dedicated numerous hours to mastering the necessary procedures involved in firing the replica cannon. Requirements for this included ceremonial manning of the cannon, clearing and sponging the bore, which is cleaning the cannon for the next shot, loading and firing, and special procedures for misfires. The team carried out 15 separate demonstrations in 2011, serving a total of 3,380 state park visitors.

“Sector North Carolina’s participation in the Fort Macon Evening Gun Program has been instrumental in expanding the historical experience offered by the park,” said Randy Newman, superintendant of Fort Macon State Park. “The program quickly became one of the most popular programs offered by the park, and it could not have been done without the help of the Coast Guard volunteers.”

The sector’s field office is located within Fort Macon State Park and is directly adjacent to the fort.

Fort Macon was constructed in the early 1800s as part of the United States’ plan to improve coastal defenses and was named in honor of Nathaniel Macon, a congressman and senator from the state of North Carolina.

In 1924 a congressional act gave the fort and surrounding land to the state as part of its state park system. Today, Fort Macon is one of North Carolina’s most visited state parks, receiving more than one million visitors each year.

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