Maj. Julius R. Hannemann: Washington’s Ceremonial Cannon Man

It would be easy to say that Julius Rudolph Hannemann lived his life with a boom. There were likely many in Washington, D.C. in the 1870s and 1880s who wished he hadn’t created so many of them. As president of the district artillery corps, Maj. Hannemann provided the ceremonial explosive huzzahs at civic events from decoration day to the inauguration of presidents.

Although Hannemann had a distinguished record of service with Union Army units during the Civil War, one senses just a bit of resentment at the noise created by his artillery men. Hannemann commanded the artillery for Decoration Day at Arlington National Cemetery one year. A local newspaper quipped, “All persons residing in the vicinity are advised to have their lives insured.” The article ran under the headline: “The Poisoned Major to the Front.” Another article said he “has broken millions of panes of glass, the peace of the capital, more often than can be computed, by firing cannon.”

On New Year’s Eve 1875, his corps fired a 37-volley salute to the new year in Judiciary Square. According to one news account, “the ammunition for this purpose having been furnished by the War Department.” On September 18, 1880, a platoon fired a 200-gun salute to commemorate the Republican victory in Maine, according to a front-page article in the The Evening Star. In 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes approved Hannemann’s promotion from second lieutenant to captain. Hannemann was later promoted to major.

The Evening Critic carried the news on Page 1.
The Evening Critic carried the news of the major’s death  on Page 1.

Hannemann was struck with apoplexy (possibly a stroke) at the inauguration of President James A. Garfield in early March 1881. It was this condition that eventually took his life on the morning of January 28, 1885. He was just 43 years old. “His death had been expected for some time,” wrote the The Evening Critic. “A well-known and efficient militia officer and a prominent member of the G.A.R. passes to that bourne where military parades are unknown and the weary are at rest.”

Hannemann was born in Prussia in 1842 to a military family. Upon emigrating to the United States, he volunteered for duty in the Civil War on May 17, 1861. He served with the 39th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the “Garibaldi Guard.” He started as a private, but by March 1865, he was a 2nd lieutenant with the 7th New York Infantry Regiment. In June of that year, he was named adjutant of the 7th.

We don’t know of any link between Julius Rudolph Hannemann and the Hanneman family that came from Pomerania to Wisconsin in the 1860s. The major seems to have come from an area in the  Kingdom of Saxony, south and west of Pomerania.

©2015 The Hanneman Archive

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