Kennett Heritage Center

Old Ben Butler, the Civil War cannon

Old Ben Butler was cast at the Pennock Foundry and presented by Bayard Taylor to the home guard of Kennett Square in 1861. It was fired to hail Union victories during the Civil War.

You may wonder why this signal cannon was named Old Ben Butler?


Benjamin Franklin Butler was a controversial, self-aggrandizing and colorful politician who served as a Union general in the Civil War.

During the Battle of Chaffin's Farm, he commanded a number of U.S. Colored Troop regiments.

The troops performed extremely well in heavy combat and 14 soldiers earned the Medal of Honor.

General Butler wished to further recognize his troops so he commissioned and paid for a special medal that was awarded to 200 black soldiers to recognize meritorious or heroic acts of bravery.

While in command at Fort Monroe, Butler declined to return fugitive slaves who crossed over Union lines, to their owners. He argued that Virginians considered the slaves to be chattel property, and that the slave owners could not appeal to the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 because Virginia claimed independence from the United States. Congress mandated that other Union commanders refuse to return slaves to their former masters, using similar arguments.

Butler was elected to Congress in 1866 on a platform of civil rights and served a total of 5 terms. He wrote the initial version of the Civil Rights act of 1871.

As governor of Massachusetts, he appointed the first Irish-American judge and the first African-American judge and he appointed the first woman to executive office, Clara Barton, to head the Massachusetts Reformatory for Women. 

So, Butler personified the Quaker ideals of equality and freedom with un-Quaker-like forcefulness and

and volume.

Old Ben Butler is located in front of Kennett Square Borough Hall, 120 Marshall Street.