Select Bibliography

Branch, Paul, Fori Macon, A History, Charleston, SC., 1999

Daniel, Larry ¡., and Gunter, Riley W., Confederate Cannon Foundries,

Union City, TN, 1977 Peterson. Harold 1... Round Shot and Rammers, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1969

Ripley, Warren, Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, New York, 1970

Ripley, Warren, ed, Siege Train, The Journal of a Confederate Artilleryman in the Defense of Charleston, Columbia, SC. 1986 Schiller, Herbert M,, Sumter is Avenged! The siege & reduction of Fort

Pulaski, Shippensburg, PA, 1995 Scott, Col. I I.E., Military Dictionary, New York, 1864

Union Artilleryman

The 150-pounder Armstrong gun at Fort Fisher, one of the best defended posts in the Confederacy, had an 8-inch bore. Note the handspikes in position to roll the gun forward to fire. {U.S. Army Military History Institute)



The M1839 24-pounder smoothbore gun was the heaviest American cannon that could be moved in the field with relative ease, A limbered piece weighed 10,155 pounds, including limber, and took 10 horses to pull. Nonetheless, the Union Army of the Potomac brought some of these guns to the front where they saw much use during the Battle of Fredericksburg. The gun was capable of firing solid shot that penetrated eight feet six inches of old earthen works at 100 yards, and almost two feet of stone and three feet of brick fortifications. The gun could also be used to fire grapeshot, canister, and spherical case shot.

According to The Handbook of Artillery for the Service of the United States by Joseph Roberts (New York, 1863), the 24-pounder's carriage "is similar in its construction to the field-carriage, but Is joined to the limber in a different way. Projecting upwards from the limber and in rear of the axle-tree, is placed a pintle, which enters a hole made in the trail from the underside, and a lashing-chain and hook keeps the two parts together when once in position. The weight of the trail resting on the rear end of the tongue keeps this nearly horizontal, and relieves the horses of the weight of it, which, as it must be both long and heavy, is too much for the horses to carry.

"The splinter-bar is, as in field-carriages, stationary, but the traces of the next team are attached to a movable bar which is connected with the end of the tongue. The tongue is furnished with pole-chains, but no yoke, and the rest of the teams are harnessed as in field-artillery. The axle-trees are of iron, with axle-bodies of wood: which last, by its elasticity, renders the shock from the piece less direct and violent.

"On the upper surface of the cheeks, near the rear ends, are placed two projecting bolts which with the curve of the cheeks, form resting places for the trunnions, when the piece

The 150-pounder Armstrong gun at Fort Fisher, one of the best defended posts in the Confederacy, had an 8-inch bore. Note the handspikes in position to roll the gun forward to fire. {U.S. Army Military History Institute)

is in position for transportation. They are called travelling trunnion-beds. When the piece is in this position, its breech rests upon the bolster, which is a curved block of wood, bolted to the upper side of the stock. On each side of the trail, and perpendicular to it, a strong maneuvering bolt Is placed to serve as places to apply the handspikes in maneuvering the carriage."


The 8-inch coiumbiad, a standard fortification cannon, fired a 32-pound shot and required seven or eight men to fire. It was mounted on a wooden casemate carriage, resting on a roller that allowed the recoil of the gun, after it was fired, to move it back into position for reloading. Iron rails on the floor at the front and rear of the carriage allowed the gun to be moved from side to side for aiming.

According to Roberts' The Handbook of Artillery for the Service of the United States, the wooden casemate carriage "consists of two cheeks, joined together by as many transoms, and supported in front by an axle-tree on truck wheels, and in rear on the rear transom, which is notched to fit the tongue of the chassis. Each cheek Is formed of two pieces, one on top of the other, and connected by dowels and bolts. On the underside, near the front, a notch is cut for the reception of the axle-tree, which is of oak; and nearly over the axle, on the upper side of the cheek, the trunnion bed is placed. The rear of the upper piece of the cheek is cut Into steps, which give a better hold for the assembling-bolts, than a uniform slope, and give purchases for the handspikes, in elevating the piece. On the inside of each cheek, just in rear of the axle, a vertical guide is fixed to keep the carriage on the

Different Types Artillery
The magazine at Battery ftodgers, in Alexandria, Virginia. Ammunition for the columbiads is stacked in the open in front of the battery. Different colors were used for different types of ammunition. (Library of Congress)

chassis. It is of wood and bolted to the front transom and axle-tree. The top of the front transom is hollowed out. to admit the depression of the piece. Behind the rear transom and at the notch cut in it, there is an eccentric roller, so arranged as to bear the weight of the rear part of the carriage, or not, according as It is thrown In or out of gear.

''Near the rear end of each cheek, and outside, a heavy trail-handle of Iron is placed, and used In maneuvering the piece. On the ends of the axle truck-wheels are placed, with mortices sloping outwards in the direction of the radii, for the insertion of the handspikes in running from battery.

"The elevating apparatus consists of a cast-Iron bed-plate, secured to the rear transom; an elevating-screw and brass nut; the nut being acted on by an oblique-toothed wheel, turned by a handle placed outside the right cheek."


The American military, more concerned with a seaborne Invasion of their country rather than an overland one from the west or north, built a chain of brick or stone forts around all the nation's seaports. These were usually quite similar and featured one or two levels of casemates, each pierced by guns, with a line of additional cannon on top of the fort, en barbette. A moat was generally dug around the outside of the fort, while buildings Inside housed officers and men and their equipment. The open center of the fort was used as a parade ground, A shot furnace, usually placed near the casemates, was used to heat shot to fire into enemy wooden ships.


Carriages made of wrought iron replaced wood carriage In U.S. Army fortifications, although the Confederates never had enough iron available to modernize their carriages In this way. Many of these carriages were still in active use In forts such as Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland, as late as World War I. The Parrott on this carriage was loaded while at the end of the carriage and then it was run out to be fired over the fortifications. Trucks with eccentric axles were used to run the gun out, The axle was turned with a wrench placed on the hexagonal end to make the trucks bear on the slide. Handspikes were then placed into holes on the truck rims to work the gun forward.

This fortification is typical of those built by both sides to defend their capital cities, Washington and Richmond, using wicker gabions and sandbags over which earth was thrown to make walls,


One of the most powerful weapons used by the Confederates was the British-made Armstrong cannon. They were found at Confederate forts from Vlcksburg to Fort Fisher, North Carolina. These were muzzle-loaders, but rifled and highly accurate. The gun tubes had spiral colls, welded together under a steam hammer, wound around the barrel to resist the force of firing. The hoops were turned to slightly smaller diameters than the previous hoop, then expanded by heating before being dropped Into place. On each side of the Iron carriage was a regulating wheel that clamped the gun In place on its rails. The main problem the Confederates had with their Armstrong guns was that the ammunition they made locally didn't work well, and they had to depend on expensive imported ammunition for the best results.

The bed for the mortar was described by John Gibbon in The Artillerist's Manual (New York. 1860): ;'The bed consists of two cheeks, joined by two transoms, all cast together In the same piece. The maneuvering bolts, placed on each side, one near each end of the cheeks, are made of wrought Iron, and set in the mold when the bed is cast.

;'On the front transom is fastened a wooden bolster, grooved to receive the elevating quoin, which it is prescribed

Grapeshot, small cast-iron balls in a canvas bag used as anti-personal ammunition, sits in front of this 11-inch Oahlgren smoothbore gun, with a solid shot behind it. This scene was in the abandoned Confederate works at Yorktown in 1862.

Grapeshot, small cast-iron balls in a canvas bag used as anti-personal ammunition, sits in front of this 11-inch Oahlgren smoothbore gun, with a solid shot behind it. This scene was in the abandoned Confederate works at Yorktown in 1862.

Wwii Plane CrashArtillery Quoin

should be put in position in a direction perpendicular to the axis of the piece, but is usually for convenience placed obliquely.

"Notches on the underside of the front and rear of the cheeks, give hold to the handspikes in throwing the piece to the right or left.

"Cap-squares are used with these beds, but probably only for the purpose of preventing the piece from jumping from its place when fired at very small angles of elevation, as, for instance, in ricochet firing."

In loading the 13-inch siege mortar, a cannoneer placed a powder bag in the bore. Then two men carried the round shot by means of tongs hanging on a wooden rod up the two steps to the mortar bore. A third man centered the shell in the bore, and it was then loaded into place. The men were also able to move the mortar on its wooden bed by means of handspikes that were inserted into the hole on the wheel on each side.


Control of the Mississippi River was considered vital by both sides. Vicksburg, a city halfway along it in the state of Mississippi, sitting on high bluffs overlooking the river, was a natural place for the Confederates to defend their control of the river. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, and used some of their best heavy ordnance, on the fortifications of Vicksburg, especially after the fall of Memphis in the north and New Orleans in the south. As designed by the chief engineer, the initial works along the river consisted of seven batteries with 18 guns placed on the 200-feet-high bluffs. According to one Confederate officer: "These batteries were located chiefly below the city; their positions were well

ABOVE The top en barbette guns at Fort Pulaski after the Union bombardment. One of the columbiads has been placed so that it might be used essentially as a mortar. (Library of Congress)

RIGHT The caption on this 1861 illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated News reads: 'Practicing with the celebrated Sawyer gun on the Confederate batteries at Sewall's Point, near Norfolk, Va-, from Fort Calhoun, on the riprap in front of Fortress Monroe. The distance was three and one half miles, the guns were forty-two pounders (rifle), columbiads, and were the only guns then in use that could carry that distance." This essentially experimental gun, invented by Massachusetts native Sylvanus Sawyer, was a 5.862-inch rifled weapon that fired a special projectile. It was, In practice, not very successful and was phased out of service as quickly as possible.

chosen; they had fine command of the river against a fleet coming from below." In June, 1862, another officer added that the local garrison "was engaged in strengthening the batteries already constructed, in making bomb-proof magazines, and in mounting new guns recently arrived. Several new batteries were laid out by myself on the most commanding points above the city; these were afterward known as the 'Upper Batteries.' " Despite the number and caliber of these guns, the Federal Navy sent a mockup of an ironclad, built around a barge, past the guns from the north one evening and, seeing that she took relatively little damage, was later able pass the city from either side with relative ease. The boats simply went by too fast to sustain serious damage.


A. An 8-inch Schenkl shell. The bottom of the cast-iron shell is covered in painted papier mâché that would safely self-destruct during firing. The shell front was hollow, and filled with gunpowder with a nose-mounted fuse that could fire on contact or at a set time. This was the same system used by all these shells. This was a U.S. design.

B. A 24-pounder Dyer shell. These shells used lead coverings, on the bottom half of the shell, that would fit into the gun's rifling when fired. This was a U.S. design.

C. A 4-inch Hotchkiss shell. Firing forced the cast-iron cup on the bottom of the Hotchkiss shell up and into the front piece, forcing the lead around the middle up and into the gun's rifling for accuracy. It was covered with a piece of greased canvas to lubricate it as it moved In the gun barrel. This was a U.S. design.

D. A 3.75-inch Sawyer shell. The Sawyer shell was entirety covered in lead which would then take the gun's rifling when It was fired. This was a U.S. design.

E. A James shell. The James shell used slanted iron ribs to spin through space for accuracy. It had lead covered with light tin plate that would expand to fit the gun's rifling when fired, and it was also wrapped in greased canvas for lubrication. On firing, gases would enter the open center of its iron ribcage. expanding and forcing the lead and tin plate into the rifling. This was a U.S. design.

F. A 4.5-inch Absterdam. This shell used a lead sabot, with a convex opening, that would be expanded by gases into the gun's rifling for accuracy. This was a U.S. design.

G. Mullane bolt. Strictly a Confederate shell, the Mullane had a convex copper sabot In Its rear that was expanded by gases on firing to fit the gun's rifling. Because of the scarcity of copper in the Confederacy, the Mullane was not widely used, although examples of it have been found on battlefields of all theaters of the war.

H. Typical fuse (Hotchkiss).

Inside the defenses of Fort Pulaski, showing how Union rifled guns tore the fort's brick walls apart and made firing back impossible. {Library of Congress) 47

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