This Confederate 'secret weapon' was invented by Captain Williams of Covington, Kentucky. The single barrel was 4 feet long, made of iron, and mounted on a light one-horse double-shafted mountain howitzer-type carriage. Rate of fire was 60-65 rounds per minute, with a range of up to 2,000 yards. The piece was manned by a crew of three. One fed self-consuming paper cartridges into the breech from above by hand. The second placed percussion caps on to a nipple on the left-hand side of the chamber, under an automatic hammer synchronized to the breech mechanism. The third cranked the handle on the right side which closed and locked the breech block and dropped the hammer on the cap. As the block slid back the hammer rose clear of the nipple on a cam. A 1-lb shell or 'bolt', or a king-size load of buckshot wrapped in paper, could be fired. The buckshot acted like a gigantic shotgun at close range, and was extremely lethal I These guns saw extensive service throughout the war.
After testing, the first model was used by Picketts' Brigade at Fair Oaks on May 31, 1862, where it was reported as having 'killed Federals so fast they never knew what hit them'. The Confederate Government ordered 42 guns to make seven batteries of six guns each. The guns were made at Lynchburg and Richmond, Virginia, and Mobile, Alabama. In 1863 at Blue Springs a battery with the 4th Kentucky Cavalry shot up a detachment of the 7th Ohio Cavalry. Several guns under Captain Williams' command served with Picketts' Brigade.
Unfortunately the gun had its drawbacks. When it was fired for any length of time the breech expanded from the heat and failed to seat properly. The South's acute shortage of high-grade steel meant that the problem of overheating could not be overcome successfully, and this fact seems to have kept the Williams Gun from attaining more prominence. Despite its failings it was rated very reliable.
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