Those who know me have heard me say time and time again, “It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been an auctioneer, it seems I always have the opportunity to sell something I’ve never sold before. I love my job!”
I am preparing for a live auction event scheduled for October 13, 2016, and I can truly say, this time,
“I can’t imagine that I would ever have the opportunity to sell something as historic as an 1861, six-pounder Tredegar cannon, which is the only bronze Confederate North Carolina surcharged cannon in private hands.”
Also, it has been confirmed in an email from Val Forgett, III dated August 29, 2016; this cannon did appear in the epic movie Gods & Generals. There is a lot of interesting information about the cannon and we have included it on our website. Please take a few minutes to read the history associated with this cannon.
I was in Marietta, Georgia in August at the Southeastern Civil War Show to promote this auction and garner some interest. I must say, between the vendors at the show and the attendees, I don’t believe I’ve ever met such a nice group of people dedicated to preserving the history of the Civil War. People were there from as far away as Maryland and Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Among some of the people I met, I’d like to tell you about two people in particular, Raymond and Corrine Smutko.
While I was taking a break from my booth, passing out literature to the vendors about this upcoming auction, I was drawn to one of the vendors who was wearing a Tredegar Foundry t-shirt. You see, the cannon we’re selling in the auction is from the Tredegar Foundry, so naturally I was drawn to his display. While I was telling him about the auction, I heard someone say, “You’re talking to the wrong guy”. I continued to tell the vendor about the auction and I heard someone say again, “You’re talking to the wrong guy”. I turned around and introduced myself to the woman, who was, by this time pointing to her husband. They introduced themselves as Ray and Corrine Smutko, friends of the late Val Forgett, Jr., who purchased this cannon in 1980 at the Spaulding family auction in Cooperstown, New York.
Ray said, “ Val and I were best friends and I remember that cannon you’re selling being on Val’s property. My kids used to play on that cannon.” I know…what are the chances? After I picked up my jaw from my chest, I quickly asked if they could spend a few minutes with me in my booth for a conversation. I’m sure they were just as surprised to see a picture of that cannon as I was surprised to meet someone who had actually known about, and was a part of this cannon’s unique history.
Ray told me some wildly entertaining stories about he and Val. You see Val Forgett, Jr. founded the Navy Arms Company, Inc. in 1956 and is internationally recognized as the “Father of the modern replica firearms business”. Ray told me he and Val were both members of the North/South Skirmish Association, which is still active today and promotes the shooting of Civil War firearms and encourages the preservation of Civil War materials. Whenever there was a skirmish, all of the teams participating were allowed to actually camp on the property. The two families would always pitch a tent and camp together; then with a laugh Ray said, “Until Val’s business started to prosper and Val started camping in his motor-home!”
Ray said he has fond memories of Val and their time together in their younger days. Val’s property was a playground of military equipment and parts as he was always working on a project. Ray said, “Val was also a very generous man, and his success never clouded our friendship”. Their children grew up together and the Smutkos even attended the wedding of his son, Val III.
In my conversation with the Smutkos, I was trying to find out a little more about Ray, as I could tell he just wanted to talk about Val. Ray’s wife, Corrine, finally cut in and said to me, “You can see Ray in the movie Gods and Generals as an extra,” then continued “As long as you don’t blink”.
It’s funny how you can sometimes just be in the right place at the right time…you know, when the stars and moon align. In all my years in the auction industry, I could not have imagined a more serendipitous moment!