Before taking up their permanent spots, both cannons did some traveling. The Big Cannon was taken to New Brunswick to defend that city during the War of 1812. The cannon did not make its way back to Princeton until more than 25 years later, when a large group of students led by Leonard Jerome, Class of 1839 and the maternal grandfather of Winston Churchill, "rescued" it — and unceremoniously dumped the cannon in front of Nassau Hall. Planted in its present location, muzzle first, in 1840, the Big Cannon has inspired songs and has been the center of championship football bonfires. Until the late 1980s, it was also the target of clay pipes thrown by seniors at the end of Class Day exercises held on Cannon Green.
The Little Cannon also spent some time in New Brunswick as the center of the "Cannon War" with Rutgers in 1875. This "war" involved not only students absconding with the cannon, but also muskets stolen in retaliation, heated correspondence between two college presidents and a joint faculty committee to resolve the dispute between the schools. Upon the return of the Little Cannon to Princeton, President James McCosh is reported to have compared the contest over the cannon to the contest over Helen of Troy. The episode was not set to Greek hexameter verse.