ROME, Ga. - Chad Matthews said he has been fascinated with Civil War artifacts since he was a little boy.
"I think it started when I was about 12," he said.
As a child, he took trips to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park and Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, which spurred his interest.
"I built models of cannons, and they just got bigger and bigger," he said.
Matthews, an officer with the Floyd County Police Department, recently fired a Confederate-style cannon he built.
The cannon fires 6-pound cannon balls, but the cannon weighs in at a whopping 1,700 pounds.
Friends and family gathered in a field on Wax Road to watch Matthews fire the cannon. The blast created smoke rings in the sky.
"It's pretty powerful," Matthews said after firing two blank rounds. "It is awesome to unleash that power."
Matthews began building the cannon in August 2010, using his spare time to draw the plans using photos of real cannons at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park.
"It was a lot of hard work," he said.
From his estimates it took him nearly 200 hours to finish the cannon, which comes with 57-inch wheels.
He said that last year he went to a Civil War re-enactment and shared his idea of building his own cannon with other enthusiasts.
"They said I couldn't do the wheels. Only a wheelwright could do them. I guess I'm a wheelwright now," Matthews said as he ran his hand along the oak wheels.
He said the wheels alone would have cost him $2,000 from a professional, but he was able to build the entire cannon for less than that.
He modeled it after a Noble Brothers Foundry cannon built in the 1860s.
"It has been a labor of love," he said.
The barrel of the cannon itself is built from steel. "There was a lot of machining and building that went into this," Matthews said.
In February, Matthews' work was almost lost when his porch caught on fire.
He was sleeping when a heat lamp on his porch turned over and a passerby called 911 before banging on the door to wake him up.
"Everyone laughed because I grabbed all my stuff and pulled it outside. There wasn't a television or anything like that out there. It was my flags and guns," he said. "Everything else could be replaced."
Now that his cannon is complete, Matthews says he is going to take a break from building and enjoy the fruits of his labor.
"I'm proud of it," he said. "I love my Southern heritage."