Ammunition

"There are four kinds of projectiles used in field service," wrote the authors of the standard U.S. Army artillery field manual, "the solid shot, the canister, the shell, and the case shot.

"The projectile is attached to a block of wood called a sabot. For the guns and the 12-pdr. howitzer, the cartridge and the projectile are attached to the same sabot, making together a round of fixed ammunition ...

A Union battery at Fort Sumner on the Chickahominy on June 27, 1662, with its 10-pdr. Parrott rifles. Note the limber chest tucked away below the gun parapets, but close enough to bring ammunition up quickly. (Author's collection)

"The solid shot is spherical, and its weight in pounds is used to designate the caliber of the gun to which ii belongs.

"The canister consists of a tin cylinder, attached to a sabot and filled with cast-iron shot. These shot vary in diameter, and of course in weight, with the caliber and description of the piece. Canisters for guns contain 27 shots each; those for howitzers contain 48 shots each. They are packed in sawdust in four tiers; the lower tier rests on a rolled iron plate, which is placed on the sabot, and the canister is closed with a sheet-iron cover ...

"The shell is a hollow shot, with such thickness of metal as enables it to penetrate earthworks, wooden buildings, See., without breaking. For service it is charged with powder, and bursts with great force. Firing is communicated to the charge by means of a fuze, inserted in the hole through which the powder is introduced, the time of the explosion being regulated by the preparation of the fuze. The shell is designated by the weight of the solid shot of the same diameter.

"The shrapnel or case shot is a hollow cast-iron shot forming a case which is filled with musket balls. Melted sulphur or resin is poured in to fill up the interstices and secure the balls in their positions. After this is solidified, a portion of the contents is bored out and the -vacant cylindrical space filled with powder, the amount of the charge being only sufficient to rupture the case, which has less thickness of metal than the shell, and to disperse the contents. Fire is communicated to the charge by the means employed for exploding the shell."

While both sides used the same types of ammunition, southern-made rounds were noticeably poorer in quality than northern-made ones. F. Porter Alexander, a Confederate artillery battalion commander, commented that in 1861: "Our smooth bore shells & shrapnel would

Field Commander Alexander

very frequently explode prematurely, 8c our rifle shot & shells would all tumble or fail to go point first, so they had no range at all & were worse than worthless ... We gradually made great improvements, but the enemy were always tar ahead of us in artillery ammunition of all kinds both in quality & quantity."

A flannel bag containing the powder was inserted separately from each round of ammunition.

AMMUNITION CARRIED IN EACH CHEST

A comparison of the recommended inventory carried in the limber chest as listed in the Confederates States (CS) Ordnance Manual, 1863, and the U.S. Field Artillery Instructions, 1864.

Gun item

Number

Weight

Number

Weight

of rounds

in pounds

of rounds

in pounds

(U.S.)

(U.S.)

(CS)

(CS)

6-lb. Shot

25

190

25

190

Spherical case

20

140

20

140

Canister

5

42

5

42

Total rounds

50

50

Spare 1.4-lb,

cartridges

2

2.5

2

2.6

Primers

75

.6

75

.97

Yds. slow

match

1.5

,4

2

,38

Port-fires

3

,6

2

,57

Total Weight

376.1 lb.

376.52 lb.

12-lb. Shot

20

308

12

184.8

Spherical case

8

117.6

12

176.4

Shell

0

0

4

48.68

Canister

4

67.6

4

67.64

Total rounds

32

32

Spare 2.5-lb.

cartridges

2

5

2

5.12

Primers

48

.4

48

.62

Yds. slow

match

2

.5

1.5

.28

Port-fires

4

.7

3

.57

Total Weight

499.8 lb.

484.11 lb.

12-lb.

howitzer Shell

15

157.5

15

157.5

Spherical case

20

273

20

273

Canister

4

47.4

4

47.4

Total rounds

39

39

Primers

6

,5

58

47.4

Yds. slow

match

1.5

.4

2

.38

Port-fires

3

.6

3

.57

Total Weight

479.4 lb.

479.6 lb.

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