Written by
Jenny Berg
Special to the St. Cloud Times

ELROSA, Minn. – David Heinze, known to many as The Cannon Man, has been building accurately scaled Civil War replica cannons for 15 years.

“Farmers need something to keep them busy when they retire so they don’t go goofy in the head,” said Heinze, who is from Elrosa.

On May 21 at the Paynesville Area Historical Society, Heinze will discuss his construction techniques as well as bring eight Napoleon-style cannons of different sizes and shoot four times with blanks. Heinze said his cannons are built for black, slow-burning powder, as opposed to the fast-burning rifle powder real cannons used in battle.

“Most of my equipment I had to build myself because nobody out there was going to tell me how to do it,” Heinze said of his hobby. “These are the first cannons like this I’ve ever seen.”

David Heinze, known to many as The Cannon Man, has been building accurately scaled Civil War replica cannons for 15 years. / Jenny Berg

Heinze, 69, farmed south of Elrosa before moving to town in 2000. He keeps busy welding and restoring old engines and carburetors, but his favorite hobby is building cannons. He uses pieces of metal from junkyards and other common bolts to create his replicas.

“It’s a lot of tedious work, taking about 60 hours to build these cannons, and I might be shorting myself,” Heinze said. “It’s all machined, milled, indexed and everything is done so it’s accurately built.”

The Civil War has always interested Heinze, and he owns a small collection of artifacts, most notably two bayonets.

He has a breadth of knowledge about Civil War history, and specifically about cannons in battle, noting a lot of soldiers died when cannons exploded.

Heinze recalls the intensity of his cannons as they fire, and said 2 feet of flame is visible out of the barrel in the dark.

“These cannons will roll back about 20 feet,” Heinze said about firing his replicas. “They sing and dance and make blue smoke.”

Heinze plans to build more cannons, and also is building replicas of limber carts, which were used to transport cannons during the Civil War. Ultimately, his knack for building things and his love of history keep him creating his cannons.

“It’s very challenging,” Heinze said with a grin. “But I love to mesmerize the kids.”

Advertisements