WI National Guard takes back Civil War cannon from reenactment g - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

WI National Guard takes back Civil War cannon from reenactment group

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MILTON (WKOW) -- From the old tents and historic flags, to the lanterns and artillery, civil war reenactment groups travel around Wisconsin so the public can get a feel of how the times were some time ago. But the loud cannons and soldiers may not be coming to a town near you this summer because a local reenactment group has lost it's main attraction.

"To educate the public about the civil war," said Walter Hlaban, the major of artillery for the 2nd Wisconsin Association, as he described the reason he travels around. 

He and his wife, Shelly, have dressed int he historic navy blue uniforms and hats for years. They've also been training how to safely fire cannons dating back to the war with blank rounds. 

"I have to swing over the wheel," Walter said as he began prepping a cannon for action. 

The two cannons the soldiers were using at an even on Friday in Milton were replicas of the ones used back in the 1860s. But Walter said they're nothing compared to the centerpiece that's now missing at their reenactment events. 

"It just doesn't have the intrigue of touching a real piece of history," he said as he described the original cannon's absence. 

It's the piece that no longer travels around with the group. It's the bronze 12 Pound Napoleon Cannon. The group has been firing for the past 23 years. 

"There's a lot of 'wows' and 'oos,'" Walter said laughing as he described the reaction of the crowd when they would see the cannon. 

Now, the Wisconsin National Guard is keeping the cannon locked away. 

"We've had an agreement with the (Wisconsin) National Guard since 1994," Walter said. 

But in a statement to 27 News, a spokesman for the Wisconsin National Guard said the commander who signed the agreement, "was not authorized to enter such an agreement." Therefore, the Wisconsin National Guard, "recovered the piece of equipment," according to protocol. 

"How can you do that to us," asked Walter? 

The loss of the cannon means the group will be forced to cancel a handful of events this summer. They've already canceled two of them where the historic cannon was supposed to be fired. 

"It's like taking Mt. Vernon, tearing it down and building a false Mt. Vernon and telling the public that's good enough,"said another soldier. 

It's an historical artifact that's now under lockdown as an educational reenactment group battles to get it back. 

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Here's the full statement from the Wisconsin National Guard:

"The Wisconsin National Guard understands the frustrations of the Civil War re-enactment group, however as a military organization bound by regulations and a responsibility to the U.S. taxpayer, we must act appropriately with regards to the 12-pound Napoleon cannon in question. In 1994, a Wisconsin National Guard unit commander entered into an agreement with the re-enactment group allowing them to use the cannon. That commander, however, was not authorized to enter into such an agreement, and when the Wisconsin National Guard discovered this fact, it followed established regulations and protocols, recovered the piece of equipment and treated it like any other piece of federal equipment that is recovered. The organization placed the cannon on a historical property book that affords the re-enactment group the opportunity to request the use of this historical item in the future through proper channels and advised the group that they could submit a request for an exception policy to use the cannon through the U.S. Army Center of Military History." -- Capt. Joe Trovato

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