Civil War Artillery and Cannon














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U.S. Civil War Artillery, Cannon, Howitzers, and Mortars
A Photographic History of Light and Heavy Artillery

American Civil War Artillery and Cannon
Field, Siege and Garrison, and Seacoast (Coastal) Guns

Foreword

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On the American Civil War battlefield (1861-1865), Napoleon's artillery tactics were no longer practical. The infantry, armed with its own comparatively long-range firearm, was usually able to keep artillery beyond case-shot range, and cannon had to stand off at such long distances that their primitive ammunition was relatively ineffective. The result was that when attacking infantry advanced, the defending infantry and artillery were still fresh and unshaken, ready to pour a devastating point-blank fire into the assaulting lines. Thus, in spite of an intensive 2-hour bombardment by 138 Confederate guns at the crisis of Gettysburg, as the gray-clad troops advanced across the field to close range, double canister and concentrated infantry volleys cut them down in masses.
 
Field artillery smoothbores, under conditions prevailing during the war, generally gave better results than the smaller-caliber artillery rifle. A 3-inch rifle, for example, had twice the range of a Napoleon; but in the broken, heavily wooded country where so much of the fighting occurred, the superior range of the rifle could not be employed to full advantage. Neither was its relatively small and sometimes defective projectile as damaging to personnel as case or grape from a larger caliber smoothbore. At the first battle of Manassas (July 1861) more than half the 49 Federal cannon were rifled; but by 1863, even though many more rifles were in service, the majority of the pieces in the field remained the old reliable 6- and 12-pounder smoothbores.

The range and accuracy of the rifles startled the world. A 30-pounder (4.2-inch) Parrott had an astonishing distance of 8,453 yards (7729 meters), just shy of 5 miles (8 kilometers), with 80-pound hollow shot; the notorious "Swamp Angel" that fired on Charleston in 1863 was a 200-pounder Parrott mounted in the marsh 7,000 yards from the city. But perplexing to both armies, neither rifles nor smoothbores could destroy earthworks. As was proven several times during the war, the defenders of a well-built earthwork were able to repair the trifling damage done by enemy fire almost as soon as there was a lull in the shooting. Learning this lesson, the determined Confederate defenders of Fort Sumter in 1863-64 refused to surrender, but under the most difficult conditions converted their ruined masonry into an earthwork almost impervious to further bombardment.
 
The following American Civil War work is a fascinating yet captivating read, an encyclopedic photographic presentation and history of the conflict and its impressive artillery and cannon. This study also shows that the artillerist was a well-trained and highly intelligent soldier, regardless of the color of the uniform.

Introduction

Masonry fort damaged by rifled artillery
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Fort Pulaski as a result of Union rifled artillery fire

Artillery during the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) had many makes, models, classifications, types, and characteristics, but each piece, whether referred to as a smoothbore garrison gun, rifled field piece, or seacoast howitzer, was an integral part of both the Union and Confederate army organization known as the artillery branch. The artillery branch was one of three principal branches that formed the army; the other two were the infantry and cavalry. As the physical body has parts, and parts have functions, so did the Civil War army. The infantry was the legs that carried the body into the brunt of the fighting, while the cavalry was the eyes that could locate and direct the body prior, during and even after the battle (cavalry also fought, but mainly dismounted), and the artillery was the arms that was capable of reaching out and touching the enemy from a distance. The body requires the legs, the arms, and the eyes in order to function perfectly. Remove an eye, the body suffers. Remove a leg, the body suffers. Remove an arm and a leg and the body suffers severely. So one member or part of the body is not more vital and significant than another part, but together, each part forms the unit, the Civil War army unit. A well-disciplined and trained body, army body, consisting of artillery, infantry, and cavalry functioning jointly, with each member performing its respective responsibilities and roles, was the goal of both Northern and Southern armies. Most battles during the Civil War were lost because the body was absent or missing a "part" prior or during the engagement. On the other hand, one army was victorious during the battle because its body remained intact and functioned well. 
 
(Right) Photograph of Union projectile damage to Fort Pulaski's walls. At 8:15 am on April 10, 1862, Union batteries opened fire on the eleven feet thick walls of Fort Pulaski. Believed by most to be an impenetrable fortress, the smoothbore guns merely shook Pulaski's walls “in a random manner,” but a battery of 30-pounder Parrott Rifles thundered their projectiles with exceptional accuracy into the fort's walls and within 30 hours the new rifled cannons had breached one of the fort's corner walls and shells now passed through the fort dangerously close to the main powder magazine. With the loss of one soldier and absent the classic siege, the Confederate force was compelled to surrender. The success of the siege was the use of new rifled cannons by the Union artillery. These new weapons were able to fire their elongated projectiles farther and more accurately than the smoothbore cannons that Fort Pulaski was built to withstand. The cannonading had transformed the newly constructed masonry forts of the Third System of United States Coastal Defense from impenetrable bastions of ingenious engineering to obsolete symbols of American paranoia and excess.
 
The American Civil War has been referred to as the last of the ancient wars and the first of the modern wars. When the Civil War commenced, weaponry of all types was in short supply. Many soldiers were issued antiquated, imported, and nearly obsolete weapons. However, by the time of the Battle of Gettysburg, a few quality types were obtained in large numbers and became standard issue to the soldiers of both armies.

Although more innovative and experimental weaponry was introduced during the Civil War than all previous wars combined, the military units relied on traditional Napoleonic-style tactics. Infantry fought in closely-knit formations of two rows, each man standing side by side. This formation was devised when the smoothbore musket was the normal weapon on the battlefield and the close ranks were a necessity due to the muskets limitations. With the advance of the rifle musket, which included grooves in the barrel allowing much greater range and accuracy, officers, many who had been taught Napoleonic tactics at West Point, continued to employ the outdated tactics during the conflict. An exception to the employment of the obsolete tactics arrived late in the Civil War with trench warfare in the Eastern Theater. During the nearly ten month Richmond-Petersburg Siege, trenches replaced the constant close range attack and counterassault, retreat and counterattack tactics. Unfortunately, failure to adopt modern tactics with modern weapons, with few exceptions, resulted in unimaginable casualty rates on the battlefield. While cannoneers were accustomed to being deployed at short distances and in close support of infantry, the opposing infantrymen with rifled muskets could now decimate an entire artillery battery in minutes.

To assist in this artillery study, a glossary is located at the bottom of the page.

Columbiad guns during the Civil War
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Columbiad guns of the Confederate water battery at Warrington, FL. (Pensacola Bay), Feb. 1861

(Above) Formidable Columbiad guns of the Confederate water battery at Warrington, Florida. Warrington was considered the "mouth and entrance to Pensacola Bay." February 1861. Photographed by W. O. Edwards or J. D. Edwards of New Orleans, LA. Library of Congress. 77-HL-99-1.

 
Union Artillery
The Union Army entered the war with a strong advantage in artillery. It had ample manufacturing capacity in Northern factories, and it had a well-trained and professional officer corps manning that branch of the service. Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, who was the chief of artillery for the Army of the Potomac for part of the war, was well recognized as a most efficient organizer of artillery forces, and he had few peers in the practice of the sciences of gunnery and logistics. Another example was John Gibbon, the author of the influential Artillerist's Manual published in 1863 (although Gibbon would achieve considerably more fame as an infantry general during the war). Shortly after the outbreak of war, Brig. Gen. James Wolfe Ripley, Chief of Ordnance, ordered the conversion of old smoothbores into rifled cannon and the manufacture of Parrott guns.

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Parrott "Class" Guns by Size
Model Length Weight Munition Charge size Maximum range at elevation Flight time Crew size
2.9-in (10-lb) Army Parrott 73 in 1,799 lb (816 kg) 10 lb (4.5 kg) shell 1 lb (0.45 kg) 5,000 yd (4,600 m) at 20 degrees 21 secs 6
3.0-in (10-lb) Army Parrott 74 in 1,726 lb (783 kg) 10 lb (4.5 kg) shell 1 lb (0.45 kg) 1,830 yd (1,670 m) at 5 degrees 7 secs 6
3.67-in (20-lb) Army Parrott 79 in 1,795 lb (814 kg) 19 lb (8.6 kg) shell 2 lb (0.91 kg) 4,400 yd (4,000 m) at 15 degrees 17 secs 7
3.67-in (20-lb) Naval Parrott 81 in 1,795 lb (814 kg) 19 lb (8.6 kg) shell 2 lb (0.91 kg) 4,400 yd (4,000 m) at 15 degrees 17 secs 7
4.2-in (30-lb) Army Parrott 126 in 4,200 lb (1,900 kg) 29 lb (13 kg) shell 3.25 lb (1.47 kg) 6,700 yd (6,100 m) at 25 degrees 27 secs 9
4.2-in (30-lb) Naval Parrott 102 in 3,550 lb (1,610 kg) 29 lb (13 kg) shell 3.25 lb (1.47 kg) 6,700 yd (6,100 m) at 25 degrees 27 secs 9
5.3-in (60-lb) Naval Parrott 111 in 5,430 lb (2,460 kg) 50 lb (23 kg) or 60 lb (27 kg) shell 6 lb (2.7 kg) 7,400 yd (6,800 m) at 30 degrees 30 secs 14
5.3-in (60-lb) Naval Parrott (breechload) 111 in 5,242 lb (2,378 kg) 50-lb or 60 lb (27 kg) shell 6 lb (2.7 kg) 7,400 yd (6,800 m) at 30 degrees 30 secs 14
6.4-in (100-lb) Naval Parrott 138 in 9,727 lb (4,412 kg) 80 lb (36 kg) or 100 lb (45 kg) shell 10 lb (4.5 kg) 7,810 yd (7,140 m) at 30 degrees (80-lb) 32 secs 17
6.4-in (100-lb) Naval Parrott (breechload) 138 in 10,266 lb (4,657 kg) 80 lb (36 kg) or 100 lb (45 kg) shell 10 lb (4.5 kg) 7,810 yd (7,140 m) at 30 degrees (80-lb) 32 secs 17
8-in (150-lb) Naval Parrott 146 in 16,500 lb (7,500 kg) 150 lb (68 kg) shell 16 lb (7.3 kg) 8,000 yd (7,300 m) at 35 degrees 180  ?
8-in (200-lb) Army Parrott 146 in 16,500 lb (7,500 kg) 200 lb (91 kg) shell 16 lb (7.3 kg) 8,000 yd (7,300 m) at 35 degrees  ?  ?
10-in (300-lb) Army Parrott 156 in 26,900 lb (12,200 kg) 300 lb (140 kg) shell 26 lb (12 kg) 9,000 yd (8,200 m) at 30 degrees 202.5 secs  ?

(Above) While the 4.2-in (30-pounder) rifle was the most widely used of the Parrott siege artillery, it had the honor of occasionally being employed as field artillery. The 30-pounder Parrott had a total weight (Gun & Carriage) of 6,500 lbs. (3.25 tons) and it required 10 horses for transport.

The basic unit of Union artillery was the battery, which usually consisted of six guns. Attempts were made to ensure that all six guns in a battery were of the same caliber, simplifying training and logistics. Each gun, or "piece", was operated by a gun crew of eight, plus four additional men to handle the horses and equipment. Two guns operating under the control of a lieutenant were known as a "section". The battery of six guns was commanded by a captain. Artillery brigades composed of five batteries were commanded by colonels and supported the infantry organizations as follows: each infantry corps was supported directly by one artillery brigade and, in the case of the Army of the Potomac, five brigades formed the Artillery Reserve. This arrangement, championed by Hunt, allowed artillery to be massed in support of the entire army's objective, rather than being dispersed all across the battlefield. An example of the tension between infantry commanders and artillery commanders was during the massive Confederate bombardment of Cemetery Ridge on 3 July 1863, the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Hunt had difficulty persuading the infantry commanders, such as Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock, against using all of their artillery ammunition in response to the Confederate bombardment, understanding the value to the defenders of saving the ammunition for the infantry assault to come, Pickett's Charge.

Civil War artillery and cannon history
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Civil War artillery battery

At the start of the war, the U.S. Army had 2,283 guns in its arsenal, but approximately 10% of these were field artillery pieces. By the end of the war, the army had amassed 3,325 guns, of which 53% were field pieces. The army reported as "supplied to the army during the war" the following quantities: 7,892 guns, 6,335,295 artillery projectiles, 2,862,177 rounds of fixed artillery ammunition, 45,258 tons of lead metal, and 13,320 tons of gunpowder.

(Right) Union field artillery battery supporting infantry during Battle of Fredericksburg. Practice, practice, practice, and more practice, were the words of many weary cannoneers prior to firing a single shot in combat. But when the artillerists' indomitable efforts were finally demonstrated on the battlefield, the results were evident to opposing sides. And it was practice that had meant the difference between life and death. Napoleonic tactics made Civil War artillery crucial to the outcome of many Civil War battles. Mass formations of soldiers, with great discipline, would march across open fields and directly into enemy shot and shell from artillery pieces as viewed in the photo.
 
Confederate Artillery
The South was at a relative disadvantage to the North for deployment of artillery. The industrial North had far greater capacity for manufacturing weapons, and the Union blockade of Southern ports prevented many foreign arms from reaching the Southern armies. The Confederacy had to rely to a significant extent on captured Union artillery pieces: either on the battlefield or by capturing armories, such as Harpers Ferry. The Confederate cannons built in the South often suffered from the shortage of quality metals and shoddy workmanship. Another disadvantage was the quality of ammunition. The fuzes needed for detonating shells and cases were frequently inaccurate, causing premature or delayed explosions. All that, coupled with the Union gunners' initial competence and experience gained as the war progressed, led Southern forces to dread assaults on Northern positions backed up by artillery. A Southern officer observed, "The combination of Yankee artillery with Rebel infantry would make an army that could be beaten by no one."
 
Confederate batteries usually consisted of four guns, in contrast to the Union's six. This was a matter of necessity, because guns were always in short supply. And, unlike the Union, batteries frequently consisted of mixed caliber weapons. Confederate batteries were generally organized into battalions (versus the Union brigades) of four batteries each, and the battalions were assigned to the direct support of infantry divisions. Each infantry corps was assigned two battalions as an Artillery Reserve, but there was no such Reserve at the army level. The chief of artillery for Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, Brig. Gen. William N. Pendleton, had considerable difficulty massing artillery for best effect because of this organization.

Artillery was one of three Army components
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The Civil War Army organization consisted primarily of infantry, .artillery, and cavalry

Civil War artillery battery formation
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Civil War artillery battery in line, with acknowledgment of most widely used field pieces

Types

Artillery trajectories
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Civil War mortars, howitzers, and guns

During the Civil War, the Artillery was a separate, specialized branch of the army that supported the Infantry. The basic organizational unit for cannons was called a battery, comprised of four to six guns with approximately 70-100 men commanded by a Captain. There were three types of artillery employed during the conflict: field, siege and garrison, and seacoast. Although there were many models and sizes of guns, mortars, and howitzers, there were two basic types--smoothbore and rifled.
 
Guns, when referring to artillery and cannon, were employed to batter heavy construction with solid shot at long or short range; destroy fort parapets and, by ricochet fire, dismount cannon; shoot grape, canister, or other projectiles against massed personnel. Mortars were used to destroy targets behind obstructions; use high angle fire to shoot projectiles, destroying construction and killing personnel. During siege operations, mortars were successful in lobbing explosive shells into trenches, and, with precision, could hit targets accustomed to the safety of defilade. Howitzers, however, could be transported more easily in the field than mortars; destroy targets behind obstructions by high angle fire; shoot larger projectiles than could field guns of similar weight.
 
The Union Army classified its artillery into three specific types, depending on the gun's weight and intended use. Field artillery were light pieces that often traveled with the armies. Siege artillery and garrison artillery were heavy artillery primarily used in military attacks on fortified places. Seacoast artillery were the heaviest pieces and primarily designed to fire on attacking warships. The distinctions were subjective, because, according to exigencies of war, field, siege and garrison, and seacoast artillery were all employed in various attacks and defenses of fortifications. Although there were three specific types of artillery, the Union and Confederate military, because of the gun's weight, usually grouped its artillery into two categories: light and heavy.

Civil War artillery and cannon
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Guns, Mortars, and Howitzers

Field artillery was a category of light, mobile artillery used to support armies in the field. Field pieces were specialized for mobility, tactical proficiency, long range, short range and extremely long range target engagement. Field artillery in the American Civil War refers to the important artillery weapons, equipment, and practices used by the Artillery branch to support the infantry and cavalry forces in the field. Field artillery was also known as foot artillery, for while the guns were pulled by beasts of burden (often horses), the gun crews would usually march on foot, thus providing fire support mainly to the infantry. This was in contrast to horse artillery, aka flying artillery, whose emphasis on speed while supporting cavalry units necessitated lighter guns and crews riding on horseback. Horse artillery was a type of light, fast-moving and fast-firing artillery which provided highly mobile fire support to Civil War armies -- especially to cavalry units. It consisted of light cannons or howitzers attached to light but sturdy two-wheeled carriages called caissons or limbers, with the crew riding horses or sometimes the caissons into battle. This was unlike field artillery where the pieces were heavier and the crew marched on foot. "Stonewall" Jackson was cognizant of the advantages of flying artillery, and he advocated that one should "strike the enemy first, then relocate your force rapidly, then strike the enemy again, and continue the process until the enemy has been defeated..." Jackson had excelled in the application of flying artillery during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), earning himself a promotion to brevet major, and he would apply his textbook maneuvers during the Civil War. Preceding the Southern rebellion in 1861, Jackson taught artillery, among other subjects, at Virginia Military Institute.
 
Siege and garrison artillery were heavy pieces that could be used either in attacking or defending fortified places, but the weight and size of siege artillery prevented it from regularly traveling with the armies. When needed, siege artillery and other material needed for siege operations were assembled into what was called a siege train and transported to the army. In the Civil War, the siege train was always transported to the area of the siege by water. The siege trains of the Civil War consisted almost exclusively of guns and mortars. Guns fired projectiles on horizontal trajectory and could batter heavy construction with solid shot or shell at long or short range, destroy fort parapets, and dismount cannon. Mortars fired shells in a high arcing trajectory to reach targets behind obstructions, destroying construction and personnel.
 
Seacoast artillery, aka Coastal artillery, were the heaviest pieces and were intended to be used in permanent fortifications along the seaboard. They were primarily designed to fire on attacking warships. Seacoast artillery was employed according to exigencies of battle, however. For example, a Federal battery with Model 1861 13-inch seacoast mortars was utilized during the Siege of Yorktown, Virginia, in 1862.

Civil War Seacoast mortar on Morris Island, S.C.
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Union Model 1841 10 in. Seacoast mortar during Siege of Charleston

Civil War Siege mortar
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Confederate iron 24-pounder Coehorn mortar at Broadway Landing, Appomattox River, Virginia

Equipment

Horse Artillery, aka Field Artillery
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Horse Artillery. Battery M, 2nd U.S. Artillery in the field, 1862

Horses were required to pull the enormous weight of the cannon and ammunition; on average, each horse pulled approximately 700 pounds (317.5 kg). Each gun in a battery used two six-horse teams: one team pulled a limber that towed the gun, the other pulled a limber that towed a caisson. The large number of horses posed a logistical challenge for the artillery, because they had to be fed, maintained, and replaced when worn out or injured. Artillery horses were generally selected second from the pool of high quality animals; cavalry mounts were the best horses. The life expectancy of an artillery horse was under eight months. They suffered from disease, exhaustion from long marches—typically 16 miles (25.8 km) in 10 hours—and battle injuries.
 
Because horses were large targets on the battlefield, when subjected to counter-battery fire, their movements were made difficult because they were harnessed into teams. Robert Stiles wrote about Union fire striking a Confederate battery on Benner's Hill at the Battle of Gettysburg:
 
"Such a scene as it presented—guns dismounted and disabled, carriages splintered and crushed, ammunition chests exploded, limbers upset, wounded horses plunging and kicking, dashing out the brains of men tangled in the harness; while cannoneers with pistols were crawling around through the wreck shooting the struggling horses to save the lives of wounded men."
 
Acquiring horses proved challenging for the Union Army by 1864, because it required 500 additional horses each day in order to sustain its presence in the field. Sheridan's army alone, while contesting Early in the Shenandoah Valley in '64, consumed 150 steeds daily. The Confederate military, on the other hand, could not replace man nor horse (nor munitions) in said year. The weight of attrition would literally cause the fledgling nation to buckle and then collapse. See also Civil War Horses.
 
The term "horse artillery" refers to the faster moving artillery batteries that typically supported cavalry regiments. The term "flying artillery" was sometimes used as well. In such batteries, the artillerymen were all mounted, in contrast to batteries in which the artillerymen walked alongside their guns. A prominent organization of such artillery in the Union Army was the U.S. Horse Artillery Brigade.
 
Horse artillery, or flying artillery, was an organization equipped usually with 10-pounder rifled guns, with all hands mounted. In ordinary light artillery the cannoneers either rode on the gun-carriage or walked. In flying artillery each cannoneer has a horse. This form was by far the most mobile of all, and was best suited to accompany cavalry on account of its ability to travel rapidly. With the exception of the method of mounting the cannoneers, there was not any difference between the classes of field batteries except as they were divided between “light” and “heavy.”
 
Limber
The limber was a two-wheeled carriage that carried an ammunition chest. It was connected directly behind the team of six horses and towed either a gun or a caisson. In either case, the combination provided the equivalent of a four-wheeled vehicle, which distributed the load over two axles but was easier to maneuver on rough terrain than a four-wheeled wagon. The combination of a Napoleon gun and a packed limber weighed 3,865 pounds (1,753.1 kg).
 
Caisson
The caisson was also a two-wheeled carriage. It carried two ammunition chests and a spare wheel. A fully loaded limber and caisson combination weighed 3,811 pounds (1728.6 kg). The limbers, caissons, and gun carriages were all constructed of oak. Each ammunition chest typically carried approximately 500 pounds (226.8 kg) of ammunition or supplies. In addition to these vehicles, there were also battery supply wagons and portable forges that were used to service the guns.

Cannon Crew
Eight cannoneers were needed to fire field pieces. Five were at the gun--the gunner and cannoneers 1, 2, 3, 4. The gunner was in charge of the piece, he gave the commands and conducted the aiming. Cannoneers 1-4 actually loaded, cleaned and fired the gun. Cannoneer 5 carried the ammunition from the limber to the gun. Cannoneers 6 and 7 prepared ammunition and cut the fuzes.

Civil War cannon positions
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Civil War cannoneers and their respective positions

How to load a cannon and fire a cannon
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Loading and aiming a muzzle-loading smoothbore gun

Civil War artillery and cannon positions
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Civil War artillery crew positions

Weapons
 
Although the Union and Confederate artillery inventories consisted primarily of muzzle-loaders, the two general types of muzzle-loading artillery weapons used during the Civil War were smoothbores and rifles. Smoothbores included howitzers and guns. A smoothbore cannon barrel is just like a pipe, smooth on the inside. In contrast, a rifled cannon has grooves cut into the inside of the barrel, which forced the ammunition to rotate like a football. A rifled cannon was more accurate and had a greater range than a smoothbore gun. An example would be to throw a volleyball and then a football at a target from a distance of 100 yards. While you would need a strong arm to achieve this task, the volleyball would drift and deviate over the distance, while the rotating football would exhibit an effortless flight with stunning accuracy.
 
Smoothbore versus Rifled
The two primary rifled guns employed by both sides were the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle and the Parrott Rifle. The rifled cannon had three distinct advantages over the smoothbore. The first was the range that these weapons could attain. The smoothbore Napoleon could negotiate 1,619 yards at a 5 degree elevation, while the 10-pounder Parrott and the 3-Inch Ordnance Rifle could achieve 2,000 yards and 1,835 yards respectively.
 
The second advantage was the rifling, which allowed the elongated projectile to spiral and thus maintain a more accurate course to the target. The smoothbore Napoleons had spherical ammunition that navigated a smooth barrel, exiting with far less accuracy. Thus, at greater ranges it was quite difficult to hit a target. One celebrated exception was when the Confederate artilleryman "Pelham hit a Union standard-bearer at 800 yards with one shot". While this might not appear challenging, the deviation of the ball in flight was 3 feet at 600 yards and 12 feet at 1,200 yards.

British made Whitworth Breech-loader
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12 pdr. Whitworth Breechloading Rifle

The third advantage to the rifled guns was that, shot for shot, they used less gunpowder than the smoothbores. The reason for this was the windage of the smoothbores. This occurred because a portion of the force from the exploding gunpowder would pass around the ball and not propel it. In the rifled guns, the conical shot was more tightly fitted to the bore which considerably reduced the windage. When this was combined with the shape itself of the conical shot, which retained velocity better than the round shot fired from the smoothbore, less powder was required to propel the shot. This allowed a reduction in the weight of the gun as the amount of force on the breech was considerably lessened. As a more direct comparison in gun weight, the 14-Pounder James Rifle fired a slightly heavier shot than the Napoleon, but the gun weighed 300 pounds less and used 1.75 pounds less gunpowder.
 
Advantage of smoothbore field artillery, however, under conditions prevailing during the Civil War, generally gave better results than the smaller-caliber rifle. A 3-inch rifle, for instance, had twice the range of a Napoleon; but in the broken, heavily wooded country where much of the fighting took place, the superior range of the rifle could not be used to full advantage. Neither was its relatively small and sometimes defective projectile as damaging to personnel as case or grape from a larger caliber smoothbore.
 
Although rifled artillery eventually phased out the smoothbore, during the war both types were appreciated as each employed its advantages on the battlefield.
 
Muzzle-loader vs. Breech-loader
Although muzzle-loading smoothbore cannon were used for almost 700 years, the art of loading and aiming a muzzle-loading smoothbore and next generation rifled gun was simple in principle but required exhaustive hours of training to acquire the necessary skill. While few breech-loading cannons were used during the Civil War, they, however, proved problematic. But manufacturing and employment of breech-loaders during the four year conflict was proceeded with decades of continued research and development of the weapon, thus resulting in breech-loaders that quickly excelled and outclassed its counterpart, the muzzle-loader, in every characteristic. 
 
While muzzle-loading was time consuming, breech-loading removed the cumbersome muzzle-loader and it afforded: less exposure to men; reduced size of embrasures, securing greater rapidity of fire; increased length of bore, and hence greater power; and also affording greater facilities for bore examinations, and permitting an ease in loading not afforded in long-bored muzzle-loading guns; and the latter exhibiting the dangers arising from the possibilities of double charging, and the cumbersomeness and complications of loading devices necessary for the use of muzzle-loading guns, more especially in the naval service, where economy of space is a matter of vital importance. From ship to shore, from nation to nation, the superiority of breech-loading guns is evident in the inventories of every army and navy.

Comparison of smoothbore and rifled cannon pieces
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Comparison of the most widely employed Smoothbore cannon and rifled artillery pieces

Smoothbore and Rifled Cannon Types
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Difference between smoothbore and rifled barrels

(Above) Rifled artillery proved quickly that masonry fortifications were obsolete. Smoothbore guns, however, demonstrated its continued lethality as an anti-personnel weapon.
 
Smoothbore Artillery
A smoothbore weapon is one which has a smooth barrel, and is absent rifling. Smoothbores ranged from small arms to heavy siege and garrison guns. Early firearms had smooth barrels, and fired projectiles with no significant spin. These projectiles had to have stable shapes, such as finned arrows or spheres, to minimize tumbling during flight. However, spherical bullets do tend to rotate randomly during flight, and the Magnus effect means that even a relatively smooth sphere will curve when rotating on any axis not parallel to the direction of travel.
 
Smoothbore artillery refers to weapons that were not rifled. At the time of the Civil War, metallurgy and other supporting technologies had just recently evolved to a point allowing the large scale production of rifled field artillery. As such, many smoothbore weapons were still in use and production even at the end of the war. Smoothbore field artillery of the day fit into two role-based categories: guns and howitzers. Further classifications of the weapons were made based on the type of metal used, typically bronze or iron (cast or wrought), although some examples of steel were produced. Additionally, the artillery was often identified by the year of design in the Ordnance department references.

Smoothbore barrel
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Inside smoothbore barrel

The smoothbore artillery was also categorized by the bore dimensions, based on the rough weight of the solid shot projectile fired from the weapon. For instance a 12-pounder field gun fired a 12 pound solid shot projectile from its 4.62-inch (117 mm) diameter bore. It was practice, dating back to the 18th century, to mix gun and howitzers into batteries. Pre-war allocations called for 6-pounder field guns matched with 12-pounder howitzers, 9 and 12-pounder field guns matched with 24-pounder howitzers. But the rapid expansions of both combatant armies, mass introduction of rifled artillery, and the versatility of the 12-pounder "Napoleon" class of weapons all contributed to a change in the mixed battery practices.
 
Smoothbore guns were designed to fire solid shot projectiles at high velocity, over low trajectories at targets in the open, although shot and canister were acceptable for use. The barrels of the guns were longer than corresponding howitzers, and called for higher powder charges to achieve the desired performance. Field guns were produced in 6-pounder (3.67 inch bore), 9-pounder (4.2 inch bore), and 12-pounder (4.62 inch bore) versions. Although some older iron weapons were pressed into service, and the Confederacy produced some new iron field guns, most of those used on the battlefields were of bronze construction. The 6-pounder field gun was well represented by bronze Models of 1835, 1838, 1839, and 1841 early in the war. Even a few older iron Model of 1819 weapons were pressed into service. Several hundred were used by the armies of both sides in 1861. But in practice the limited payload of the projectile was seen as a shortcoming of this weapon. From mid-war on, few 6-pounders saw action in the main field armies.
 
The larger 9- and 12-pounders were less well represented. While the 9-pounder was still listed on Ordnance and Artillery manuals in 1861, very few were ever produced after the War of 1812 and only scant references exist to Civil War use of the weapons. The 12-pounder field gun appeared in a series of models mirroring the 6-pounder, but in far less numbers. At least one Federal battery, the 13th Indiana, took the 12-pounder field gun into service early in the war. The major shortcoming of these heavy field guns was mobility, as they required eight-horse teams as opposed to the six-horse teams of the lighter guns. A small quantity of 12-pounder field guns were rifled early in the war, but these were more experimental weapons, and no field service is recorded.

Civil War artillery battery
Union cannon battery in line.jpg
Union artillery battery in line

The most popular smoothbore cannon for both the Union and Confederate artillery was the 12-pounder Model 1857, Light, commonly called "Napoleon". The Model 1857 was of lighter weight than the previous 12-pounder guns, and could be pulled by a six-horse draft, yet offered the heavier projectile payload of the larger bore. It is sometimes called, confusingly, a "gun-howitzer" (because it possessed characteristics of both gun and howitzer).
 
The twelve-pounder "Napoleon" smoothbore cannon was named after Napoleon III of France and was widely admired because of its safety, reliability, and killing power, especially at close range. In Union Ordnance manuals it was referred to as the "light 12-pounder gun" to distinguish it from the heavier and longer 12 pounder gun (which was virtually unused in field service.) It did not reach America until 1857. It was the last cast bronze gun used by an American army. The Federal version of the Napoleon can be recognized by the flared front end of the barrel, called the muzzle-swell. It was, however, relatively heavy compared to other artillery pieces and difficult to move across rough terrain.
 
Confederate Napoleons were produced in at least six variations, most of which had straight muzzles, but at least eight catalogued survivors of 133 identified have muzzle swells. Additionally, four iron Confederate Napoleons produced by Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond have been identified, of an estimated 125 cast. In early 1863, Robert E. Lee sent the majority of the Army of Northern Virginia's bronze 6-pounder guns to Tredegar to be melted down and recast as Napoleons. Copper for casting bronze pieces became increasingly scarce to the Confederacy throughout the war and became acute in November 1863 when the Ducktown copper mines near Chattanooga were lost to Union forces. Casting of bronze Napoleons by the Confederacy ceased and in January 1864 Tredegar began producing iron Napoleons.
 
Commonly referred to as the "Napoleon", the M1857 12-pdr. Napoleon bronze smoothbore cannon fired a twelve-pound ball and was considered a light gun through each weighed an average of 1,200 pounds. This powerful cannon could fire explosive shells and solid shot up to a mile and charges of canister to 300 yards with accuracy. The Napoleon was a favorite amongst some Northern artillerists because of its firepower and reliability. Two Union batteries armed with Napoleons at Gettysburg were very effective in holding back Confederate infantry attacks and knocking down opposing Southern batteries. Battery G, 4th U.S. repeatedly slowed Confederate infantry attacks against the Eleventh Corps lines on July 1, while Captain Hubert Dilger's Battery G, 1st Ohio Light Artillery almost annihilated two Confederate batteries with accurate and punishing counter-battery fire at long distance. Most Union Napoleons were manufactured in Massachusetts by the Ames Company and the Revere Copper Company. Confederate industry replicated the Napoleon design at several foundries in Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia, Georgia, and South Carolina. The Confederate design differed slightly from Union-made guns but fired the same twelve pound shot, shell and canister rounds used in Union manufactured guns.

Horses died in great numbers on the battlefield
Dead horses on the Civil War battlefield.jpg
Dead horses on the Civil War battlefield

The howitzer was a short-barreled smoothbore artillery piece designed to fire large projectiles at high trajectories. 

Howitzers were short-barreled guns that were optimized for firing explosive shells in a high trajectory at nearby concealed targets, but also for spherical case shot and canister, over a shorter range than the guns. Howitzers were considered the weapon of choice when the opposing forces were concealed behind terrain features or fortifications. Howitzers used lower powder charges than guns of corresponding caliber. Field howitzer calibers used in the Civil War were 12-pounder (4.62 inch bore), 24-pounder (5.82 inch bore), and 32-pounder (6.41 inch bore). Most of the howitzers used in the war were bronze, with notable exceptions of some of Confederate manufacture.
 
(Right) Horses, as large animals, made large targets. Intentionally or accidentally, the horse was often caught between the warring sides and the result was catastrophic. Because cavalry and artillery relied heavily on the procurement of strong, fit horses the demand quickly outstripped the meager supply. Both armies, however, resorted to employing mules and others pack animals as substitutes. Several thousand horses were killed during battle, but thousands also succumbed to the excessive demands of Civil War. In the midst of a single major battle, it was the norm to view hundreds of dead horses scattered across the battlefield. It was also commonplace to observe several horses simply collapse to the ground and die from exhaustion. During battle, when horses fell dead constantly, soldiers sought shelter behind the dead animals. See also Civil War Horses.
 
Coupled to the 6-pounder smoothbore field gun in allocations of the pre-war Army, the 12-pounder field howitzer was represented by Models of 1838 and 1841. With a light weight and respectable projectile payload, the 12-pounder was only cycled out of the Union field army inventories as production and availability of the 12-pounder "Napoleon" replaced it, but the howitzer remained in Confederate service for the duration of the conflict.
 
As with the corresponding heavy field guns, the heavier Howitzers were available in limited quantities early in the war. Both Federal and Confederate contracts list examples of 24-pounders delivered during the war, and surviving examples exist of imported Austrian types of this caliber used by the Confederates. These 24-pounder Howitzers found use in the "reserve" batteries of the respective armies, but were gradually replaced over time with heavy rifled guns. Both the 24- and 32-pounders were more widely used in fixed fortifications.

Principal characteristics of common smoothbore Field Artillery

M1857 Napoleon Smoothbore Cannon
Union Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon Light.jpg
Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon Light

Smoothbore Artillery

Field Artillery
Piece

Bore
diameter
(inches)

Material

Length
of tube
(inches)

Weight
of tube
(pounds)

Weight of
projectile
(pounds)

Weight of
charge
(pounds)

Muzzle
velocity
(ft./sec.)

Range at 5°
elevation
(yards)

M1841 6-pdr. Gun
.
3.67 Bronze 60.0 884 6.10 1.25 1,439 1,523
M1841 12-pdr. Gun
.
4.62 Bronze 78.0 1,757 12.30 2.50 1,486 1,663
M1841 12-pdr.
Howitzer
4.62 Bronze 53.0 788 *8.90 1.00 1,054 1,072
M1841 24-pdr.
Howitzer
5.82 Bronze 64.0 1,318 *18.40 2.00 1,060 1,322
M1841 32-pdr.
Howitzer
6.40 Bronze 75.0 1,920 *25.60 2.50 1,100 1,504
M1841 12-pdr.
Mountain Howitzer
4.62 Bronze 32.9 220 *8.90 0.50 650 900
M1857 12-pdr. Napoleon
.
4.62 Bronze 66.0 1,227 12.30 2.50 1,440 1,619

* Weight of shell.
 
Rifled Artillery
The cannon made the transition from smoothbore firing cannonballs to rifled firing shells in the 19th century. Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis. This spin serves to gyroscopically stabilize the projectile, improving its aerodynamic stability and accuracy. The Civil War was the first major war to see the use of rifled artillery. Rifling gave the guns greater velocity, range, accuracy and penetrating power, making smoothbore siege guns obsolete. Rifled guns were very effective against stone, brick, and masonry fortifications, but considered ineffective against earthen field works and in trench warfare. A rifled barrel, having spiral grooves or polygonal rifling, imparts a gyroscopic spin to the projectile that stabilizes it in flight and prevents it from tumbling. This does two things; first, it increases the accuracy of the projectile by eliminating the random drift due to the Magnus effect, and second, it allows a longer, heavier bullet to be fired from the same caliber barrel, increasing range and power. In the eighteenth century, the standard infantry arm was the smoothbore musket; by the nineteenth century, rifled barrels became the norm, increasing the power and range of the infantry weapon significantly.

looking into the barrel
rifling grooves.jpg
rifling grooves

The 3-inch (76 mm) rifle, aka 3-Inch Ordnance rifle, was the most widely used rifled gun during the war. Invented by John Griffen, it was extremely durable, with the barrel made of wrought iron, primarily produced by the Phoenix Iron Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. There are few cases on record of the tube fracturing or bursting, a problem that plagued other rifles made of brittle cast iron. Initially, some skeptical politicians and officers thought, would damage can this 3-inch rifle inflict? The rifle, however, had exceptional accuracy. During the Battle of Atlanta, a Confederate gunner was quoted: "The Yankee three-inch rifle was a dead shot at any distance under a mile. They could hit the end of a flour barrel more often than miss, unless the gunner got rattled."
 
This sleek weapon was also called the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle and was designed by John Griffen, superintendent of the Safe Harbor Iron Works in Pennsylvania. This iron gun was similar in length of the Parrott Rifle, fired an elongated shell, and was deadly accurate up to a mile. Much lighter than the Napoleon, the gun weighed an average of 800 pounds and could be easily transported and manhandled by its crew. Only a limited number of the Ordnance rifles were produced at Confederate arsenals.

Principal characteristics of common rifled Field Artillery

Civil War Artillery and the Parrott Rifle
Union Parrott rifle and crew.jpg
20-pounder Parrotts, 1st Conn. Artillery, Ft. Richardson, Arlington Heights, VA.

Rifled Artillery

Field Artillery
Piece

Bore
diameter
(inches)

Material

Length
of tube
(inches)

Weight
of tube
(pounds)

Weight of
projectile
(pounds)

Weight of
charge
(pounds)

Muzzle
velocity
(ft./sec.)

Range at 5°
elevation
(yards)

M1861 10-pdr.
Parrott Rifle
*2.90 Cast
Iron
74.0 890 9.50 1.00 1,230 1,850
M1862 20-pdr.
Parrott Rifle
3.67 Cast
Iron
84.0 1,750 20.00 2.00 1,250 1,900
M1861 3-inch
Ordnance Rifle
3.00 Wrought
Iron
69.0 820 9.50 1.00 1,230 1,830
M1861 14-pdr.
James Rifle
3.67 Bronze 60.0 875 12.00 .75 1,000 1,700
M1861 24-pdr.
James Rifle
4.62 Bronze 78.0 1,750 24.00 1.50 1,000 1,800
M1861 12-pdr.
Blakely Rifle
3.40 Steel 59.0 800 10.00 1.00 1,250 1,850
6-pdr. Whitworth
Breechloading Rifle
2.15 Steel 70.0 700 6.00 1.00 1,550 2,750
12-pdr. Whitworth
Breechloading Rifle
2.75 Steel 104.0 1,092 12.00 1.75 1,500 2,800
12-pdr. Whitworth
Muzzleloading Rifle
2.75 Steel 84.0 1,000 12.00 2.00 1,600 3,000
6-pdr. Wiard Rifle
.
2.56 Steel 56.0 600 6.00 0.60 1,300 1,800
10-pdr. Wiard Rifle
.
3.00 Steel 58.0 790 10.00 1.00 1,230 1,850
3-inch Armstrong
Muzzleloading Rifle
3.00 Steel 76.0 996 12.00 1.25 1,350 2,200
3-inch Armstrong
Breechloading Rifle
3.00 Steel 83.0 918 12.00 1.25 1,300 2,100

* The M1861 Parrott had a 2.90 inch bore diameter, while the M1863 Parrott had a 3.00 inch bore diameter.

Projectiles
 
Four basic types of projectiles were employed by Civil War field artillery: solid shot, shells, case shot, and canister.  Ammunition came in wide varieties, designed to attack specific targets. A typical Union artillery battery (armed with six 12-pounder Napoleons) carried the following ammunition going into battle: 288 shot, 96 shells, 288 spherical cases, and 96 canisters.

Civil War Artillery and Cannon Ammunition
Civil War artillery ammunition projectiles.jpg
Types of Artillery Projectiles

(Right)
 
A) Solid shot attached to wooden sabot with straps.
B) Shell-complete fixed round. Cartridge bag tied to sabot. Paper bag in place.
C) Arrangement of straps for shot (1) and shell (2) (opening allowed for fuze).
D) Cartridge block for separate cartridge. Projectile and powder charge for rounds for guns larger than 12-pounders were usually loaded separately.
E) Shell and sabot.
F) Spherical case: 12-pounder. contained 4.5-ounce burster and 78 musket balls.
G) Canister: 12-pounder contained 27 cast-iron shots, average weight is 0.43 pounds in tin case, nailed to sabot.
H) Complete fixed round of canister. Paper bag was torn off before loading.
I) Tapered sabot for howitzers (powder chamber in howitzers was smaller than the bore).

Shot (or bolt)
Shot was a solid projectile that included no explosive charge. For a smoothbore, the projectile was a round "cannonball". For a rifled gun, the projectile was referred to as a bolt and had a cylindrical or spherical shape. In both cases, the projectile was used to impart kinetic energy for a battering effect, particularly effective for the destruction of enemy guns, limbers and caissons, and wagons. It was also effective for mowing down columns of infantry and cavalry and had psychological effects against its targets. Despite its effectiveness, many artillerymen were reluctant to use solid shot, preferring the explosive types of ordnance. With solid projectiles, accuracy was the paramount consideration, and they also caused more tube wear than their explosive counterparts. While rifled cannon had much greater accuracy on average than smoothbores, the smoothbores had an advantage firing round shot relative to the bolts fired from rifled pieces. Round shot could be employed in ricochet or rolling fire extending the depth and range of its effect on land or water while bolts tended to dig in rather than ricochet.

Shrapnel shell.gif
Case, aka Shrapnel

Shell
Shells included an explosive charge and were designed to burst into fragments in the midst of enemy infantry or artillery. For smoothbores, the projectile was referred to as "spherical shell". Shells were more effective against troops behind obstacles or earthworks, and they were good for destroying wooden buildings by setting them on fire. They were ineffective against good quality masonry. A primary weakness of shell was that it typically produced only a few large fragments, the count increasing with caliber of the shell. A Confederate mid-war innovation perhaps influenced by British ordnance/munition imports was the "polygonal cavity" or "segmented" shell which used a polyhedral cavity core to create lines of weakness in the shell wall that would yield more regular fragmentation patterns—typically 12 similarly sized fragments. While segmented designs were most common in spherical shell, it was applied to specific rifled projectiles as well. Spherical shell used time fuzes, while rifled shell could use timed fuze or be detonated on impact by percussion fuze. Fuze reliability was a concern; any shell that buried itself into the earth before detonating had little anti-personnel effectiveness. However, large caliber shells, such as the 32-pounder spherical were effective at breaching entrenchments.
 
Case (or shrapnel)
Case (or "spherical case" for smoothbores) were anti-personnel projectiles carrying a smaller burst charge than shell, but designed to be more effective against exposed troops. While shell produced only a few large fragments, case was loaded with lead or iron balls and was designed to burst above and before the enemy line, showering down many more small but destructive projectiles on the enemy. The effect was analogous to a weaker version of canister. With case the lethality of the balls and fragments came from the velocity of the bursting projectile itself—the small burst charge only fragmented the case and dispersed the shrapnel. The spherical case used in a 12-pounder Napoleon contained 78 balls. The name shrapnel derives from its inventor, Henry Shrapnel. The primary limitations to case effectiveness came in judging the range, setting the fuze accordingly, and the reliability and variability of the fuze itself.
 
Canister (or case-shot)
Canister shot was the deadliest type of ammunition, consisting of a thin metal container loaded with layers of lead or iron balls packed in sawdust. Upon exiting the muzzle, the container disintegrated, and the balls fanned out as the equivalent of a shotgun blast. The effective range of canister was only 400 yards (370 m), but within that range dozens of enemy infantrymen could be mowed down. Even more devastating was "double canister", generally used only in dire circumstances at extremely close range, where two containers of balls were fired simultaneously. Canister shot, also known as case shot, was a kind of anti-personnel ammunition used in cannons. Canister shot was packaged in a tin or brass container, possibly guided by a wooden sabot. Canister balls did not have to punch through the wooden hull of a ship, so were smaller and more numerous. The later shrapnel shell was similar, but with a much greater range. Canister also played a key role in dispersing the troops assigned to support Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg in July 1863.

Cannon headshot from canister shot
Direct shot to the head by cannon.jpg
Canister ball headshot, 12-pounder field howitzer

(Right) Result of a headshot caused by a single iron canister ball fired from the 12-pounder field howitzer. This skull was discovered in 1876 on Morris Island, South Carolina, near the site of Battery Wagner, a powerful earthwork fort that had protected the entrance to Charleston Harbor during the Civil War. The skull belonged to a man of African descent—a soldier of the famous 54th Massachusetts Volunteers, which had led the assault on Wagner on the night of July 18, 1863. Of approximately 600 men who made the charge, 256 were killed, wounded, or missing. From the size of the wound, and the remains of the projectile itself, it can be determined what type of munition hit this man: an iron canister ball from one of two 12-pounder field howitzers known to have been used in the repulse of that attack. The 54th Massachusetts Volunteers was not the first black regiment in the Civil War, nor was it the first to fight. However, it was the first black regiment raised entirely of free men enrolled on exactly the same footing as white troops and the first to engage in a major action well-covered by the national press. Its gallant conduct in the doomed assault on Battery Wagner, at Charleston, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863, electrified the nation and proved once and for all that the black man, given the opportunity, could learn the soldier’s trade, and fight as well as any white man.
 
Grapeshot
Grapeshot was a type of shot that is not one solid element, but a mass of small metal balls or slugs packed tightly into a canvas bag. It was used both in land and naval warfare. When assembled, the balls resembled a cluster of grapes, hence the name. On firing, the balls spread out from the muzzle, giving an effect similar to a giant shotgun. Grapeshot was devastatingly effective against massed infantry at short range. It was used to savage massed infantry charges quickly. Cannons would fire solid shot to attack enemy artillery and troops at longer range and switch to grape when they or nearby troops were charged. Grapeshot was the predecessor of, and a variation on, canister, in which a smaller number of larger metal balls were arranged on stacked iron plates with a threaded bolt running down the center to hold them as a unit inside the barrel. It was used at a time when some cannons burst when loaded with too much gunpowder, but as cannons got stronger, grapeshot was replaced by canister. A grapeshot round (or "stand") used in a 12-pounder Napoleon contained 9 balls, contrasted against the 27 smaller balls in a canister round. By the time of the Civil War, grapeshot was obsolete and largely replaced by canister. The period Ordnance and Gunnery work states that grape was excluded from "field and mountain services." Few, if any, rounds were issued to field artillery batteries. Scattershot was an improvised form of grapeshot which uses chain links, nails, shards of glass, rocks or other similar objects as the projectiles. Although scattershot can be cheaply made, it was less effective than grapeshot due to the lack of uniformity in the projectiles' mass, shape, material, and resultant ballistics.

Field Artillery
 
Field artillery was a category of light, mobile artillery used to support armies in the field. Field pieces were specialized for mobility, tactical proficiency, and both short and long range engagements. Field artillery generally supported infantry and cavalry on the battlefield.
 
Although Parrott rifled-guns (Parrott Class) and Napoleon smoothbores were coveted by both Union and Confederate forces, the Model 1861 3-inch Wrought Iron rifle, aka Ordnance Rifle, was the most common rifled field piece on the battlefield, while the Model 1857 Napoleon, Light, was the most widely used artillery piece during the Civil War.
 
Robert Parker Parrott (1804–77), an 1824 graduate of the United States Military Academy, developed a new form of rifled artillery using a cast iron barrel with a reinforcing wrought iron band around the breech. He initially produced 2.9-inch (10-pounder) and 3.67-inch (20-pounder) rifles for the field artillery. He later produced four larger rifled guns that were used as siege artillery. These heavy Parrott rifles became the mainstays of the Federal siege train. In early 1863, Robert E. Lee sent nearly all of the Army of Northern Virginia's obsolete (Mexican-American War era) bronze 6-pounder guns to Tredegar to be melted down and recast as Napoleons.
 
The principal guns widely employed in the field and their respective characteristics

Most widely used field artillery of the Civil War
Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon.gif
U.S. Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon smoothbore cannon

Field Artillery Weapons and Characteristics

Field Artillery
Piece

Bore
diameter
(inches)

Material

Length
of tube
(inches)

Weight
of tube
(pounds)

Weight of
projectile
(pounds)

Weight of
charge
(pounds)

Muzzle
velocity
(ft./sec.)

Range at 5°
elevation
(yards)

6-pounder Gun 3.67 Bronze 60.0 884 6.10 1.25  1,439 1,523
M1857 12-pounder "Napoleon" 4.62 Bronze 66.0 1,227 12.30 2.50 1,440 1,619
12-pounder Howitzer 4.62 Bronze 53.0 788 8.90 1.00 1,054 1,072
12-pounder Mountain Howitzer 4.62 Bronze 33.0 220 8.90 .50 ------  1,005
24-pounder Howitzer 5.82  Bronze 64 .0 1,318 18.40 2.00 1,060 1,322
10-pounder Parrott Rifle 2.9 & 3.0  Iron 74.0 890 9.50 1.00 1,230 1,850
3-inch Ordnance Rifle 3.00 Wrought Iron  69.0 820 9.50 1.00 1,215 1,830
*14-pounder James Rifle 3.80 Bronze 60.0 875  14.00 1.25 ------ 1,530
20-pounder Parrott Rifle 3.67 Iron 84.0 1,750 20.00 2.00 1,250 1,900
12-pounder Whitworth Breechloading Rifle
.
2.75 Iron/Steel 104.0 1,092  12.00 1.75 1,500 2,800

Italics denotes data for shell, not shot.
 
* Hazlett, pp. 151-152. This is for Hotchkiss shell of 14lb @ 5 degrees. Hazlett used the only primary source: Abbot's Siege Artillery, p. 116. Hazlett also determined bore and Type I based on text description and shell weight--matching recorded weights of modern recoveries (see Dickey pp. 137-139,143-146.) Coles' data table and many others based on Peterson's 1959 book have impossibly small powder charge for range and weight given. Later 14-pounder James types with Ordnance profile had longer barrels with 7.5" greater bore length (13% increase) and therefore would have increased range.

The M1857 12-pounder Napoleon was a bronze smoothbore with an effective range of 1,000 yards and a range of 1,619 yards at five degrees elevation. It fired solid shot, shell, case shot and canister rounds with a 2 1/2 lb. charge of powder. The gun with its carriage and equipment weighed 2,500 lbs. and was served by a crew of eight. (Casualties of disease and battle often reduced the crew to the minimum of three men.) While the Model 1857 12-pounder, Light, commonly known as "Napoleon," was the most widely used "smoothbore field cannon" during the Civil War, the most widely employed "rifled field piece" was the 3-inch Ordnance rifle, commonly known as 3-inch Wrought Iron rifle. Both the M1857 Napoleon and 3-in. Ordnance rifle were coveted by both armies.








































Most widely used rifle artillery piece
3-inch Ordnance rifle.jpg
3-inch Ordnance rifle was the most popular rifled piece

3-Inch Wrought Iron Gun Specifications
Tube Material Wrought Iron
Tube Weight 816 lb (370 kg)
Powder Charge 1 lb (.45 kg)
Range (5° Elevation) 1,835 yd (1,678 m)
At Gettysburg 146 (USA); 73 (CSA)






Civil War artillery, cannon, and guns
 20-pounder Parrott rifle.jpg
Union battery of 20-pounder Parrott rifles in the field

20pounderparrottgun.jpg

Robert Parker Parrott developed a new form of rifled artillery using a cast iron barrel with a reinforcing wrought iron band around the breech. He first produced 2.9-inch (10-pounder) and 3.67-inch (20-pounder) rifles for the field artillery.






12-pounder Napoleon smoothbore cannon
12-pounder Napoleon smoothbore cannon.jpg
12-pounder Napoleon smoothbore was the most widely employed cannon in the war

12-pounder Napoleon Model 1857 Specifications
Tube Material Bronze
Tube Weight 1,227 lb (557 kg)
Powder Charge 2.5 lb (1.13 kg)
Range (5° Elevation) 1,619 yd (1,480 m)
At Gettysburg 142








































(Left) Union officers with a 3-inch Ordnance rifle. The 3-inch Ordnance rifle, aka 3-inch Wrought iron rifle, was the most employed rifled field piece during the Civil War. Known for its reliability and accuracy, the 3-inch Ordnance rifle was fielded by the artillery branches of both armies. Crafted from hammer-welded, machined iron the ordnance rifle typically fired 8- or 9-pound shells, as well as solid shot, case, and canister. Due to the manufacturing process involved, Union-made rifles tended to perform better than Confederate models. (Center) A Union battery of 20-pounder Parrott rifles in the field. Designed by Robert Parrott of the West Point Foundry (NY), the Parrott rifle was deployed by both the US Army and US Navy. Parrott rifles were produced in 10- and 20-pounder models for use on the battlefield and as large as 200-pounders for use in fortifications. Parrotts were easily distinguished by the reinforcing band around the breech of the gun. (Right)  An African-American soldier guards a 12-pounder Napoleon. The 12-pounder Napoleon Light, as it was also known,  was the most widely used smoothbore field cannon used during the conflict. Designed and named for the French Emperor Napoleon III, the Napoleon was the workhorse gun of the Civil War artillery. Cast of bronze, the smoothbore Napoleon was capable of firing a 12-pound solid ball, shell, case shot, or canister. Both sides deployed this versatile gun in large numbers.

The highly coveted Union field artillery, Napoleon
Union Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon.jpg
Union Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon gun-howitzer

Model 1857 12-pounder Napoleon Light Field Gun
 
The M1857 Napoleon Light, employed in mass numbers by both the Union and Confederate armies, was the most widely used artillery piece during the Civil War. While the gun was the most popular, common, and deadly field piece, as a smoothbore, it also subjected the infantry lines to devastating canister at close range. Developed under the auspices of Louis Napoleon of France, it first appeared in the United States inventory in 1857. In the North, the smoothbore Napoleon was officially designated the "light 12-pounder gun". A Napoleon fired a 12.3 lb projectile and had a maximum effective range of approximately 1,600 yards. Union Napoleons had a slight swell at the muzzle (Confederate model had no pronounced swell) of the 4.62 inch bore. The barrel with its carriage weighed 2,445 pounds, light enough to be hauled by men for short distances, however, the usual method of transportation was by a six-horse team with a driver aside one of each pair of horses.
 
The Confederacy produced numerable Napoleons, the majority out of bronze. Confederate made pieces were included iron variants with a band-reinforced breech. The copper that was used in manufacturing the bronze Napoleons at the famous Tredegar Iron Works of Richmond, Virginia, came primarily from one source: The Ducktown mines near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Each Napoleon produced by Tredegar, and presumably most other foundries, required over 1000 pounds of copper. At the recommendation of General Robert E. Lee, bronze cannons that fired lighter shot, such as the 6-pounder, were melted down and rebuilt as Napoleons, which were more effective weapons.
 
Unfortunately for the Confederacy, the Ducktown mines were captured in November of 1863 by Union forces. This ended bronze Napoleon production in the South, but this did not end Napoleon production, however. In 1864, Tredegar started to produce iron Napoleons. These were manufactured in a similar fashion as the Parrott rifles, out of cast iron with wrought iron reinforcing bands. While 120 of these guns were produced by the South before the end of the war, this method of manufacturing had its disadvantages.
 
Artillerymen favored bronze Napoleons because their barrels were stronger and safer than guns made of iron. Bronze pieces had a comparatively lower rate of muzzle bursting incidents when fired, thus minimizing casualties to the crew. A Napoleon was able to fire all of the four basic types of ammunition. The solid shot, shell, and case rounds were all spherical and were used against enemies at distances greater than 600 yards. For shorter distances the gun was loaded with canister, which turned it into a giant shotgun with lethal effects. Firing canister, the Napoleon probably inflicted more casualties than all other Civil War era artillery pieces combined.

Confederates made 6 variants of the Napoleon
Confederate Napoleon.jpg
Confederate 1857 12-pounder Napoleon Light

    Model: 1857 12-pounder "Napoleon" Light smoothbore gun-howitzer
  • Class: Field artillery, light 
  • Type: Smoothbore gun-howitzer
  • Manufactured: USA and CSA; 1857 to 1863
  • Tube Composition: Bronze or cast iron
  • Bore Diameter: 4.62 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 2.5 lbs. Black Powder
  • Projectiles: 12 lb. solid shot, spherical case, common shell, canister
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,485 fps
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 1,619 yards
  • Tube Length: 66 inches
  • Bronze Tube Weight: 1,227 lbs.
  • Iron Tube Weight: 1,249 lbs.
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 2,350 lbs.
  • Carriage Type: No. 2 Field Carriage (1,125 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Horses Required to transport: 6
  • Production: approx. 1100
  • Cost in 1861 Dollars: $490(US) $ 565(CS)
  • Cost in 1864 Dollars: $614(US) $1840(CS)
  • Notes: Named after French Emperor Louis Napoleon III
  • Model 1861 3-inch Ordnance Rifle
     
    The Model 1861 3-inch Wrought Iron rifle, aka Ordnance Rifle, was the most common rifled field piece on the battlefield.
     
    Originally known as the "Griffen Gun," after its designer, John Griffen, the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle was manufactured at the Phoenix Iron Company in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and it was adopted by the Federal Ordnance Department in early 1861. The design of this rifle, soon a favorite with artillerists in both armies, is recognized by the complete absence of any discontinuities in the surface of the gun. It was also a major step forward in material, being made entirely of wrought iron.
     
    To manufacture the Ordnance Rifle, strips of wrought iron were hammer-welded in criss-crossing spiral layers around a mandrel; this was then bored out and the finished product lathe turned into shape. Though time consuming and expensive to produce, the result was a singularly tough and accurate weapon. Less precise machining and lower-grade iron yielded their Confederate counterparts more imperfections. While the Napoleon was the weapon of choice for short-range fighting, the Ordnance Rifle was valued for its long range accuracy. A one lb charge of gunpowder could accurately propel a 10 lb elongated shell a distance of 2,000 yards at only 5 degrees of elevation. Longer distances, but less accuracy, could be achieved with higher elevations. Artillerymen preferred this piece because it did not have the tendency to explode upon firing as cast iron cannon did. This gun is one-hundred pounds lighter than the 10 pdr. Parrott Rifle (800 lbs to the Parrott's 900) which made it highly mobile. For this reason, it was the preferred weapon of the fully mounted Horse Artillery.

    Civil War Canister Shot.jpg
    Canister Shot

    The North produced more than 1,000 3-inch Ordnance Rifles during the war at a cost of approximately $350 each, and were considered prized captures by the South.
     
    The original design was patented in 1855 and was not quite what we know as the ordnance rifle; there was an evolutionary process both in achieving the final smooth profile of the piece, and the wrought iron, wound and welded in criss-crossing spirals in the original patent, was apparently done in sheets or plates for the final form of the gun. The Ordnance Rifle was manufactured at the Phoenix Iron Company in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It was adopted by the Federal Ordnance Department in early 1861. Other versions of this weapon were produced in 1862 and 1863 by different companies, but this is the only weapon officially known as the Ordnance Gun. The Confederates also produced their own version of this gun.
     
    This weapon could accurately fire Schenkl and Hotchkiss shells approximately 2,000 yards at five degrees elevation, using a one pound charge of powder. The Hotchkiss shell was the most common projectile fired from the Model 1861. It was designed by Benjamin and Andrew Hotchkiss as a three piece shell - nose (containing the powder chamber), sabot (soft lead band fitting into an intention in the middle of the shell), and an iron forcing cup at the base (which forced the lead sabot to expand upon firing).
     
    The other shell for this rifle was the Schenkl. This was a cone shaped projectile which employed ribs along the taped base. The sabot was made of papier-mâché' which was driven up the taper by the force of the gas produced upon firing. The sabot then expanded and caught the rifling in the tube.

    3-inch Ordnance Rifle
    3-inch Ordnance Rifle.jpg
    3-Inch Wrought Iron Rifle

    This gun was sometimes erroneously referred to as a "Rodman." The process used by Thomas Rodman in casting the Columbiads was not used in producing the wrought iron barrel of the Ordnance gun. Rodman was also absent during research and development, as well as final design and production of this gun.

        Model: 3-Inch Wrought Iron Rifle
  • Class: Field artillery, light
  • Type: Rifled-gun
  • Manufactured: USA; 1861 to 1865
  • Tube Composition: Wrought iron
  • Bore Diameter: 3.0 inches
  • Rifling Type: 7 rifle grooves
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1 lb. Black Powder
  • Projectiles: 10 lb. Bolts, 8 to 9 lbs. Hotchkiss or Schenkel shells
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,215 fps
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 1,850 yards
  • Tube Length: 73 inches
  • Tube Weight: 816 lbs.
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 1,720 lbs.
  • Carriage Type: No. 1 Field Carriage (900 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Horses Required to Pull: 6
  • No. in North America: approx. 1000+
  • Cost in 1861 Dollars: $330 (US)
  • Cost in 1865 Dollars: $450 (US)
  • Invented By: John Griffen in 1855
  • US Casting Foundry: Phoenix Iron Company, Phoenixville PA
  • CS Casting Foundry: Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond VA (CS castings were known as: 3-inch Iron Field Rifles)
  • Notes: Lightest and strongest rifled tube. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as a Rodman gun.
  • Model 1841 6-pounder Smoothbore Field Gun

    Model 1841 6-pounder Gun was the workhorse of the Mexican-American War. Although considered obsolete by 1861 standards, battlefield necessity pressed this gun into service immediately.

    The 6-pounder field gun was a lightweight, mobile piece that was a favorite of the field artillery in the first half of the nineteenth century. This popular workhorse of the Mexican War era was regarded as obsolete by the Union army, but was still heavily employed by the Confederate army midway through the conflict. Field guns were produced in 6-pounder (3.67 inch bore), 9-pounder (4.2 inch bore), and 12-pounder (4.62 inch bore) versions. Although some older iron weapons were pressed into service, and the Confederacy produced some new iron field guns, most of those used on the battlefields were of bronze construction.

    The 6-pounder field gun was well represented by bronze Models of 1835, 1838, 1839, and 1841 early in the war. Even a few older iron Model of 1819 weapons were pressed into service. Several hundred were used by the armies of both sides in 1861. But in practice the limited payload of the projectile was seen as a shortcoming of this weapon. From mid-war on, few 6-pounders saw action in the main field armies because, in early 1863, Robert E. Lee sent nearly all of the Army of Northern Virginia's obsolete bronze 6-pounder guns to Tredegar to be melted down and recast as Napoleons.

    Model: 1841 6-pounder Gun
    Model 1841 6-pounder Gun.jpg
    Model: 1841 6-pounder Smoothbore field gun

    The larger 9- and 12-pounders received insignificant representation in the field. While the 9-pounder was still listed on Ordnance and Artillery manuals in 1861, very few were ever produced after the War of 1812 and only scant references exist to Civil War use of the weapons. The 12-pounder field gun appeared in a series of models replicating the 6-pounder, but in far less numbers. Although the 12-pounder saw service early in the war, its major shortcoming was mobility. The 12-pounders required an eight-horse team as opposed to the six-horse team of the lighter guns. While a small quantity of 12-pounder field guns were rifled early in the war as experimental weapons, no field service was recorded.

        Model: 1841 6-pounder Smoothbore field gun
  • Class: Field artillery, light
  • Type: Smoothbore
  • Manufactured: USA, 1841 to 1863
  • Tube Composition: Bronze or cast iron
  • Bore Diameter: 3.67 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1.25 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 6 lb. round balls
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 1,523 yards
  • Tube Length: 60 inches
  • Tube Weight: 884 lbs.
  • Carriage Type: No. 1 Field Carriage (900 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Horses Required to Pull: 6
  • No. in North America: approx. 700
  • Notes: Workhorse of Mexican War, but considered obsolete by Civil War
  • Model 10-pounder Parrott Rifle
     
    The 10-pounder Parrott Rifle was deployed by both armies in the field and it was manufactured with two bore sizes: 2.9-inch (Model 1861) and 3.0-inch (Model 1863). Confederate forces used both bore sizes during the war, which added to the complication of supplying the appropriate ammunition to its batteries. Union batteries used only the 2.9 inch Parrott, but they also employed 3" Ordnance rifles. During the 1st day of Gettysburg, three Parrott rifles were temporarily unusable when 3" ammunition was issued to the battery by error. To standardize the ammunition, the Model 1863 Parrott was introduced with its 3-inch (76 mm) bore.
     
    More than fifty Confederate 10-pounder Parrotts were manufactured at Tredegar Iron Works, in Richmond, Virginia. These guns were slightly longer, larger, and used different variations of rifle grooves than their Federal counterparts. In addition, the reinforcing band on Tredegar Parrotts is thicker and wider than Federal examples, and was applied by a simpler manufacturing method, known as the Brooke-banding method. Many of the Tredegar Parrotts can be identified by a taper or bevel on the trunnion side of the reinforcing band.

    10-pounder Parrott Rifle
    10-pounder Parrott Rifle.jpg
    10-pounder Parrott Rifle was manufactured as Model 1861 and Model 1863

        Model: 10-pounder Parrott Rifle 
  • Class: Field artillery, light
  • Type: Rifled-gun
  • Manufactured: USA and CSA; 1861 to 1865
  • Tube Composition: Cast Iron, Wrought Iron Breech Band
  • Bore Diameter: 2.9 inches (Model 1861); 3.0 inches (Model 1863)
  • Rifling Type (US): 3 grooves, right hand gain twist
  • Rifling Type (CS): 3 groves right hand twist, or 12 grooves left hand twist
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1 lb. Black Powder
  • Projectiles: 10 lb. solid bolt, case, common shell, canister
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 1,900 yards (1.1 miles)
  • Projectile Flight Time (at 5°): 8 seconds
  • Max Range (at 35°): 5,000 yards (2.8 miles)
  • Projectile Flight Time (at 35°): 21 seconds
  • Tube Length: 78 inches (US); 81 inches (CS)
  • Tube Weight: 890 lbs. (US); 1,150 lbs. (CS)
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 1,800 lbs. (US); 2,060 lbs. (CS)
  • Carriage Type: No. 1 Field Carriage (900 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Horses Required to Pull: 6
  • No. in North America: approx. 630
  • Cost in 1862 Dollars: $180 (US); $  300 (CS)
  • Cost in 1865 Dollars: $187 (US); $3,000 (CS)
  • Invented By: Robert Parker Parrott in 1860
  • US Casting Foundry: West Point Foundry, Cold Springs, NY
  • CS Casting Foundry: Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA
  • Notes: Inexpensive, reliable, and accurate
  • Model 20-pounder Parrott Rifle

    Civil War cannon ammunition
    Civil War cannon ammunition.jpg
    Civil War artillery projectiles

    The 20-pounder Parrott was generally the largest field gun used during the war, with the barrel alone weighing over 1,800 pounds (800 kg). Parrotts were manufactured with a combination of cast iron and wrought iron. The cast iron improved the accuracy of the gun but was brittle enough to suffer fractures. On the Parrott, a large wrought iron reinforcing band was overlaid on the breech. Although accurate, the Parrott had a poor reputation for safety, and they were shunned by many artillerymen.
     
    While the 20-pounder Parrott was considered one of the heavier artillery pieces to engage in the field during the conflict, it was, however, occasionally joined in field service by its larger brother, the 30-pounder Parrott, which was considered by many an outstanding and accurate siege and garrison gun.
     
    Although the 10- and 20-pounder versions were used by Union and Confederate armies, the 10-pounder was more prevalent on the battlefield. The 20 Pounder Parrott Rifle was one of the heaviest field artillery pieces of the war. (Occasionally, however, the 30-pounder Parrott was used as field artillery). It was accurate, inexpensive to produce, and easy to operate. The 20-pounder, however, was prone to bursting and injuring and killing its crew.
     
    By December 1862, attempts were made to eliminate the 20-pounder Parrott completely from the Army of the Potomac. It was stated that the 20-pounder was unsatisfactory and unsafe: from the imperfection of the projectiles to subjecting the artillery crew to as much peril as it posed to the enemy. At Antietam, some officers complained that 10% of their "20 pdr. Parrotts engaged had suffered muzzle bursting." The gun was cumbersome for field purposes, and best used at garrisons, proclaimed another Union officer.
     
    Regarding the effectiveness of the 20 pdr. Parrott, while detailing siege operations in the Richmond area, Henry L. Abbot wrote, "The 20-pounder Parrott proved to be too small to give the precision of fire demanded of a siege gun, and to be too heavy for convenient use as a field gun. Moreover its projectiles did not seem to take the grooves as well as those of either smaller or larger calibres. The gun was accordingly not regarded with favor."
     
    Although the 20-pounder Parrott had a questionable safety reputation, it served its purpose on the battlefield. While the 20-pounder Parrotts were not known for their safety, they were known for their accuracy. The rifle was also manufactured quickly and in mass quantities, but when the Civil War concluded, the 20-pounder was retired.

    20-pounder Parrott rifled-gun
    20-pounder Parrott Rifle.jpg
    20-pounder Parrott Rifle

        Model: 20-pounder Parrott Rifle
  • Class: Field artillery, heavy
  • Type: Rifled-gun
  • Manufactured: USA, 1861 to 1865
  • Tube Composition: Cast Iron, Wrought Iron Breech Band
  • Bore Diameter: 3.67 inches
  • Rifling Type: 5 grooves, right hand gain twist
  • Standard Powder Charge: 2 lbs. Black Powder
  • Projectiles: 20 lb. solid bolt, case, common shell, canister
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 2,100 yards (1.1 miles)
  • Maximum Range (at 15°): 4,400 yards (2.5 miles)
  • Tube Length: 89 inches
  • Tube Weight: 1750 lbs. (0.8 tons)
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 2,925 lbs. (1.46 tons)
  • Carriage Type: No. 3 Field Carriage (1,175 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Horses Required to Pull: 8
  • No. in North America: approx. 330 (Army) and 300 (Navy)
  • Cost in 1862 Dollars: $380(US); $550(CS)
  • Cost in 1865 Dollars: $387(US); $4500(CS)
  • Invented By: Robert Parker Parrott in 1861
  • US Casting Foundry: West Point Foundry, Cold Springs, NY
  • CS Casting Foundry: Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA
  • Notes: Accurate, excellent for counter-battery fire, challenging to transport, prone to bursting.
  • Model 14-pounder James Rifle

    James rifle is a broad term to describe any artillery gun rifled to the James pattern for use in the American Civil War. Charles T. James developed a rifled projectile and rifling system. Early in the war there were several hundred Mexican War era 6-pounder bronze guns in service with the field artillery and few rifled pieces available. A number of these guns were rifled to fire the 3.67" caliber James projectile. These were classified as "rifled 6-pounder guns" or alternately as 12-pounder James rifles. Some were simply rifled from their initial 3.67" bore, while others were reamed to 3.80" and then rifled. Reaming to 3.80" was preferred to eliminate wear deformities from service. Nomenclature for the two sizes could be muddled and varied, but the effective descriptions for the 3.67" are "rifled 6-pounder" or "12-pounder James rifle", while the 3.80" variant was known as the 14-pounder James rifle. To add to the confusion new bronze (and a few iron) variants of the 3.80" bore rifle (14-pounder James rifle) were also produced with a longer, heavier tube utilizing the Ordnance profile.

    James rifle
    James artillery.jpg
    James shell

    James worked with Ames Manufacturing Company, Chicopee, Massachusetts, to produce 3.80" bore rifled cannon in at least six known variants. Collectively, these were referred to as 14-pounder James rifles. The initial type was reaming of existing 6-pounder Model 1841 guns to 3.80", then rifling. This eliminated any deviations from tube wear--a common problem with bronze cannon that had already seen service. The other five types were new pieces all using the smooth curves of the Ordnance profile. The first five variants were bronze, while the final type was iron.
     
    Modern authorities such as Warren Ripley and James Hazlett, however, have suggested that the term "James rifle" only properly applies to 3.80" bore field artillery pieces rifled to fire James' projectiles. They contend that the term does not apply to smoothbores that were later rifled to take the James projectiles in 3.67" caliber or other calibers, and that those should instead be referred to as "Rifled 6 (or other) pounder."
     
    When hostilities commenced, the Federal army also lacked the heavy rifled siege artillery. To fill this void, the army rifled existing smoothbore pieces with the system developed by Charles T. James. Firing shot and shells also designed by James, these newly-rifled smoothbores excelled on the battlefield during the April 1862 bombardment of Fort Pulaski. As the modern Parrott Class entered the field en masse, the James Class weapons retired from the battlefield.
     
    (Right) A James pattern solid shot. The “birdcage” at the base would have been covered by sheet lead which, upon firing the gun, would have expanded into the grooves of the rifling as did the lead surrounding the concavity at the breech end of the Minié ball.
     
    The James Rifle, Type I, was merely a remanufactured Model 1841 6-pounder that has been rifled using the James Rifling System, typically using 15 rifle grooves. These guns were not pure James Rifles, and were externally the same as the typical M1841 6-pounder.
     
    The James Rifle, Type II, was a bronze rifle similar in shape to the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, and was produced by the Ames Manufacturing Company of Chicopee, Massachusetts. It usually has 7 or 10 rifle grooves and a distinctive front sight blade.

    James rifles
    James Rifles.jpg
    Two Model 1829 32-pounder siege and garrison guns rifled with the James method in 1865

    Civil War Rifled Cannon, James Rifle
    14-pounder James Rifle.jpg
    14-pounder James Rifle

    (Right) Two Model 1829 32-pounder siege and garrison guns rifled with the James method. The siege rifle in the foreground is on a siege carriage. The one behind is on an iron, front pintle, barbette carriage.

    Types of Civil War artillery projectiles
    Civil War artillery projectiles.jpg
    Civil War artillery projectiles

        Model: 14-pounder James Rifle
  • Class: Field artillery, light
  • Type: Rifled-gun
  • Manufactured: USA, 1861 - 1862
  • Tube Composition: Bronze or sometimes steel
  • Bore Diameter: 3.8 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1.25 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 14 lb. bolt
  • Tube Length: 73 inches
  • Tube Weight: 915 lbs.
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 1,530 yards
  • No. in North America: 400
  • US Casting Foundries: Ames Manufacturing Co., MA or Miles Greenwood & Co., Cincinnati OH
  • Invented By: Charles Tillinghast James
  • Notes: Characteristics refer to James Rifle, Type II.
  • Model 1841 12-pounder Howitzer
     
    The howitzer was a type of artillery piece characterized by a relatively short barrel and the use of comparatively small propellant charges to propel projectiles at relatively high trajectories, with a steep angle of descent.

    The Model 1841 12-pounder smoothbore howitzer was designed to fire at higher trajectories to hit targets obscured to other artillery guns. It was part of the 1841 US artillery series which also included the 6-pounder smoothbore gun. When the Civil War commenced, these weapons were considered obsolete, and most were replaced with the more effective Napoleons. In Federal service, nearly all 12-pounder howitzers had been replaced by the 12-pounder Napoleons. The Confederates, having a shortage of field pieces, maintained them in their arsenal. Howitzers fired solid shot, spherical case, and canister.

    Civil War howitzer was a smoothbore weapon
    1841 12-pounder Howitzer.jpg
    1841 12-pounder Howitzer

    The 12 pdr. Howitzer was the most effective "close range" field piece of the war for use under 400 yards. Its large shells exacted concentrated firepower, while its light weight, less than 800 lbs, made it highly mobile and easy to position, even by hand. Because of its mobility, the piece was readily adaptable for close infantry support. The 12-pdr howitzer's weakness was its effective range of 1,000 yards, well shy of other guns employed on the battlefield. Hence, its shortcoming made it an easy target for other artillery.

        Model: 1841 12-pounder Howitzer
  • Class: Field artillery, light
  • Type: Howitzer, smoothbore
  • Manufactured: USA, 1841 to 1863
  • Tube Composition: Bronze
  • Bore Diameter: 4.62 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1 lb.
  • Projectiles: 8.9 lb. round balls
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 1072 yards
  • Tube Length: 53 inches
  • Tube Weight: 788 lbs.
  • Carriage Type: No. 1 Field Carriage (900 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Horses Required to Pull: 6
  • No. in North America: approx. 250
  • Notes: Companion to 6 pdr. Smoothbore Field Gun
  • Model 12-pounder Mountain Howitzer
     
    Manufactured by Cyrus Alger & Co. and the Ames Company in the North, and by the Tredegar Ironworks in the South, the 12-pounder Mountain Howitzer was a light weight field artillery piece used by the U.S. Army during the mid-Nineteenth Century, from 1837 to 1870. It was employed during the Mexican–American War, American Indian Wars, and during the American Civil War (primarily in the more rugged western theaters.)
     
    The highly mobile 12-pounder Mountain Howitzer supported infantry and cavalry forces in the rugged western theaters and prairies, and continued its service during the Indian Wars. The versatile field piece was normally transported by being disassembled and carried by three mules, but it could also be hauled easily and quickly by: small carriage drawn by single animal; rapidly disassembled and carried on the backs of pack animals; slightly larger prairie carriage drawn by two animals.

    Civil War Mountain Howitzer
    12-pounder Mountain Howitzer.jpg
    12-pounder Mountain Howitzer

    Although slightly differing models of the Mountain Howitzers were introduced in 1835, 1838, and 1841, the effective range of the piece remained approximately 1000 yards. A veteran of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), several hundred of these diminutive tubes were produced by Union foundries during the Civil War (1861-1865), and the Confederate Tredegar foundry produced approximately 21 additional pieces. A Federal battery of four proved "highly effective" at the decisive battle of Glorieta, New Mexico, and Nathan Bedford Forrest frequently employed Mountain Howitzers for "rapid close-in combat" that he preferred.

        Model: 12-pounder Mountain Howitzer
  • Class: Field artillery, light
  • Type: Howitzer, smoothbore
  • Manufactured: 1835 to 1870
  • Tube Composition: Bronze
  • Bore Diameter: 4.62 inches
  • Powder Chamber: 3.3 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: .5 lbs. Black Powder
  • Projectiles: 8.9 lb. round Shells or Case Shot
  • Effective Range (at 5°): approx. 1,000 yards
  • Tube Length: 38 inches
  • Bronze Tube Weight: 220 lbs.
  • Carriage Type: Pack Carriage or Prairie Carriage
  • No. in North America: approx. 400 to 500
  • Cost in 1861 Dollars: $165(US)
  • Notes: Nicknamed 'Bull Pups' by many gunners.
  • Model 24-pounder Howitzer

    The 24-pounder Howitzer was a bronze smoothbore that complemented the 1841 US artillery arsenal. Being replaced by the modern Napoleon, the 24-pounder Howitzer was uncommon in Federal service in 1862. Confederate artillery, lacking field pieces during the conflict, preserved the heavy and cumbersome 24-pounder in its inventory. Known for its short range accuracy, the 24-pounder unleashed its 18.4 lb. projectile with devastating effect. E. Porter Alexander, General Longstreet's Chief of Artillery for much of the war, called them "my favorite guns."

    Civil War howitzer
    24 pounder Howitzer.jpg
    24-pounder Howitzer

    The howitzer was a short-barreled artillery piece designed to fire large projectiles at high trajectories. Howitzers fired solid shot, spherical case, and canister. The 24-pounders used by the Confederates at Gettysburg were of Austrian manufacture, and are easily distinguished by the twin "handles" on either side of the tube.

    When in defensive positions and field fortifications, 24-pounder Howitzers were extremely effective pieces of ordnance because of their powerful 5.82 inch shells. Their 1400 pound weight, however, made them a difficult to maneuver in the field, and their 1300 yard effective range put them at a disadvantage to other artillery pieces. Nevertheless, infantrymen could not have relished the idea of charging a battery of 24-pdr howitzers.

        Model: 24-pounder Howitzer
  • Type: Field artillery, heavy
  • Class: Howitzer, smoothbore
  • Manufactured: 1841 to 1863
  • Tube Composition: Bronze
  • Bore Diameter: 5.82 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 2 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 18.4 lb. spherical case, common shell, canister
  • Muzzle Velocity: 1,060 fps
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 1,322 yards
  • Tube Length: 65 inches
  • Tube Weight: 1,318 lbs.
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 2,443 lbs.
  • Carriage Type: No. 2 Field Carriage (1,125 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Horses Required to Pull: 6
  • No. in North America: approx. 65
  • Notes: Companion to the 12 pdr. Field Gun & 12 pdr. Napoleon, the Model 1841 24 pdr. Howitzer was the heaviest ordnance intended for use in the field.
  • Model 12-pounder Whitworth Breech-loading Rifle
     
    The 12-pounder Whitworth, designed by Joseph Whitworth and manufactured in England, was a rare gun employed during the Civil War. While the majority of field pieces were muzzle-loaders (loaded from the front), the Whitworth was an interesting forerunner of present-day artillery because it was loaded from the breech (the rear) and had exceptional accuracy over great distance. In 1864 it was stated that, "At 1600 yards the Whitworth gun fired 10 shots with a lateral deviation of only 5 inches." Said degree of accuracy enabled the weapon to be used effectively in counter-battery fire -- with the precision of the sharpshooter's rifle -- and for distance firing over bodies of water. However, it was not popular as an anti-infantry weapon. It had a caliber of 2.75 inches (70 mm), the bore was hexagonal in cross-section, and the projectile was a long bolt that twisted to conform to the rifling. Records and reports indicated that the bolts made a very distinctive eerie sound when fired, which could be distinguished from other projectiles.
     
    Although the rifle was known for its great range and accuracy, it proved difficult to remain in active service. First, ammunition was unique to the rifle, and expensive and difficult to import. Second, the breechloading mechanism was prone to jam, forcing many guns to be loaded as a conventional muzzle-loader. Whitworths were generally associated with the Confederacy, but there was one battery in Federal service in 1861. This battery only saw field service during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862, and for the remainder of the war it augmented the existing defenses around Washington, D.C.

    Civil War breechloading cannon
    12-pounder Whitworth Breech-loading Rifle.jpg
    12-pounder Whitworth Breech-loading Rifle

    Two Whitworth breechloading cannons at Gettysburg
    Whitworth breechloading cannons at Gettysburg.jpg
    English made 12-pounder Whitworth Breech-loading Cannons

    On August 10, 1861, Harper's Weekly described the gun:

    "The Whitworth rifled cannon obtains its remarkable power and accuracy by the adoption of a polygonal spiral bore of uniform pitch, more rapid than could be obtained by grooves. The 12-pounder-one of which was a few days since exhibited in this city—with a bore of 3.2 inches, has one turn in sixty inches; it is eight feet long and breech-loading. The projectile is oblong, made of cast iron, and formed to fit the grooves of the barrel. The breech of the gun is covered with a cap which screws on, and on being removed swings to one side upon a hinge; the projectile is then inserted into the open breech, and followed by a tin cartridge-case containing the powder, and capped by a cake of wax or other lubricating composition; the breech-cap is then swung to and screwed on by its handles, a fuse inserted into the vent, and the gun is discharged. The lubricating matter being carried out with the ball effectually cleanses the gun, and the deposit is afterward withdrawn with the cartridge-case. As there is no exhalation of gases from the breech-cap, one of the worst features of breech-loading guns is avoided. The range of this gun is said to be greater than the Armstrong gun, and its accuracy more positive. Guns of the size herein described cost £300 in England."

        Model: 12-pounder Whitworth Breech-loading Rifle
  • Class: Field artillery, light
  • Type: Rifled-gun
  • Manufactured: England, 1861-1865
  • Tube Composition: Steel
  • Bore Diameter: 2.75 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1.75 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 12 lb. hexagonal bolt
  • Tube Length: 104 inches
  • Tube Weight: 1,092 lbs.
  • Effective Range (at 5°): 2600 yards
  • Maximum Range (at 35°): 10,000 yards
  • No. in North America: approx. 50 (US & CS)
  • Invented By: Sir Joseph Whitworth
  • Casting Foundry: Whitworth Ordnance Company, Manchester, England
  • Notes: Designed as breechloader, but muzzle-loading versions of this weapon were produced.
  • Siege and Garrison Artillery

    Fox, William F. Regimental Losses
    Heavy Artillery regiments with most killed.jpg
    Heavy Artillery regiments with most killed

    Siege and garrison artillery were heavy pieces that could be used either in attacking or defending fortified positions, but the weight and size of siege artillery inhibited it from generally traveling with the army. When required, siege artillery and other material needed for siege operations were assembled into what was known as a siege train and transported to the field.

    (Right) Fox, William F. Regimental Losses in the American Civil War (1889). Heavy Artillery regiments with greatest losses in killed and mortally wounded during a single engagement. First Maine appears twice on the list, along with the Seventh New York H.A. and Ninth New York. With the exception of Cedar Creek and Monocacy, all losses occurred during the Overland Campaign (1864) and Siege of Petersburg (1864-65).
     
    To meet the Union shortfall in the infantry ranks caused by attrition from three years of bloody Civil War, many Union heavy artillery regiments were redesignated as provisional infantry regiments in 1864 and rushed to the front lines during the Overland Campaign and into the trenches of Petersburg. While most heavy artillerists had never fired a shot in battle, they were now confronted by determined veteran Confederate infantry in some of deadliest battles of the war. From lines of battle at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Court House, and Cold Harbor, to the nearly 10 month Siege of Petersburg it caused the heavy artillery units to sustain the majority, if not all, of their casualties during the last year of the war. In only ten months, the First Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment, for example, suffered more in killed or mortally wounded than any other Union regiment, including infantry, cavalry, and artillery, during the entire four year Civil War. At the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, VA., the First Maine lost 147 artillerists (turned infantry) in killed or mortally wounded and another 329 in wounded, only to suffer an additional 210 in killed the following month at Petersburg:
     
    On June 18, 1864, 900 men of the First Maine Heavy Artillery Regiment, assigned as provisional infantry, advanced across a cornfield when the Confederate line erupted in volleys of mortal fire at the Mainers. Unsupported on their flanks, the Maine men were subjected to fire that seemingly hit from every angle. Within a mere seven minutes, a staggering 210 men, including 13 officers, lay dead on the field, while 422 additional First Mainers were wounded, and not a single man had come close to reaching the enemy line. Although the regiment had advanced into battle, June 18, with 900 Mainers, it had lost 632 of Maine's finest in 420 seconds, or 3 men every two seconds. In the span of one month, from Spotsylvania to Petersburg, the First Maine H.A. had been decimated with an unfathomable loss of 357 in killed or mortally wounded, and 751 of the unit's men had been wounded. Grand Total Casualties: 1,108. See also Maine Civil War History.
     
    Prior to May 1864, the First Maine had enjoyed, according to many, comfy garrison duty at Washington. Inconceivably, this regiment had suffered all its losses in merely 10 months while deployed in the field as provisional infantry. The inexplicable casualties for the First Maine in those 10 months were as follows: 23 officers in killed or mortally wounded; 400 enlisted killed or mortally wounded; 260 died of disease, as prisoners of war, and from all deaths other than battle. Grand Total Deaths: 683. Total Wounded: 860 (from amputations to simple flesh wounds). Grand Total Casualties: 1,543. Many of the soldiers with flesh wounds continued to muster, some being wounded a second and even third time, until hostilities ceased in 1865. The First Maine had suffered the greatest loss of life for any regiment, infantry and cavalry included, during the four year conflict. In addition, this H.A. unit suffered the greatest loss in killed during a single engagement, 210, at Petersburg. The regiment, setting yet another Civil War record, had lost 23 of its finest officers in the line of fire; more officers in killed than any other Union regiment, including infantry and cavalry. See also Civil War Artillery Losses

    Siege guns and mortars were vital at Petersburg
    Siege of Petersburg Trenches.jpg
    Abatis in front of Federal trench lines at Petersburg in 1865

    Union siege line
    Union siege line around Petersburg.jpg
    A section of the Union siege line around Petersburg

    (Left) A section of the Union siege line around Petersburg. Note the use of wickerware (gabions), sharpened stakes (fraises), and branches (abatis) to protect the lines. (Right) Fort Sedgwick, Petersburg, VA., with trenches protected by abatis and fraises.

    Prior to the war, the U.S. Army had a variety of iron smoothbore siege guns (12-, 18-, and 24-pounders) and howitzers (24-pounder and 8-inch), but none of these pieces were used during the war as siege artillery. The advent of rifled artillery made them obsolete.
     
    Robert Parker Parrott developed a new form of rifled artillery using a cast iron barrel with a reinforcing wrought iron band around the breech. He initially produced 2.9-inch (10-pounder) and 3.67-inch (20-pounder) rifles for the field artillery, and later manufactured four larger rifled guns that were used as siege artillery. These heavy Parrott rifles became the mainstays of the Federal siege train.
     
    Robert Parker Parrott (October 5, 1804 – December 24, 1877) graduated third in the Class of 1824 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; subsequently served as an instructor at West Point; in 1836 appointed superintendent of West Point Iron and Cannon Foundry in Cold Spring, New York; 1860 produced the Parrott rifle gun, an innovative rifled cannon which was manufactured in several sizes. The largest, the 300-pounder version weighed 26,000 lb (11,800 kg), and its projectile weighed 300 lb (140 kg). Parrott guns remained in demand by both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War; 1867, Parrott ended his superintendency of the West Point Foundry to concentrate on the ironworks in Orange County; continued to experiment with artillery shells and fuzes at West Point until his death at Cold Spring at the age of 73.
     
    The Civil War was the first major war to see the use of rifled artillery. Rifling gave the guns greater velocity, range, accuracy and penetrating power, making smoothbore siege guns obsolete. The ranges of these guns was somewhat problematic. The 6.4 inch (100-pounder) Parrott rifle, for example, had a maximum range of 8,845 yards (5 mi; 8 km). Lacking suitable sights and an effective system of directing fire on targets beyond line of sight (fire control system), targets that could not be viewed from the gun, inhibited the effective range of the rifled guns.

    300-pounder Parrott rifle on Morris Island, S.C.
    300-pounder Parrott rifle.jpg
    Only three 10-inch (300-pounder) Parrotts saw service during the Civil War

    Principal Siege and Garrison guns with characteristics

    Weapon
    Weight of projectile
    Weight of gun
    Range and Elevation (in yards)
    4.2 inch Parrott rifle
    (30-pdr Parrott rifle)
    29 lb
    (13 kg) shell
    4,200 lb.
    6,700 yd. @ 25°
    6.4-inch Parrott rifle
    (100-pdr Parrott rifle)
    80 lb (36 kg) or 100 lb (45 kg) shell
    9,700 lb.
    8,845 yd. @ 35°
    8-inch Parrott rifle
    (200-pdr Parrott rifle)
    200 lb
    (91 kg) shell
    16,500 lb.
    8000 yd. @35°
    10-inch Parrott rifle
    (300-pdr Parrott rifle)
    300 lb (140 kg) shell
    26,500 lb.
    ---

    (Right) The 300-pound solution on Morris Island, S.C., in 1863. A 10-inch (300-pounder) Parrott rifle located at Battery Strong on Morris Island, S.C. The 10-inch Parrott rifle weighed 26,900 pounds (12,200 kg) and was one of the largest rifled artillery pieces in use during the Civil War and it could fire an explosive projectile that weighed 250 pounds at a distance of 9,000 yards (greater than 5 miles). This 10-inch Parrott (standard length of 13 feet) lost eighteen inches off its muzzle when it fired its 27th round that prematurely exploded inside the tube. Innovative Union troops managed to file the ragged edges down and kept this battery in action with little ill effect. The gun fired another 371 rounds, without any appreciable difference in range or accuracy, before the "weapon cracked and was declared useless." Although only three 300-pounder Parrotts were manufactured during the Civil War, the powerful trinity were stationed on Morris Island, S.C., and engaged during the Campaign against Charleston.
     
    The most prominent siege and garrison gun on the battlefield belonged to the Parrott Class.
     
    Parrotts were manufactured with a combination of cast and wrought iron. The cast iron made for an accurate gun, but was brittle enough to suffer fractures. Hence, a large wrought iron reinforcing band was overlaid on the breech to give it additional strength. There were prior cannons designed this way, but the method of securing this band was the innovation that allowed the Parrott to overcome the deficiencies of these earlier models. It was applied to the gun red-hot and then the gun was turned while pouring water down the muzzle, allowing the band to attach uniformly. By the end of the Civil War, both sides were using this type of gun extensively.
     
    Parrott rifles were manufactured in different sizes, from 10-pounders up to the rare 300-pounder. In the field, the 10- and 20-pounders were used by both armies. The 20-pounder was the largest field gun used during the war, with the barrel alone weighing over 1,800 pounds. The smaller size was much more prevalent; it came in two bore sizes: 2.9 inch (74 mm)and 3.0-in (76 mm). Confederate forces used both bore sizes during the war, which added to the complication of supplying the appropriate ammunition to its batteries. Until 1864, Union batteries used only the 2.9-in. The M1863, with a 3-in bore, had firing characteristics similar to the earlier model; it can be recognized by its straight barrel, without muzzle-swell. Its range was up to 2,000 yards (1,800 m) with a trained crew.
     
    Versions of the 20-, 30-, 60-, and 100-pound Parrotts were also used by the Union Navy. The 100-pound naval Parrott could achieve a range of 6900 yards (6300 meters) at an elevation of 25 degrees, or fire an 80-pound shell 7810 yards (7140 m) at 30 degrees elevation.
     
    Although accurate, as well as less costly and easier to produce than most rifled artillery guns, the Parrott had a poor reputation for safety and they were shunned by many artillerists. At the end of 1862 some sought to eliminate the Parrott altogether, preferring the 3-inch Ordnance rifle. During battles when the Parrott gun would burst, artillerists would chip out the jagged parts and continue firing.
     
    Model 30-pounder Parrott Rifle

    30-pounder Parrott rifle
    30-pounder Parrott rifle.jpg
    Classified as Siege and Garrison, but 30-pounder Parrotts were occasionally used as Field artillery

    30-pounder Parrott guns near Charleston, S.C.
    30 pounder parrott.jpg
    Two 4.2-inch (30-pounder) Parrott rifles and stacks of shells inside Fort Putnam on Morris Island

    (Left) Two 4.2-inch (30-pounder) Parrott rifles and stacks of shells inside Fort Putnam on Morris Island, South Carolina, during the Campaign against Charleston Harbor. Classified as siege and garrison, the daunting but sluggish 3.25 ton 30-pounder was occasionally transported by 10 horses, as it eked across the countryside, and employed as impressive field artillery. (Right) 30-pounder Parrott Rifle at Fort Pulaski National Monument.
     
    4.2-inch (30-pounder) Parrott rifle. The 4.2-inch (30-pounder) rifles were the most widely used of the Parrott siege guns. It was mounted on a conventional siege carriage. The early pattern guns had the elevating screw under the breech, while newer pattern gun had a long screw running through the cascabel. The long elevating screws of the newer models was subject to breaking. The 4.2-inch Parrott rifles were preferred over the 4.5-inch siege rifles because of the superiority of Parrott shells over the various shells available for the 4.5-inch siege rifle. The 4.2-inch Parrott rifles did not have the same problems with bursting that were with found with the larger Parrott rifles. During the siege of Petersburg 44 4.2-inch Parrott rifles fired 12,209 rounds. Only one gun burst when a shell detonated before clearing the muzzle. One 4.2-inch Parrott rifle also burst during the Campaign against Charleston Harbor, but only after it had fired 4,606 rounds.

        Model: 30-pounder Parrott Rifle
  • Class: Siege and Garrison (common); Field, heavy (rare)
  • Type: Rifled-gun
  • Manufactured: USA and CSA; 1861 to 1866
  • Tube Composition: Cast Iron, Wrought Iron Breech Band
  • Bore Diameter: 4.2 inches
  • Rifling Type: 5 grooves, 1.3 inches wide, right hand gain twist
  • Standard Powder Charge: 3.25 lbs. Black Powder
  • Projectiles: 24 lb. Bolts, 24 to 29 lb. Shells
  • Range (at 15°): 4,800 yards (2.7 miles)
  • Max Range (at 35°): 8,453 yards (4.8 miles)
  • Tube Length: 131.5 inches
  • Tube Weight: 4,200 lbs. (2.1 tons)
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 6,500 lbs. (3.25 tons)
  • Carriage Type: No. 2 Siege Carriage (2,300 lbs.)
  • Horses Required to Pull: 10
  • No. in North America: 391
  • Invented By: Robert Parker Parrott in 1861
  • US Casting Foundry: West Point Foundry, Cold Spring, NY
  • CS Casting Foundry: Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA
  • Model 100-pounder Parrott Rifle

    100-pounder Parrotts
    100-pounder Parrotts.jpg
    100 pounder Parrott rifles at Union Battery Rosecrans are trained upon Battery Wagner in 1863

    The 6.4-inch (100-pounder) Parrott rifle was a dominant siege gun capable of great accuracy and long range with heavy projectiles. For use as a siege gun, it was mounted on a front pintle barbette carriage. The 100-pounder Parrott had a maximum range of 3100 yards at 9 degrees elevation, usually fired bolt (solid shot) and shell projectiles, with case shot as an option. Fuze and projectile inventor Andrew Hotchkiss supplied bolts and shells for the 6.4-inch Parrott rifles, while John P. Schenkl provided bolts and shells, along with case shot projectiles. The heavy rifle did, however, tend to burst. Of the three hundred plus 6.4-inch Parrott riles in service with the U.S. Navy, 19 burst. A total of 585 (233 Army; 352 Navy) massive 100-pounder Parrotts were manufactured exclusively at West Point Foundry. The Union Army relied on this piece for the duration of the conflict because of its outstanding performance. During the Campaign against Charleston Harbor, nevertheless, one burst at salvo number 122 and another burst after firing 1,151 rounds. The army was not deterred, and its commitment and enthusiasm for the heavy gun was voiced on many occasions. General Quincy A. Gilmore, commander of the Federal forces at Charleston, said “[t]here is, perhaps, no better system of rifled cannon than Parrotts; certainly none more simple in construction, more easily understood, or that can with more safety be placed in the hands of inexperienced men for use.” The 100-pounders were deployed against numerous siege targets, including: Yorktown, Virginia; Fort Sumter and Battery Wagner, South Carolina; and Richmond and Petersburg, VA. Although the Washington, D.C., area had 68 major enclosed forts, as well as 93 prepared (but unarmed) batteries for field guns, during the Civil War, few guns were fired in anger. The 6.4 inch Parrotts were employed in the defenses of Washington, and salvos were fired in July 1864 during Gen. Jubal Early's advance on the capitol. Fort DeRussy, one of the numerous fortifications protecting Washington, fired its impressive 100-pounder 28 times to deter the 12-15,000 advancing Confederates. Although Early refused to advance within close proximity of Washington for a myriad of reasons, the 100-pounders should be included in the equation. By 1865, the formidable 100-pounder Parrott had been deployed to every major theater of the conflict.

    Defenses of Washington, DC
    100-pounder Parrott Rifle.jpg
    3d Mass. Heavy Artillery and 100-pdr. Parrott gun on iron barbette carriage at Fort Totten

    Mixed Artillery Battery during Siege of Petersburg
    100-pounder Parrott rifle battery.jpg
    100-pounder Parrott rifles on each flank at Fort Brady, Petersburg, VA.

    (Left) Fort Brady, near Petersburg, VA, Battery of Parrott guns manned by Company C, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery in 1865. Two 6.4-inch 100-pounder Parrott rifles, on the flanks, and two 4.2-inch 30-pounder Parrotts, center on siege carriages, inside Fort Brady during the Siege of Petersburg in 1865. The 6.4-inch rifles are on iron, front pintle, barbette carriages and the 4.2-inch rifles are on siege carriages. During the Battle of Trent's Reach, Confederate gunners across the river disabled the enormous 100-pounder Parrott rifle seen in the foreground. Union photographers Andrew J. Russell and T.C. Roche arrived south of Richmond in 1865 and recorded some of the most important images of Fort Brady. This view was taken from the parapet and depicts the fort's fighting battery. In the six months of Fort Brady's wartime existence, these guns fired 1,356 rounds. (Right) Defenses of Washington. Washington, D.C. (known as Washington City at the time), and officers of Companies A and B, 3rd Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, and crew of 100-pdr. Parrott gun on iron barbette carriage at Fort Totten.
     
    Model 200-pounder Parrott Rifle
     
     The 8-inch (200-pounder) Parrott rifle was essentially an enlarged 6.4-inch Parrott rifle with similar qualities. One of the most famous 8-inch Parrott rifles was the “Swamp Angel” used for the bombardment of the city of Charleston in 1863, but it burst during its 36th discharge.

    The Union Army rated the 200-pounder based on the weight of the long projectile preferred for land use, while the Union Navy preferred a shorter, lighter projectile to achieve higher velocities at short range. Hence the different “pounder” designation. The 8-inch Parrott's tube alone was more than two and a half tons heavier than the smaller 6.4-inch tube. West Point Foundry produced 91 of the 8-inch Parrotts for the army and 87 for the navy between March 1862 and July 1865. Similar to the 6.4-inch Parrotts, the army deployed the 8-inch rifles in seacoast forts and for siege operations, particularly around Charleston. The navy, however, used the 8-inch Parrotts on pivot mounts and in monitor turrets.
     
    Both the 6.4-inch Parrott and the heavier 8-inch model's solid bolt projectiles were designed with warships and fortifications as primary targets. For anti-ship use, the navy preferred a lighter bolt than the army. Although navy ordinance officers focused on Confederate ironclad targets, typically such engagements were close range affairs. Navy instructions called for the use of light weight bolt with “chilled” noses. Said projectiles accelerated rapidly maximizing penetration under 1000 yards, but at the sacrifice of accuracy and effectiveness at longer ranges. The shot for the navy’s 8-inch Parrotts weighed between 125 and 150 pounds and was between 12 and 14 inches long.
     
    But the army, however, preferred to engage enemy ironclads at greater ranges, and heavier bolts offered better accuracy and penetrating force at those ranges. Army bolts weighed 200 pounds and were approximately 17 inches in length. The 200-pounder Parrotts also used “long” and “short” Parrott shells, but the service distinction appears less explicit. The navy used anything available at several points in the war, particularly during the 1864 bombardment of Fort Fisher, North Carolina. But perhaps the most famous of the 8-inch shells were those hurled by the “Swamp Angel” into Charleston, South Carolina in 1863. 
     
    Other Parrott shells fired into Charleston included incendiary rounds. West Point Foundry produced 500 of these in 1863, in both single and double cavity shells. A hexagonal-headed bolt in the base of the shell covered an opening into which the incendiary mixture was loaded. Besides Parrott shells, the army used Schenkl shells in the Charleston area. Due to concerns about Parrott projectile performance, the navy ordered mass quantities of Schenkl 8-inch projectiles. The projectiles and carriages allowed the 8-inch Parrotts to batter enemy ships as well as fortifications.

    200-pounder Parrott gun in 1865
    200-pounder Parrott gun.jpg
    A 200-pound Parrott rifle in Fort Gregg on Morris Island, South Carolina

    300-pounder Parrott was the largest Parrott gun
    300-pounder Parrott.jpg
    Morris Island, South Carolina. 300-pounder Parrott Rifle after bursting of muzzle in 1863

    The famous 200-pounder Parrott rifle known as the "Swamp Angel" was used by Brig. Gen. Quincy Adams Gillmore to bombard Charleston. It was manned by the 11th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment. On August 21, 1863, Gillmore sent Confederate general P. G. T. Beauregard an ultimatum to abandon heavily fortified positions at Morris Island or the city of Charleston would be shelled. When the positions were not evacuated within a few hours, Gillmore ordered the Parrott rifle to fire on the city. Between August 22 and August 23, the "Swamp Angel" fired on the city 36 times (the gun burst on the 36th round and wounded 4 of its crew), using many incendiary shells which caused little damage and few casualties. Although the weapon caused negligible damage to the city itself, it did, however, terrorize its populace.
     
    The indiscriminate shelling of Charleston has been justified by many historians. Some have stated that Charleston was a center for munitions manufacturing, while others proclaimed that the city was the seat of the rebellion. With accurate firing, which the 200-pounder appreciated, perhaps the initial statement can be justified, but the latter claim for bombing Charleston indiscriminately definitively goes to motive. Another historian wrote that under the "existing rules of warfare, Charleston was a legitimate target. It was an armed camp." Sherman also justified the indiscriminate targeting of cities and homes during the Civil War by stating that Southern cities collectively assisted the Confederate Army and prolonged the war. Sherman stated in a letter to the City Council of Georgia on September 12, 1864, that "You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." Sherman also boasted that "I will make Georgia howl!"

    200-pounder Parrott rifle, aka Swamp Angel
    Swamp Angel.jpg
    Union Swamp Angel on Morris Island, SC, in 1863

    Sherman made his motive clear, I will make Georgia howl. Georgia, at that time, consisted primarily of civilians: from babies, women, disabled, and the elderly. Georgia had lost most of her abled-bodied men to the fighting some three years before Sherman staked his position. In 1864, when Sherman made many of his statements, the majority of Georgia's fit men were in other states fighting in pitched battles and in trench warfare. But where there was an action, there was a motive. Sherman was therefore known as the general who employed "total war."
     
    The motive for shelling Charleston indiscriminately with the behemoth, the "Swamp Angel," was stated explicitly by Gillmore himself: "I expected no battlefield victory from the shelling, but felt that valuable artillery techniques were learned."
     
    Nevertheless, many civilians had already left Charleston before the campaign had begun and those who remained merely relocated from the city's lower regions to areas out of range of the Federal guns. The city's manufacturing and industrial work continued, and all maritime activity was shifted up river. While the so-called "Swamp Angel" entertained Union soldiers and the majority of the Northern press, it also unleashed a disgust from some Northerners who believed that firing on helpless, unarmed civilians was an atrocity not approved by any civilized society, but perpetrated by some who desired revenge on a people nesting in the hotbed of the rebellion. In a message to Gillmore, Gen. Beauregard, commanding forces in Charleston, condemned the indiscriminate bombardment of the city and threatened retaliation. Foreign consuls equally leveled charges against the Union action.
     
    Model 300-pounder Parrott Rifle
     
    10-inch (300-pounder) Parrott rifle. The largest of the Parrott Class, only three 10-inch (300-pounder) Parrotts saw service during the war. The three 300-pounders were stationed on Morris Island during the Campaign against Charleston Harbor, and were mounted on a center pintle, barbette carriage. The 100, 200, and 300-pound Parrotts were basically different sizes of the exact rifle, but artillerists had preferences. The 10-inch Parrott was considered an enlarged 8-inch Parrott rifle, although the 300-pounder was believed to be more accurate than the 8-inch rifle. Like the other large Parrotts, the 10-inch fired solid bolts, shells, and case shot. One 10-inch Parrott rifle on Morris Island was disabled after the premature detonation of a shell, which destroyed 18 inches of its muzzle. The damaged end of the muzzle was trimmed even by soldiers working with cold chisels, and the gun fired an additional 370 salvos without any appreciable difference in range or accuracy. The gun was subsequently permanently disabled with the premature detonation of another shell.
     
    By summer 1863, Union forces became frustrated by the heavily fortified Confederate position at Fort Sumter, and brought to bear the 10-inch (250 mm) Parrott, along with several smaller cannons. Fort Sumter was on the receiving end of salvos from two 80-pounder Whitworths, nine 100-pounder Parrotts, six 200-pounder Parrotts, and one 300-pounder Parrott. It was widely believed in the North that the massive 10-inch Parrott would finally break the previously impenetrable walls of the fort, which had become the symbol of stalwart steadfastness for the Confederacy, but the cannon failed. As Sumter crumbled, it closely resembled a concrete earthwork that was impervious to artillery fire.
     
    Characteristics: Model 10-inch (300-lb) Parrott rifle; origin United States; class heavy / siege; type rifled-gun; inventor Robert Parker Parrott; manufacturer West Point Foundry, Cold Springs, New York; total production 3; length 13 feet (3.9264 meters); weight 26,900 pounds (13.45 tons; 12,201.6 kg); projectile 300-lb (136 kg); charge 26-lb (11.793 kg); maximum range and elevation 9,000 yards (greater than 5 miles; 8.2296 kilometers) at 30 degrees; flight time 202.5 seconds estimated.
     
    While only three 10-inch (300-pounder) Parrotts engaged during the conflict, all three were located on Morris Island during the Campaign against Charleston Harbor. The 300-pounder was one of the largest guns in service during the war. The largest gun, however, was the colossal 115,200 pound 1864 20-inch Rodman cannon, more commonly known as the 20-inch Rodman gun, but the behemoth never fired a shot in anger, only 8 practice rounds.
     
    Principal characteristics of Siege and Garrison Artillery

    Seige and Garrison Artillery
    Artillery
    Piece
    Bore
    diameter
    (inches)
    Material Length
    of tube
    (inches)
    Weight
    of tube
    (pounds)
    Weight of
    projectile
    (pounds)
    Weight of
    charge
    (pounds)
    Range at 5°
    elevation
    (yards)
    4 1/2-inch Rifle 4.50 Iron 133.0 3,450 33.0 3.50 2,078
    30-pdr Parrott Rifle 4.50 Iron 136.00 4,200 1 29.0 3.75 2,200
    24-pdr Gun 5.82 Iron 124.00 6,240 24.4 6.00 1,901
    18-pdr Gun 5.30 Iron 123.25 4,680 18.5 4.50 1,592
    12-pdr Gun 4.62 Iron 116.00 3,120 12.3 4.00 1,834
    8-inch Howitzer 8.00 Iron 61.50 2,614 1 50.5 4.00 1,241
    8-inch Mortar 8.00 Iron 22.50 930 1 44.5 3.75 2 1,200
    10-inch Mortar 10.00 Iron 28.00 1,852 1 87.5 4.00 2 2,100
    24-pdr Coehorn Mortar 5.82 Bronze 16.32 164 1 17.0 0.50 2,4 1,200

    1. Weight of shell.
    2. Mortar ranges are given at an elevation of 45°.
    3. Bore length only.
    4. Designed to be moved and operated by three men.
    5. Obtained ranges greater than 4,812 yards with shell and 27° elevation.
    6. Obtained ranges greater than 5,600 yards with shell and 39° elevation.
    7. Obtained ranges of 4,680 yards with a 315-lb. shell and 50 lbs. powder at 25°.
    8. Extreme range of 8,428 yards.
    9. Muzzle-loading Armstrongs had practically identical dimensions and ranges.

    Model 4.5-inch Siege Rifle
     
    The 4.5-inch Siege rifle looks like a larger version of the 3-inch ordnance rifle and it is often called a 4.5-ordnance rifle. However, the 4.5-inch Siege rifle was of conventional cast iron construction and did not use the welded wrought iron construction of the 3-inch Ordnance rifle. The 4.5-inch Siege rifle fired shells weighing about 30 pounds (depending on the specific type of shell). It weighed 3,450 pounds and was 133 inches long. The gun’s only flaw was that it suffered from excessive erosion of the vent caused by the hot gasses flowing through the vent when the gun was fired. The vent could be too large to fire the gun after 400 discharges. This problem could be remedied by insertion of a copper vent piece.

    4.5 inch Siege Rifle
    4.5 inch Siege Rifle.jpg
    4.5 inch Siege Rifle was known for its superior range, accuracy, and mobility

    In addition to its use as siege artillery, two batteries of 4.5- siege rifles (8 guns total) accompanied the Army of the Potomac as “heavy” field artillery between 1862 and 1864. The big guns were intended for long range firing against Confederate artillery. Although the guns showed very good mobility, they saw little action.

        Model: 4.5 inch Siege Rifle
  • Class: Siege and Garrison (common); Field, heavy (common) 
  • Type: Rifled
  • Manufacture: USA, 1861-1866
  • Tube Composition: Cast Iron
  • Bore Diameter: 4.5 inches
  • Rifling Type: 9 rifle grooves
  • Standard Powder Charge: 3.25 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 30 lbs. Hotchkiss or Schenkl Shells
  • Effective Range (at 10°): 3,265 yards
  • Tube Length: 133 inches
  • Tube Weight: 3,450 lbs.
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 5,750 lbs. (2.8 tons)
  • Carriage Type: No. 2 Siege Carriage (2,300 lbs.)
  • Horses Required to Pull: 8
  • No. in North America: 113
  • US Casting Foundries: Fort Pitt Foundary, PA
  • Notes: More reliable than the 20 pdr. Parrott Rifle and 800 lbs. lighter than the 30 pdr. Parrott Rifle
  • Siege and Seacoast Mortars

    Mortars were short, smoothbore cannon designed to throw large, hollow projectiles at high elevations with a small charge of powder: Civil War-era mortars were generally used in coastal defense forts, aboard mortar boats, and during siege operations. Mortars were classed as "siege" or "seacoast" guns. The 8-inch and 10-inch mortar siege guns, while cumbersome, could be transported on mortar wagons. The longer and heavier seacoast models of the 10-inch and the colossal 13-inch mortars were classified as "seacoast," as they could only be transported with great difficulty by rail or ship.
     
    Seacoast artillery made rapid technological advances from the 1840s through the Civil War. The 32- and 42-pounder seacoast guns (with the James System), 8- and 10-seacoast mortars, were a product of 1841--all excellent weapons for the era. Yet these weapons were soon superseded by a number of much more sophisticated heavy weapons that saw far-reaching impact on future artillery trends. The most significant progress made during the period occurred in the development of heavy-caliber, long range shell guns.

    Civil War siege and seacoast mortars
    13 inch mortar the dictator Civil Warjpg
    13-inch seacoast mortar, Model 1861, "The Dictator" on railroad cars during the siege of Petersburg.

    Three primary types of mortars were used during the war: siege and garrison (light), seacoast (heavy), and Coehorns were also classified as siege and garrison. While guns were intended to batter down the walls of a fortification during a siege, mortars were designed to fire explosive shells over the walls of the fortification, killing garrison personnel, forcing the garrison to stay in bombproof shelters, and preventing the garrison from serving their guns and repairing damage caused by the bombardment. Mortars could destroy structures inside the fortification such as barracks and kitchens, and, during siege operations, could accurately penetrate trenches killing personnel. With precision, mortars could also destroy targets that were accustomed to the safety provided by defilade, and heavier mortar shells could penetrate magazines and bombproof shelters.
     
    In defense of fortifications, siege and garrison mortars could harass work parties constructing siege batteries and trenches. They could also be used for fire suppression, known as counter-battery fire, against siege batteries. Seacoast mortars could penetrate the decks of wooden ships and even threaten the deck plating of ironclad vessels.
     
    The 8-inch and 10-inch siege mortars had a maximum ranges of 2,225 and 2,064 yards, respectively, and the 13-inch seacoast mortar had a maximum range of 4,300 yards, but their effective ranges were much shorter. For the 8-inch siege mortar at a range of 800 yards, nearly 50% of the shells would fall within a 50-yard radius of the target. With the 10-inch siege mortars at 875 yards, approximately 60% of the shells would fall within a 40-yard radius of the target. The 13-inch seacoast mortar could be expected to be more accurate. Coehorn mortars were lighter mortars, designed to be brought well forward in the trenches. With the replacement of masonry fortifications with earthen works, mortars became more important. Works that could resist the horizontal fire of guns were still vulnerable to the vertical fire of mortars.
     
    The principal siege and seacoast mortars widely used when the Civil War commenced

    Weapon
    Weight of shell
    Weight of mortar
    Weight of bed
    Model 1841 Coehorn mortar (5.82-inch)
    17 lb.
    164 lb.
    132 lb.
    Model 1841 8-inch siege mortar
    44 lb.
    930 lb.
    920 lb.
    Model 1841 10-inch siege mortar
    88 lb.
    1,852 lb.
    1,830 lb.
    Model 1841 10-inch seacoast mortar
    88 lb.
    5,775 lb.
    ---
    Model 1861 13-inch seacoast mortar
    197 lb.
    17,120 lb.
    ---

    Model 1841 24-pounder Coehorn Mortar

    Mortar Firing.jpg

    Patterned after earlier models developed by Baron Menno Van Coehorn in 1692, the 1841 24-pounder Coehorn fired an explosive 24 pound projectile, known as a bomb. Initially used during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the weapon was employed by both Union and Confederate forces during siege operations. Because of the shortage of bronze in the South, however, iron was the substitute.

    The Coehorn mortar, a small muzzle-loading mortar that principally fired shells, was mounted on a block or platform and was mobile as well as effective in sieges. The Union Army had the brass 24-pounder Coehorn that weighed 164 pounds, or 296 pounds when mounted on it's four-handled oak mortar bed. Although two men could move this mortar, it was maneuvered quickly into position with a four man crew. The Union Artillery manual, however, indicated the nominal crew was three – a gunner and two cannoneers.

    Explosive shells could be lobbed into masked and obstructed targets from 25 to 1,200 yards with the Coehorn. Although the Model 1841 24 pdr. Coehorn was the most widely used by the Union military, the Confederate army did employ the iron cast 12-pounder version, with a bore of 4.62 inches, as well larger iron 24-pdrs. As the war progressed, trench warfare became prevalent, and mortars were increasingly deployed. With a one-half ounce charge and at 45 degrees, the 24-pounder Coehorn could fire and hammer close targets of 25 yards. The eight-ounce charge at said trajectory, however, would strike the enemy at a distance of 1,200 yards. The 12-pounder Coehorn, meanwhile, was classified as light and, being highly mobile, was used generally in siege operations.

    Broadway Landing, Appomattox River, Virginia.
    24-pounder Coehorn mortar.jpg
    Confederate iron 24-pounder Coehorn mortar in 1865

        Model: 24-pounder 1841 Coehorn Mortar
  • Class: Siege
  • Type: Mortar, smoothbore 
  • Manufactured: 1841-1865
  • Tube Composition: Bronze (Majority of C.S. variants were cast in iron)
  • Bore Diameter: 5.82 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1/2 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 16.8 lbs. Round Mortar Shells
  • Tube Length: 16.3 inches
  • Tube Weight: 164 lbs.
  • Overall Weight: 296 lbs.
  • Range (at 45°): 1,200 yards
  • No. in North America: 279
  • Invented By: Dutch inventor, Baron van Menno Coehoorn
  • Notes: Inexpensive mortar that was widely employed by both Union and Confederate forces. Capable of destroying obstructed targets with its high angle trajectory.
  • Model 8-inch Siege Mortar

    Broadway Landing, Richmond, VA., 1865
    Model 1841 8-inch siege mortar.jpg
    Model 1841 8-inch siege mortar

    The 8-inch Siege Mortar was classified as light and, being highly mobile, engaged in both siege and sea operations. Naval or sea mortars, were fired from ships against enemy defenses, and from sea as counter-battery fire against fortifications. Although the nomenclature "siege" designates the mortar's classification, the versatile 8-inch mortar, however, was employed from field, seacoast, siege and garrison, to mortar boats.
     
    According to U.S. ordnance manuals, seacoast mortars belonged to the "heavy" class, and were procured to defend the coastline, harbors, ports, and cities by applying high angle fire against enemy ships. General trajectory was 45 degrees for all mortars, but due to the exigencies of war, seacoast and the siege and garrison mortars were often times interchanged, as was demonstrated with the colossal 13-inch seacoast mortar.
     
    Unlike guns and howitzers that relied on line of sight firing, mortars calculated weight of both projectile and powder charge, fuze type, and distance to target to acquire target positioning. Distance and timing were also critical factors for effective mortar fire, because a target at 4,500 yards required approximately 30 seconds of flight time (important when firing on ships). On the receiving end of mortar projectiles, many soldiers stated that the difference in sound distinguished the mortar from other artillery weapons. Although mortar fire was not too accurate, due to the lack of line of sight capability, the crew quickly performed firing adjustments since most of their targets, such as trenches and fortifications, were obviously stationary.
     
    In 1839, with U.S. modernization of its artillery arsenal, the Ordnance Board sought to add to its arsenal the pattern of 8- and 10-inch siege mortars. Subsequently, contracts were secured in 1841 for both sizes. The U.S. Army was satisfied with the overall performance of the mortars during the Mexican War, and, with further upgrading required to protect the nation's coast, manufacturing of larger seacoast mortars followed. The 8-inch mortars were designated as siege mortars, and the 10-inch models were procured with both siege and seacoast designations, and the massive Model 1861 13-inch Seacoast Mortar was assigned primarily to seacoast duty, and was classified by the Army as seacoast for locations such as fortifications and coastal defenses, and classified as Navy or sea while aboard warships.
     
    In 1841 the U.S. Army procured a total of 41 Model 1841 8-inch Mortars, and in 1861, a slightly modified version was manufactured. The Model 1861 8-inch Mortar had a slightly longer bore, allowing a modest improvement on firing distances, and a total of 170 were produced. Differences between 1841 and 1861 models included slight increases: bore length from 15 to 16 inches, weight from 925 to 1,010 lbs., 1.6 lb. to the 2 lb. charge, retained its earlier 46 lb. shell, range increased from 1,200 to 1,275 yards.

    Model 10-inch Mortar

    Artillery Piece Overall Length (inches) Weight (pounds) Weight of Loaded Shell (lbs.) Powder Charge (pounds) Range (yards) Total Produced Manufacturers
    Model 1841 10-inch Siege Mortar
    28 1,800 98 4 2,100 98 Alger, Fort Pitt, West Point
    Model 1841 10-inch Seacoast Mortar
    46 5,775 98 10 4,250 33 Alger, West Point
    Model 1861 10-inch Siege Mortar
    29.25 1,900 98 4 2,235 150 Alger, Fort Pitt, S-McM
    Model 1861 10-inch Seacoast Mortar
    49.25 7,300 98 12 4,536 8 Alger

    Union Seacoast Mortars, aka Heavy Artillery
    Model 1841 10 in. seacoast mortars.jpg
    Model 1841 10 in. seacoast mortars

    The earlier Model 8- and 10-inch mortars from the 1840s experienced upgrades in 1861, which included longer bores (barrels) that enabled the larger versions to achieve greater distances. The Model 10-inch Seacoast Mortar weighed approximately 7,300 pounds and, elevated at 45 degrees, was capable of delivering the 98-lb. explosive shell to its destination of 4,536 yards, or greater than 2.5 miles, which was nearly twice the range of the Model 10-in. Siege Mortar. The 8-inch mortar was produced generally for siege operations, but the Model 10-inch was manufactured with two classifications: siege and garrison, and seacoast. Although Model 10-inch mortars were designated for both siege and coastal operations, the seacoast model was the much larger and more powerful version. While its screeching sound was ominous to soldiers and sailors alike, this mortar, enjoying its trajectory, was proficient at pounding targets inside fortifications, obstructed targets, navy warships, trenches, and even the once believed impenetrable "earthwork fort."
     
    The Model 1861 13-inch Seacoast Mortar was merely a larger version of the 10-inch seacoast model. In April 1862, the heavy 13-inch mortars were employed on the Virginia Peninsula during the defenses of Yorktown. Subsequently, the behemoth 13-inch mortars played a prominent role in the war effort along the coasts and in many siege operations. Their employment at locations from the Mississippi River to the trenches of Petersburg ensured the 13-inch mortar a place among the most important weapons of the war.
     
    (Right) Federal battery with Model 1841 10-inch seacoast mortars on Morris Island, during the Campaign against Charleston Harbor.
     
    Seacoast mortars constituted the heaviest category in mid-19th Century U.S. Artillery ordnance, being considerably larger than siege mortars of this same caliber. The seacoast mortar class was designed to provide heavy, long-range defensive fire around a major strategic position such as a harbor or city, thus eliminating the need for mobility. The siege mortars were lighter versions specifically created for transport during offensive operations: to bombard a fortified stronghold, for example. Mortars were often emplaced together in batteries, although it was recommended that the total concentration not exceed three or four pieces, each weapon being assigned its own individual number so as to minimize any confusion during battle. To battery fire simultaneous salvoes: every mortar in the battery had to first be properly loaded and aimed, and only when all crews exhibited readiness, would the officer in command of the battery shout the general directive to “Commence firing!”
     
    Model 13-inch Seacoast Mortar

    Artillery Piece Overall Length (inches) Weight (pounds) Weight of Loaded Shell (lbs.) Powder Charge (pounds) Range (yards) Total Produced Manufacturers
    Model 1841 13-inch Seacoast Mortar
    53 11,502 200 20 4,325 1 Alger
    Model 1861 13-inch Seacoast Mortar
    56.5 17,120 227 20 4,325 162 Fort Pitt

    The mortar high and low angle fire
    High angle mortar fire.jpg
    High-angle and Low-trajectory fire

    Mortars were classed as "siege" or "seacoast" guns. The 8-inch and 10-inch mortar siege guns, while cumbersome, could be transported on mortar wagons. The longer and heavier seacoast models of the 10-inch and the giant 13-inch mortars were classified as "seacoast," as they could only be transported with great difficulty by rail or ship. Mortars typically used spherical shells, and both timed and percussion fuses. Although experiments were made using canister shot as shells, the gun crews were unable to remain at their guns under the shower of metal. While five artillerists were needed to operate the 13-inch siege mortar, the sea or naval application required a crew of eleven men: load, fire, rotate the bed to train to target.
     
    The Model 1861 13-inch Seacoast Mortar received major upgrades from its 1840s predecessor, and, used by both the Union Army and Navy, it engaged in several theaters of the Civil War. Employed by both naval and land based batteries, the 13-inch mortar engaged targets from the bombardment of Fort Pulaski, siege of Vicksburg, operations against Charleston, to the nearly 10 month Richmond-Petersburg siege. With the replacement of masonry fortifications with earthen works, mortars became vital. Works that could resist the horizontal fire of guns were still vulnerable to the vertical fire of mortars. While five artillerists manned this mammoth weapon, the maximum range of the 13-inch mortar was 4,325 yards, with its effective or accurate range being slightly less.
     
    Weighing more than 17,000 pounds, this mortar, with a 20-lb. powder charge and at 45 degrees elevation, enjoyed a maximum range of 4,325 yards, or approximately 2.5 miles, with a 227-lb. "loaded shell." The 1861 13-inch mortar was produced from 1860-1864 at the Fort Pitt Foundry, Pittsburgh PA., cast of iron, and its projectiles were round mortar shells (cannon ball). Developed in an age of massive innovation in ordnance technology, the 13-inch seacoast mortar became one of the most formidable weapons used during the Civil War.
     
    The most famous of the 13-inch mortars, with its nom de guerre of "Dictator," was mounted on a railroad flatcar, from which it fired into the city of Petersburg, VA. Aiming was accomplished by merely rolling the flatcar to various locations along a curved section of the track. The 13-inch seacoast mortar used by Union forces most likely went to scrap by the end of the 1800's, as was the precedent.
     
    Characteristics: Type: Model 1861 13-inch Siege and Seacoast Mortar • Rarity: Uncommon • Years of Manufacture: Between 1860 and 1864 • Tube Composition: Iron • Bore Diameter: 13 inches • Standard Powder Charge: 20 lbs. • Projectiles: 200 lbs. Round Mortar Shells • Tube Length: 56.5 inches • Tube Weight: 17,250 lbs. • Range (at 45°): 4,325 yards • US Casting Foundry: Fort Pitt Foundry, Pittsburgh PA.

    Battery of 13-inch Mortars in May 1862
    Battery of 13-inch Mortars.jpg
    Siege of Yorktown, VA. Federal Battery No. 4 Soldiers with three 13 inch mortars

    Model 1861 13-inch Seacoast Mortar Battery
    Model 1861 13-inch Seacoast Mortar Battery.jpg
    Yorktown, Virginia. Battery No. 4 mounting 13-inch mortars at South end in May 1862

        Model 1861 13-inch Seacoast Mortar
  • Class: Seacoast, heavy
  • Type: Mortar, smoothbore
  • Manufactured: 1860 to 1864
  • Tube Composition: Iron
  • Bore Diameter: 13 inches
  • Standard Powder Charge: 20 lbs.
  • Projectiles: 200 lbs. Round Mortar Shells
  • Tube Length: 56.5 inches
  • Tube Weight: 17,250 lbs.
  • Range (at 45°): 4,325 yards
  • US Casting Foundry: Fort Pitt Foundry, Pittsburgh PA
  • Notes: Destroyed well-entrenched targets that would have otherwise remained intact by the employment of rifled guns, smoothbore artillery, and howitzers.
  • Principal Characteristics of Seacoast Artillery

    Seacoast Artillery
    Artillery
    Piece
    Bore
    diameter
    (inches)
    Material Length
    of tube
    (inches)
    Weight
    of tube
    (pounds)
    Weight of
    projectile
    (pounds)
    Weight of
    charge
    (pounds)
    Range at 5°
    elevation
    (yards)
    32-pdr Gun 6.40 Iron 125.20 7,200 32.6 8.00 1,922
    42-pdr Gun 7.00 Iron 129.00 8,465 42.7 10.50 1,955
    8-inch Columbiad 8.00 Iron 124.00 9,210 65.0 10.00 5 1,813
    10-inch Columbiad 10.00 Iron 126.00 15,400 128.0 18.00 6 1,814
    15-inch Columbiad 15.00 Iron 182.00 50,000 1 302.0 40.00 7 1,518
    100-pdr Parrott 6.40 Iron 151.00 9,700 100.0 10.00 8 2,247
    200-pdr Parrott 8.00 Iron 159.00 16,300 175.0 16.00 2,000
    300-pdr Parrott 10.00 Iron 173.00 26,500 250.0 25.00 ---
    10-inch Mortar 10.00 Iron 46.00 5,775 1 87.5 10.00 2 4,250
    13-inch Mortar 13.00 Iron 53.00 17,120 1 220.0 20.00 2 4,325
    80-pdr Whitworth Rifle 5.00 Iron 120.00 8,960 70.0 12.00 7,722
    70-pdr Armstrong
    Breechloading Rifle
    6.40 Iron &
    Steel
    110.00 6,903 71.7 10.00 9 2,266
    8-inch Blakely Rifle 8.00 Steel 3 156.00 17,000 200.0 50.00 ---
    150-pdr Armstrong Rifle 8.50 Steel 129.75 14,896 150.0 20.00 ---
    12 3/4-inch Blakely Rifle 12.75 Steel 192.00 54,000 1 700.0 --- ---

    1. Weight of shell.
    2. Mortar ranges are given at an elevation of 45°.
    3. Bore length only.
    4. Designed to be moved and operated by two men.
    5. Obtained ranges greater than 4,812 yards with shell and 27° elevation.
    6. Obtained ranges greater than 5,600 yards with shell and 39° elevation.
    7. Obtained ranges of 4,680 yards with a 315-lb. shell and 50 lbs. powder at 25°.
    8. Extreme range of 8,428 yards.
    9. Muzzle-loading Armstrongs had practically identical dimensions and ranges.

    Analysis

    Civil War soldier gut shot by shell
    Civil War soldier gut shot by shell.jpg
    Soldier disembowelled by a shell at Gettysburg

    At the opening of this civil conflict most of the matériel for both armies was of the same type—smoothbore. The various guns included weapons in the great masonry fortifications built on the long United States coast line since the 1820's—weapons such as the Columbiad, a heavy, long-chambered American muzzle-loader of iron, developed from its bronze forerunner of 1810. The Columbiad was made in 8-, 10-, and 12-inch calibers and could throw shot and shell well over 5,000 yards. "New" Columbiads exited the foundries at the start of the 1860's, minus the powder chamber and with smoother lines. Behind the parapets or in fort gunrooms were 32- and 42-pounder iron seacoast guns; 24-pounder bronze howitzers lay in the bastions to flank the long reaches of the fort walls. There were 8-inch seacoast howitzers for heavier work. The largest caliber piece was the ponderous 13-inch seacoast mortar.
     
    Siege and garrison cannon included 24-pounder and 8-inch bronze howitzers, a 10-inch bronze mortar, 12-, 18-, and 24-pounder iron guns and later the 4-1/2-inch cast-iron rifle. With the exception of the new 3-inch wrought-iron rifle, field artillery cannon were bronze: 6- and 12-pounder guns, the 12-pounder Napoleon gun-howitzer, 12-pounder mountain howitzer, 12-, 24-, and 32-pounder field howitzers, and the little Coehorn mortar. A machine gun invented by Dr. Richard J. Gatling became part of the artillery equipment during the war, but was not much used. Reminiscent of the ancient ribaudequin, a repeating cannon of several barrels, the Gatling gun could fire about 350 shots a minute from its 10 barrels, which were rotated and fired by turning a crank. In Europe it became more popular than the French mitrailleuse.

    The smaller smoothbores were effective with case shot up to about 600 or 700 yards, and maximum range of field pieces went from something less than the 1,566-yard solid-shot trajectory of the Napoleon to about 2,600 yards (1.5 miles) for a 6-inch howitzer. At Chancellorsville, one of Stonewall Jackson's guns fired a shot which bounded down the center of a roadway and came to rest a mile away. The performance verified the drill-book tables. Maximum ranges of the larger pieces, however, ran all the way from the average 1,600 yards of an 18-pounder garrison gun to the well over 3-mile range of a 12-inch Columbiad firing a 180-pound shell at high elevation. A 13-inch seacoast mortar would lob a 200-pound shell 4,325 yards, or almost 2-1/2 miles. The shell from an 8-inch howitzer carried 2,280 yards, but at such extreme ranges the guns could hardly be called accurate.

    On the battlefield, Napoleon's artillery tactics were no longer practical. The infantry, armed with its own comparatively long-range firearm, was usually able to keep artillery beyond case-shot range, and cannon had to stand off at such long distances that their primitive ammunition was relatively ineffective. The result was that when attacking infantry moved in, the defending infantry and artillery were still fresh and unshaken, ready to pour a devastating point-blank fire into the assaulting lines. Thus, in spite of an intensive 2-hour bombardment by 138 Confederate guns at the crisis of Gettysburg, as the gray-clad troops advanced across the field to close range, double canister and concentrated infantry volleys cut them down in masses.

    Field artillery smoothbores, under conditions prevailing during the war, generally gave better results than the smaller-caliber rifle. A 3-inch rifle, for instance, had twice the range of a Napoleon; but in the broken, heavily wooded country where so much of the fighting took place, the superior range of the rifle could not be used to full advantage. Neither was its relatively small and sometimes defective projectile as damaging to personnel as case or grape from a larger caliber smoothbore. At the first battle of Manassas (July 1861) more than half the 49 Federal cannon were rifled; but by 1863, even though many more rifles were in service, the majority of the pieces in the field were still the old reliable 6- and 12-pounder smoothbores.

    It was in siege operations that the rifles forced a new era. As the smoke cleared after the historic bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861, military men were already speculating on the possibilities of the new weapon. A Confederate 12-pounder Blakely had pecked away at Sumter with amazing accuracy. But the first really effective use of the rifles in siege operations was at Fort Pulaski (1862). Using 10 rifles and 26 smoothbores, General Gillmore breached the 7-1/2-foot-thick brick walls in little more than 24 hours. Yet his batteries were a mile away from the target! The heavier rifles were converted smoothbores, firing 48-, 64-, and 84-pound James projectiles that drove into the fort wall from 19 to 26 inches at each fair shot. The smoothbore Columbiads could penetrate only 13 inches, while from this range the ponderous mortars could hardly hit the fort. A year later, Gillmore used 100-, 200-, and 300-pounder Parrott rifles against Fort Sumter. The big guns, firing from positions some 2 miles away and far beyond the range of the fort guns, reduced Sumter to a smoking mass of rubble.

    15-inch Rodman gun
    15-inch Rodman gun.jpg
    A 15-inch Rodman gun in Battery Rodgers, Alexandria, VA.

    Civil War heavy artillery
    200-pounder Parrott rifle.jpg
    A 200-pounder Parrott rifle in Fort Gregg on Morris Island, S.C., 1865

    The range and accuracy of the rifles startled the world. A 30-pounder (4.2-inch) Parrott had an amazing carry of 8,453 yards with 80-pound hollow shot; the notorious "Swamp Angel" that fired on Charleston in 1863 was a 200-pounder Parrott mounted in the marsh 7,000 yards from the city. But strangely enough, neither rifles nor smoothbores could destroy earthworks. As was proven several times during the war, the defenders of a well-built earthwork were able to repair the trifling damage done by enemy fire almost as soon as there was a lull in the shooting. Learning this lesson, the determined Confederate defenders of Fort Sumter in 1863-64 refused to surrender, but under the most difficult conditions converted their ruined masonry into an earthwork almost impervious to further bombardment.

    With Rodman's gun, the muzzle-loading smoothbore was at the apex of its development. Through the years great progress had been made in mobility, organization, and tactics. Now a new era was beginning, wherein artillery surpassed even the decisive role it had under Gustavus Adolphus and Napoleon. In spite of new infantry weapons that forced cannon ever farther to the rear, artillery was to become so deadly that its fire caused over 75 percent of the battlefield casualties in World War I.

    Many of the vital changes took place during the latter years of the 1800's, as rifles replaced the smoothbores. Steel came into universal use for gun founding; breech and recoil mechanisms were perfected; smokeless powder and high explosives came into the picture. Hardly less important was the invention of more efficient sighting and laying mechanisms.

    The changes did not come overnight. In Britain, after breechloaders had been in use almost a decade, the ordnance men went back to muzzle-loading rifles; faulty breech mechanisms caused too many accidents. Not until one of H.M.S. Thunderer's guns was inadvertently double-loaded did the English return to an improved breechloader.

    The steel breechloaders of the Prussians, firing two rounds a minute with a percussion shell that broke into about 30 fragments, did much to defeat the French (1870-71). At Sedan, the greatest artillery battle fought prior to 1914, the Prussians used 600 guns to smother the French army. So thoroughly did these guns do their work that the Germans annihilated the enemy at the cost of only 5 percent casualties. It was a demonstration of using great masses of guns, bringing them quickly into action to destroy the hostile artillery, then thoroughly "softening up" enemy resistance in preparation for the infantry attack. While the technical progress of the Prussian artillery was considerable, it was offset in large degree by the counter-development of field entrenchment.

    As the technique of forging large masses of steel improved, most nations adopted built-up (reinforcing hoops over a steel tube) or wire-wrapped steel construction for their cannon. With the advent of the metal cartridge case and smokeless powder, rapid-fire guns came into use. The new powder, first used in the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78), did away with the thick white curtain of smoke that plagued the gunner's aim, and thus opened the way for production of mechanisms to absorb recoil and return the gun automatically to firing position. Now, gunners did not have to lay the piece after every shot, and the rate of fire increased. Shields appeared on the gun—protection that would have been of little value in the days when gunners had to stand clear of a back-moving carriage.

    During the early 1880's the United States began work on a modern system of seacoast armament. An 8-inch breech-loading rifle was built in 1883, and the disappearing carriage, giving more protection to both gun and crew, was adopted in 1886. Only a few of the weapons were installed by 1898; but fortunately the overwhelming naval superiority of the United States helped bring the War with Spain to a quick close.

    During this war, United States forces were equipped with a number of British 2.95-inch mountain rifles, which, incidentally, served as late as World War II in the pack artillery of the Philippine Scouts. Within the next few years the antiquated pieces such as the 3-inch wrought-iron rifle, the 4.2-inch Parrott siege gun, converted Rodmans, and the 15-inch Rodman smoothbore were finally pushed out of the picture by new steel guns. There were small-caliber rapid-fire guns of different types, a Hotchkiss 1.65-inch mountain rifle, and Hotchkiss and Gatling machine guns. The basic pieces in field artillery were 3.2- and 3.6-inch guns and a 3.6-inch mortar. Siege artillery included a 5-inch gun, 7-inch howitzers, and mortars. In seacoast batteries were 8-, 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-inch guns and 12-inch mortars of the primary armament; intermediate rapid-fire guns of 4-, 4.72-, 5-, and 6-inch calibers; and 6- and 15-pounder rapid-fire guns in the secondary armament.

    The Japanese showed the value of the French system of indirect laying (aiming at a target not visible to the gunner) during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Meanwhile, the French 75-mm. gun of 1897, firing 6,000 yards, made all other field artillery cannon obsolete. In essence, artillery had assumed the modern form. The next changes were wrought by startling advances in motor transport, signal communications, chemical warfare, tanks, aviation, and mass production.

    Glossary

    What are the parts of a cannon?
    Names of the parts of a cannon.jpg
    Names of the parts of a cannon

    Most technical phrases are explained in the text, but for convenient reference, however, some important words are defined below:

    Abatis—means of defense surrounding a redoubt, made of large tree branches facing the enemy, with the branches sharpened and the trunk partially buried in the ground. The branches were sometimes interwoven to make removal difficult.

    Artillery Train—see Siege Train.

    Ballistics—the science dealing with the motion of projectiles.

    Banquette—a step behind the parapet made high enough so Soldiers standing on it could fire over the parapet. A slope or step was built for the Soldiers to reach the banquette.

    Barbette carriage—as used here, a traverse carriage on which a gun is mounted to fire over a parapet.

    Berm—level earth between the parapet and the ditch, to keep the parapet from sliding into the ditch.

    Breastwork—hastily constructed parapet, usually made of earth and wood, designed to protect the defenders against artillery and musketry fire. Also known as an entrenchment or field trench.

    Breechblock—movable piece which closes the breech of a cannon.

    Caliber—diameter of the bore; also used to express bore length. A 30-caliber gun has a bore length 30 times the diameter of the bore.

    Cartridge—bag or case holding a complete powder charge for the cannon, and in some instances also containing the projectile.

    Casemate carriage—traverse carriage in a fort gunroom (casemate). The gun fired through an embrasure or loophole in the wall of the room.

    Chamber—the part of the bore which holds the propelling charge, especially when of different diameter than the rest of the bore; in chambered muzzle-loaders, the chamber diameter was smaller than that of the bore.

    Cheveaux de Frize—pieces of wood ten to twelve feet long with thin, wooden, pointed pins along the length of all four sides.

    Counter-battery—number of guns placed behind a parapet with the primary purpose of dismounting or silencing the guns in an enemy’s work by using direct fire.

    Ditch—six to seven and a half foot crevasse immediately before the parapet.

    Earthwork—see Fortification.

    Elevation—the angle between the axis of a piece and the horizontal plane.

    Embrasures—openings in the parapet for cannons to fire through.

    Entrance—positioned in the rear of the redoubt, and built wide enough for the artillery.

    Epaulement—elevation constructed in order to protect troops and batteries from the fire of the enemy. It was usually composed of gabions filled with earth, or sand bags.

    Fascines—bundles of tree branches tied with yarn, from six to eighteen feet long and a foot or wider in girth. Used as a support structure in parapet construction. Assaulting troops used fascines to fill in the ditch and create a bridge to the parapet.

    Fortification—term for field works, forts, and fortresses. Most fortifications had at least a rampart and parapet.Natural fortifications consisted of objects formed by nature, which were capable of impeding the advance of an enemy.

    Fraises—logs, with pointed ends, placed at an angle near the base of the parapet and extended out over the berm and ditch.

    Fuze—device to ignite the charge of a shell or other projectile. Fuzes for projectiles may be classified as time-fuzes, percussion-fuzes, and combination-fuzes. The time-fuze serves to explode a projectile during flight, or at the end of a given period of time after its discharge from the gun. The percussion-fuze, rifled guns, serves to explode a projectile either during flight or on impact.

    Gabions—basket-shaped devises made from intertwined branches and twigs, standing two or three feet high and several feet around.

    Glacis—slightly rising slope of earth just before the ditch.

    Grommet—rope ring used as a wad to hold a cannonball in place in the bore.

    Gun—any firearm; in the limited sense, a long cannon with high muzzle velocity and flat trajectory.

    Gun Platform—wooden platforms upon which cannon sit.

    Gun Ramp—also known as apareilles, earth and wood ramp built to allow large cannons to be moved into and out of positions.

    Howitzer—short cannon, intermediate between the gun and mortar.

    Lanyard—made of a strong twisted cord, usually 8 to 12-feet long, with a wooden handle attached at one end and an iron hook at the other. The lanyard hook was attached to the eye in the serrated wire of the friction primer after the primer was seated into the vent. The gunner would grip the wooden handle and pull the lanyard quickly, thereby causing the wire to pull through the primer, causing a spark. This would ignite the powder charge in the tube.

    Lay—to aim a gun.

    Limber—two-wheeled vehicle to which the gun trail is attached for transport.

    Mandrel—metal bar, used as a core around which metal may be forged or otherwise shaped.

    Matrix—medium of sulphur, asphaltum-pitch, or tree rosin added to the interior of a case-shot projectile for the purpose of stabilizing the case-shot balls. The matrix helped prevent damage to the bursting charge can or cavity and prevented accidental discharge caused by movement of the cast-shot balls during the firing process.

    Merlon—the wall of the parapet between embrasures.

    Mortar—very short cannon used for high or curved trajectory firing.

    Ordinance Department—department of the Army charged with procuring ordnance and ordnance stores. Since this department often employed contractors and contract labor, it carried a number of trained army officers as Inspectors of Ordnance, whose primary function was to certify the quality of the ordnance purchased.

    Palisades—pointed vertical logs driven into the bottom of the ditch.

    Parapet—the mound of earth which formed the perimeter of a redoubt. It was the primary protection for Soldiers within the redoubt.

    Point-blank—the point where the projectile, when fired from a level bore, first strikes the horizontal ground in front of the cannon.

    Projectilescanister or case shot: a can filled with small missiles that scatter after firing from the gun. Grape shot: a cluster of small iron balls, which scatter upon firing. Shell: explosive missile; a hollow cast-iron ball, filled with gunpowder, with a fuze to produce detonation; a long, hollow projectile, filled with explosive and fitted with a fuze. Shot: a solid projectile, non-explosive.

    Quoin—wedge placed under the breech of a gun to fix its elevation.

    Rampart—steeply sloped earthen embankment topped by a parapet.

    Range—the horizontal distance from a gun to its target or to the point where the projectile first strikes the ground. Effective range is the distance at which effective results may be expected, and is usually not the same as maximum range, which means the extreme limit of range.

    Recoil—backward movement of a cannon immediately after being discharged. It was necessary to reposition the weapon after each recoil.

    Redan—form of angled breastworks shaped like a V with its point facing the approach of the enemy.

    Redoubt—small separate defensive work consisting of blockhouse or earthen works. Detached outworks as part of a larger defensive plan, usually square without defensive flanks. Could also be polygonal or hexegonal shapes.

    Ricochet—firing a solid shot at such a low angle of elevation which caused the shot to graze (strike) a hard surface, bounce up, and travel close to the surface. Ricochet fire was used to destroy gun carriages, inflict greater damage on enemy troops, and, in the navy, to increase the chances of striking an enemy ship at the water line.

    Rifle Pit—small trench for one or two men with a slight parapet or other cover in front. Rifle pits were generally established well in advance of a fortification's outworks or main line of field works in front or on the flanks of a besieging army's approaches. Fire from rifle pits was used to harass the enemy.

    Rotating band—band of soft metal, such as copper, which encircles the projectile near its base. By engaging the lands of the spiral rifling in the bore, the band causes rotation of the projectile. Rotating bands for muzzle-loading cannon were expansion rings, and the powder blast expanded the ring into the rifling grooves.

    Sacs a Terre—burlap or cloth sacks filled with earth much like today's sandbags, used to build parapets and other defenses.

    Salvo—simultaneous discharge of artillery against a target.

    Salient—part of a fortification defensive line called a cremaillere or indented line. The salient was an angle, or sharp point, which faced out towards the enemy and was constructed as the simplest of entrenchments.

    Scarp—the side of the ditch leading up to the parapet.

    Siege Train—military organization consisting of varying numbers of artillery weapons proportioned according to caliber and type. Siege weapons (guns, howitzers, mortars) were usually organized in trains of 100 pieces along with the required carriages, horses, ammunition, and gunpowder. Field trains were considerably smaller, usually consisting of three field weapons (guns and howitzers) per 1,000 infantry.

    Sods—earth bricks with grass on one side, placed on the parapet to prevent erosion.

    Stockade—timber wall or defensive barrier, i.e., palisade.

    Train—to aim a gun.

    Trajectory—curved path taken by a projectile in its flight through the air.

    Transom—horizontal beam between the cheeks of a gun carriage.

    Traverse—parts of parapets, which crossed the breadth of the covered way, at the salient and re-entering places of arms.

    Traverse carriage—stationary gun mount, consisting of a gun carriage on a wheeled platform which can be moved about a pivot for aiming the gun to right or left.

    Trous-de-loup—pits shaped like an upside-down cone, six feet around the top and six feet deep, sometimes with a pointed stake in the center. These pits were usually placed in front of the ditch to trap advancing infantry and cavalry.

    Trunnions—2 cylindrical pivots cast on the exterior of a cannon or mortar at its center of gravity. They rest on the field carriage or platform carriage and allow the weapon to be elevated or depressed easily.

    Variant—minor differences found within a projectile pattern or sub-pattern, such as a wooden drive-in paper time fuze adapter as opposed to a threaded paper time fuze adapter. These differences are not enough to reclassify the projectile, so the specimen is said to be a "variant" of that pattern.

    Windage—difference between the diameter of the shot and the diameter of the bore.

    See also
     

    Sources: Library of Congress, National Archives, National Park Service, US Army and Marine Training Manuals; US Army Ordnance Manual; The Ordnance Manual for the Use of the Officers of the United States Army: United States Army Ordnance Department. J.B. Lippincott & Company, 1862; Gettysburg National Military Park; Vicksburg National Military Park; Stones River National Battlefield; Shiloh National Military Park; Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park; Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park; Antietam National Battlefield; Manassas National Battlefield Park; Fort Sumter National Monument; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. United States Naval War Records Office Naval War Records Office, United States. Office of Naval Records and Library. Publisher U.S. Government Printing Office, 1896; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies; Abbot, Henry L. (1867). 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