A brief examination of period heavy-artillery ammunition alone could more than fill two books i his size. Basically, period ammunition included solid shot, shells, canister, and grape. Shells came in a variety of styles, including shells that had a brass, iron, copper, or lead cap or ring attached 10 their base (Parrott, Absterdam, Read, Cochran, Dimiek, Mullane. Burton and Archer, Harding); shells with lead or paper around the outside that squeezed into the grooves on firing (Schenkl, Dyer, James); shells that were shaped to lit a specific bore (Whitworth, Armstrong); shells with projections that lit into the bore grooves (Sawyer, Blakely, Pattison, Dahlgren); and shells with a soft metal covering that was driven into the grooves 011 firing (Sawyer, Hotchkiss, Burton), The Confederates also produced a winged shot that came with slotted wings that sprang open 011 leaving the muzzle in an attempt to Obtain rilled accuracy with smoothbore guns.

Hotchkiss Canister
One of the largest Parrott rifles ever made was nicknamed ''the Swamp Angel" and was placed to fire into Charleston, It burst after only a few rounds, the men having taken months to get the ground in the swampy area hard enough to stand the weight of the gun. (Library of Congress)

A Parrott rifle mounted on a well-defended railroad car during the siege of Petersburg. (Library of Congress)

For anti-personnel Use, siege guns used grapeshot, which had been replaced by canister for field artillery use. According to Colonel Scott, grapeshot consisted of: "a certain number of cast-iron balls put together by means of two cast-iron plates, two rings, and one pin and nut/' Grapeshot provided to 8-inch guns was made up of 6-pounder shot.

Cored shot, as used in some naval guns as well as Parrotts, was designed to be used against masonry forts. Some Parrott shells were filled with six pints of Berney's incendiary composition, a mixture of turpentine and petroleum, or a pint of Flemtning's composition. This ammunition was designed to set wooden buildings alight upon exploding.

Northern-made Stafford armor-piercing ammunition was designed for use against ironclads. It featured a steel boh cased in wood with a brass sabot at the rear. The bolt would drive through the armor, while the wood casing would fall apart on the face of the armor. These came in 6.4-inch and 8-inch sizes.

Southern-made ammunition was universally condemned, save, perhaps, by its targets. Confederate Major Edward Manigault noted 011 August 29, 186!?: "After a good many shots found that the 24 pndr. Rifle could not be relied on at that distance with the new shell f urnished us.

I lie Shells made by J.M. Easton & Co. (a Charleston machine shop and foundry) according to a pattern which was furnished with the original Blakety Gun sent to this country {Prioleau Gun) reached Morris Island, but they have all been expended and the other shells furnished cannot be relied 011 at all and have all fallen short. [This Blakely gun was presented to South Carolina by Charles K. Prioleau of Frazer & Co. in

Manigault wrote again on September 8, 1863: 4 have to complain of the character of the Rifle projectiles lately furnished me. As for instance, Solid Conical Shot for 4.62-in. Gun, weighing 10 lbs. = 3/i times the weight of Spherical projectiles of same caliber. Shell for 24-pndi Rifle (5.82-in. Cal.) weighing 60 lbs. = 2 /a times weight of solid spherical shot of same Caliber. Solid Conical Shot

A Parrott rifle mounted on a well-defended railroad car during the siege of Petersburg. (Library of Congress)

Siege Petersburg Guns And UniformsCharles Prioleau

The Navy mounted 100-pounder Parrotts such as this one on the Lt.S.S. Mendota. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)

of HO lbs weight - 3 A times weight of solid Spherical shut of Same diameter. And this last for a gun not original I v intended as a Rifle, hut simply converted by Rifling & Banding. Not only will the guns be enormously strained by Ihese projectiles Fired at high Elevations and soon blirst, but also, with smaller charges than 10 lbs. 8c 5 lbs. of powder, respectively for the 5.82- and 4.6||n. Calibers, the Range will not be great. If great penetration were required at distances of from half a mile to 1 little then these heavy solid shot might be suitable, but They are entirely unsuitable for a Range of 2 /■> miles, which is required for Morris Island (at least without increasing the Charge of Powder to an extent extremely dangerous with any guns we have)."

The damage done by both shells and solid shot depended largely on where they landed. Soft soil and sand, for example, would absorb the shell and most of its power would be lost, while hard soil would allow the shell to explode all around and shot to ricochet. Major Frederick Shonnardj 6th New York 1 leavy Artillery, wrote after watching a mortar shell land in sandy soil at the feet of one of his men: "A soldier was walking in towards me from ihe picket line, suddenly as 1 looked at him a shell dropped light at his feet burying itself in the sandy soil, in another instant the shell exploded and lifted him off the ground, falling some of my men to follow, 1 jumped over our work and ran to him. To my amazement 1 was unable to lift him; die explosion had forced sand into and under his clothing so that he was as heavy as if made of stone. Men coming up opened his clothing and relieved him of sand sufficiently so that they could carry him. 1 le was unconscious but finally when he regained his senses it was made plain that he was not hurt in any way. The shell had buried itself In the deep sandy soil before exploding,"

Forts that guarded the seacoasts were provided with furnaces for heating shot to be fired into wooden ships so that they would catch fire. Each furnace was designed to hold 60 or more shot. When users put shot into a cold furnace and started its fires, it would take an hour and a quarter in heat shot red hot. After the furnace was heated, a 24-pounder shot could be heated red hot in 25 minutes, while 32-pounder and 42-pormder shot took only a few minutes longer. It took a crew of two to three men to keep a furnace going and put cold shot in and take hot shot out during normal operations. One man took out the shot hot and placed them on a stand to be scraped: another scraped them and put them into a ladle for carrying them to each gun, while the third supplied cold shot and fuel to the furnace.

The Navy mounted 100-pounder Parrotts such as this one on the Lt.S.S. Mendota. (U.S. Army Military History Institute)

A wadding of either pure clay, fuller's earth, or wet hay-was rammed between the charge and the hot shot to prevent premature explosions. According to period experiments, a red-hot shot retained enough heat to set wood alight even after ricocheting

011 the water a couple of times. After hitting the ship, the shot worked best if it penetrated only ten to

12 inches, because a ball that went deeper could not get enough air to flame the embers. Therefore, ordnance officers advised

Tripods were used to mount using only a quartet to a sixth charge when firing hot shot the same

100-pounder Parrotts on their distance as one would use to lire cold shot.

carriages. [Library of Congress) Cannon balls themselves were actually placed in piles near their guns.

According to the ordnance manual, "Balls are piled according to kind and caliber, under cover if practicable, in a place where there is a free circulation of air, to facilitate which, the piles should be made narrow if the locality permits; the width of the bottom tier may he from 12 to 14 balls, according to the caliber." So that gunners could quickly identify the correct ammunition to use, solid shot for 8-inch guns and all spherical case shot were painted red, while all other cannonballs were painted black. Grape and canister shot were either oiled or painted and stored either in piles or in strong boxes marked with the contents.

Dahlgren Hot Shot Ladle Cannon

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment