Howitzers

Howitzers used for siege and garrison work were cast iron and came in two sizes, 24-pound er and 8-inch. The 24-pounder was already an old weapon by the beginning of the war, having been introduced in 1839, although apparently not produced until several years later. The main job for the 24-pounder howitzer was as a weapon placed on the flanks of fortifications to protect against infantry attack, rather than for use in couruer-batlery operations. As such, il was usually mounted on a flank casemate carriage.

The 8-inch siege howitzer was introduced in 1811 and came with a cylindrical chamber that joined the bore with a spherical curve that fit a shell exactly. The powder chamber held exactly four pounds of powder, the standard charge. The weapon was designed to be used mainly to smash into masonry and earth left over after fortification walls had been penetrated by larger guns. The 8-inch howitzer was also designed for ricochet firing.

The 8-inch howitzer could be mounted on a 24-pounder carriage. However, when that was done, the elevating screw had to he removed and the cannoneers use a quoin for adjusting the elevation. The howitzer barrel was just too short to rest on the screw, being only 46.5 inches long. Even with quoins, it could be elevated at a very high elevation, giving the weapon a maximum range of some 1,600 yards and a minimum range of 300 yards.

The army also had an 8-inch seacoast howitzer th a t was introduced in 1839. It had a 93-inch-long lube. Officially it had been dropped from the rolls by 1861, bin in fact many of these weapons were in the fortifications of both sides. As well, a 10-inch seacoast howitzer was adopted at I he same time as the 8-inch version, bin with a 101.5-inch tube, and was dropped from rolls at the same time as the smaller piece.

Howitzers also saw improvised use. In 1866, the Army of Northern Virginia corps artillery chief, E, Porter Alexander, recalled that: "On several occasions during 1863, and 1861, where mortar fire was desirable in the field, the twelve and twenty-four pounder howitzers were used for the purpose very successfully, by sinking i he trails in trenches to give the elevation, while the axles were run up on inclined skids a few inches to lift the wheels from the ground and lessen the strain of the recoil. The skids would not be necessary where the desired range is not great,"

Pdr Navy Gun
This 32-pounder naval gun has been adapted by the Confederates to hold a heavier charge than usual by placing a band around the breech. It was part of the defenses of Vicksburg. (Library of Congress)

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