Bowman Field cannons are about to undergo a facelift
It didn’t make any sense to professor Chris Pagano that one of Clemson’s most distinct fixtures could be so incomplete. And one day, as students from Clemson’s Pershing Rifles cleaned the two brass cannons that sat on Bowman Field, Pagano decided that something had to be done.
“It’s such a prominent place on campus,” Pagano said. “I told myself, ‘This could look better.’”
For years, the cannons on Bowman Field have served as the background for pictures and a popular meeting spot on game days; they were even briefly visible in ESPN’s broadcast of College Gameday. But Pagano and Katie Strathman, a member of Clemson’s Pershing Rifles, worried that Clemson wasn’t taking full advantage of the two iconic fixtures. Namely, the two cannons, affectionately nicknamed Tom and Jerry, have sat for years on makeshift concrete bases that do little more than elevate them off the ground.
So the two drafted a proposal to beautify Bowman Field by remounting Tom and Jerry on historically accurate wheeled carriages. Their proposal also sought to provide two informational markers, one dedicated to the Pershing Rifles and the other to the history of Bowman Field. Now, after two years of hard work, their vision will become a reality.
Pagano and Strathman submitted their proposal to the Clemson University Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG) as a candidate to receive funding from the Capital Improvement Project, a fund allotted each year to be distributed to projects that improve Clemson’s campus.
“This is the second year we put this project up for the capital improvement funds, and both years it was met with a lot of enthusiasm from the Student Senate,” said Strathman. Due to other projects, the funds offered to Pagano and Strathman by the Capital Improvement Project fell short of the goal last year, leading them to reapply this year. Their patience paid off, and the project received full funding.
According to Kailey Pickitt, secretary of the Clemson University Student Senate, the selection of Pagano and Strathman’s proposal reflects Clemson’s pride and investment in its military roots.
“Clemson was founded as a military institute. I feel that CUSG chose this project to receive funding because it illustrates the pride our University has in its military heritage, as well as for our ROTC and Pershing Rifles programs,” she noted.
The cannons were manufactured sometime in the mid-1800s. While their exact history is obscure, they were presented to Clemson in the 1950s and have been a campus fixture ever since. Before Military Heritage Plaza was built, they sat near the corner of Tillman Hall and were later mounted on the plaza. However, desiring a more non-combative atmosphere for the plaza, the University eventually moved the cannons to their current location.
“There’s a lot of history to these cannons. Not necessarily history in the sense that the cannons were used in the Civil War or something of that nature, but Clemson history,” Pagano said.
While the new carriages represent the central and most costly aspect of their proposal, Pagano and Strathman emphasize that the cannons are only a part of their project. Their project proposes that two historical markers be placed on Bowman within the proximity of the cannons, one dedicated to the history of Bowman Field and one to Clemson’s Pershing Rifles.
“It’s amazing, there’s so much history on Bowman,” Strathman said. “When Clemson was a military school, that’s where the cadets would drill. It’s where our first football game was played. Even College Gameday set up on Bowman. But there’s no marker or sign, nothing anywhere to tell a visitor what it is or how rich its history is.”
Similarly, the Pershing Rifles have been at Clemson since 1939, and have long served as color guards or fixtures in military ceremonies. Their accomplishments range from being tasked with the guarding of the Clemson class rings to winning seven of the last ten National Drill Competitions.
Projected to be completed within the next six months, Pagano and Strathman’s project represents not just one of many recent improvements to Clemson’s campus, but also the constant efforts of Clemson Tigers to leave their mark on the University.