Artillery Ammunition

The photograph shows a further selection of the artilleryman's wares, as listed below.

Civil War projectiles differed little from those of earlier generations, being only sometimes larger and a bit more reliable. There was the solid shot, literally a round ball of iron, and of little effect except when it hit an opposing artillery piece - and, of course, any unfortunate soldier in its path. Other loads were designed to be more effective as anti-personnel weapons. The shell, either round or, occasionally, cylindroconoidal, was hollow inside and contained a powder charge. A timed fuse in its base was theoretically ignited at firing, and when the interior charge went off, the shell flew apart into a dozen or more pieces. Unfortunately, fuses were notoriously unreliable, sometimes no more than one in fifteen actually working. On top of that, the estimates of timing by gunners could be off, the trajectory of the gun faulty, and the shell might bury itself in the ground before going off, if it exploded at all, thus doing little or no harm.

More effective was spherical case shot, again a round ball, but this time hollow and containing up to 78 lead musket balls and an exploding charge. When it went off in the midst of a line of soldiers, this could be deadly, though many of the balls flew straight up into the air and others straight down into the ground, doing nothing, while of the rest, only those at the forward and sides of the moving ball had any chance of killing or injuring. Of the 78 bullets, probably no more than a third had even the potential of putting men out of action.

Grapeshot, large iron balls two inches in diameter and arranged in "stands" of a dozen or more, was not much used in the Civil War, but a cousin called canister was the most damaging of all artillery loads. On top of the powder charge in a smoothbore, the gunners would ram down a tin can filled with 27 cast iron balls, each nearly half a pound in weight. The load was used against attacking infantry when within 300 yards. On being fired, it turned the cannon into a huge shotgun.

3in Parrot Bolt Cannonball

Parrott shell

Gauge for measuring shot size Parrott shell

Shell for Whitworth rifle Britten shell from England Schenkl shell Solid shot cannon ball 3 inch (76mm) rifle bolt

Parrott Shell

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