The 3in Ordnance Rifle

A 3-in. Ordnance Rifle made in 1863, (Gettysburg National Battlefield Park)

A 3-in. Ordnance Rifle made in 1863, (Gettysburg National Battlefield Park)

A private citizen, John Griffen, superintendent of the Phoenix Iron Co., Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, developed a system of making artillery in the 1850s that proved highly successful. His foundry took strips of wrought iron some 3/4 of an inch wide and 4.5 inches I h irk and wrapped them by lathe around an iron core. In all, five layers were built around the core with a thin iron covering on top. Then the core was removed and a plug driven into the breech which not only closed the breech, but also formed the cascabel. Then the mass was heated to welding temperature and up-set two inches in a press. It was rolled out from 4.5 to 7 feet and the bore was reamed out. Trunnions were welded on and the chase turned down to a proper size in a lathe.

The end result was a 3-in. rifled weapon with clean lines and light weight. It was made with 0.5-in.-wide lands and grooves that were 0.84 inches wide. The standard tube weight was 820 lb., although many were slightly lighter. Tests made during the war with a pound of powder and a 9-lb, shell at 10 degrees showed a range of 2,788 yards, while a 20 degree elevation gave the weapon a range of 3,972 yards. It was also an exceptionally safe weapon: only one 3-in. rifle was recorded as having burst in the Union Army during the entire war.

It passed government tests and on June 25, 1801, the Ordnance Department ordered 2(H) rifled versions of this weapon, and another 100 smoothbores. In fact, the order was i|tiickly changed lo make all 300 weapons titles, and eventually the Phoenix Iron Co. supplied the U.S. Army with 1,100 weapons by the war's end. Each is marked on its muzzle with the inspector's initials, the weapon serial number, the weight, "PICo," and the date of manufacture. They were called both Ordnance Rifles and 3-in. Rifles by their users.

These weapons were popular with users on both sides, lirig, Gen, George D. Ramsay, Chief of Ordnance, reported that: "The experience of wrought iron field guns is most favorable to their endurance and efficiency. They cost less than steel and stand all the charge we want to impose on them ..." Confederate artilleryman E. Porter Alexander referred to "the beautiful United States Three-Inch Ordnance Rifles." And Confederate Army Headquarters reported at the end of 1801 that, "The outstanding orders for artillery embrace 15 15-inch columbiads, 220 10-inch columbiads, 340 8-inch columbiads, 70 8-inch siege howitzers, 158 3-inch rifle guns, 24 12-pdr. howitzers, 40 24-pdr. howitzers, 20 10-in. howitzers, 80 42- pounder siege guns. 100 32-pounder siege guns, and field batteries to the extent of our necessities."

While some Confederate batteries received 3-in, rifles on their foundation, many weapons became southern property through prewar purchases and captures. It was not until January, 1862, that the Tredegar Iron Works cast its first 3-in. rifle, and it produced a total of only 20, none of them after April, 1802. Noble Brothers & Co., Rome, Georgia, a private contractors, started manufacturing 3-in. rifles in 1801, producing

18 of the m for both Richmond and Augusta Arsenals between April, 1861. and October, 1862, when they ceased production.

Quinby & Robinson, of Memphis, Tennessee, another private concern, produced four versions of the 3-in. rifle using bronze as the barrel metal betwt *en November, 1861, and June, 1862, when the city was captured by Federal forces. Bronze was also used as the barrel metal for die three 3-in, rifles produced in 1862 by A. B. Reading & Brother, Vicksburg, Mississippi, which saw use in die Army of Mississippi. The Bellona Foundry also cast some bronze and iron 3-in. rifles, known in the Confederate service as "Burton and Archers," but these were especially prone to bursting. The term "Burton and Archer" came from the special ammunition designed for these weapons.

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