Special to the Daily News
Video surveillance efforts at the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park are paying off as five cases have resulted from vandalism to Civil War cannons, park officials said.
Graffiti has become a common occurrence on a piece of heavy artillery used in the park during the Civil War, leaving officials alarmed about the damages occurring and the repeated costs and manpower hours needed to repair damages to the cannons.
Carving on the cannons is not a new problem, but lately as soon as staff repaints the tube covering names and initials, someone else comes along and writes names and other graffiti on it, the officials said.
“In this commemorative time of the Civil War,” Park Historian Martha Wiley observes, “we’re trying to preserve our Civil War past, yet much of our time is spent just trying to repair the damage a few visitors are doing to park resources. It’s frustrating.”
Cumberland Gap was continuously occupied during the four years of the Civil War, and signs of that occupation by both Union and Confederate forces can still be seen throughout the tri-state area. The national park has the good fortune to be the steward of many of these remnants. Visitors can walk the trails and see remains of rifle trenches, earthworks and old military roads.
Some of the most prominent symbols of the war at the Gap are the park’s three cannons, located at the visitor center and at Forts McCook and Lyon on the Pinnacle.
“People might not realize that these cannons were actually used at the Chickamauga/Chattanooga battlefield,” explains historian Wiley. “They deserve respect as symbols of the sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of soldiers, not this desecration we’re seeing.”
The park has been monitoring the cannons for several months with strategically placed video cameras.
“We realized that we have to do more to protect these cannons,” Chief Ranger Dirk Wiley explains. “From this video evidence, in the past year, we’ve made five cases, four just in the last two months alone.”
In addition to fines, the people are ordered to pay restitution to help pay for the repainting.
“In an era of decreasing budgets and complaints of the waste of federal money, what could be more wasteful than having park employees repainting the cannon every week or two,” chief ranger Wiley asked.
Visitors are encouraged to report any vandalism they observe anywhere in the park to staff. Reports of vandalism can also be made by calling the park visitor center at 606-248-2817, extension 1075.