John Paul Jones Park's Rodman Gun – Brooklyn, New York - Atlas Obscura

John Paul Jones Park's Rodman Gun

The rare American Civil War-era weapon was never fired in anger. 


Nestled between 101st Street and the entrance to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge is a park with a strong militaristic bent. John Paul Jones Park is named for the famous naval commander from the Revolutionary War and has a memorial to the same conflict. There’s also a large plinth dedicated to the Dover Patrol of World War I. But the most famous feature of the park is its large cannon surrounded by ammunition, leading many to call it “Cannonball Park.”

The cannon is a 20-inch Rodman gun constructed during the Civil War; one of only three produced. It was tested at nearby Fort Hamilton, though it failed two trials and was deemed only minimally effective. It was eventually sent to Fort Pitt in Pennsylvania.

Though the cannon was fired several times over the years, it was never used in conflict. This model of Rodman gun is what established the “three mile” rule of international waters, as a country was thought to control any water it could protect with cannon fire.

Eventually, the gun was decommissioned and donated to the parks department in 1900, where it was placed in John Paul Jones Park with a collection of cannonballs.

Know Before You Go

Take the R train to its last stop, 95th Street, and walk six blocks down 4th Avenue to reach the park. 

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