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Title: Artillery Through the Ages - A Short Illustrated History of Cannon, Emphasizing Types Used in America
Author: Manucy, Albert
Language: English
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                           THROUGH THE AGES

                A Short Illustrated History of Cannon,
                  Emphasizing Types Used in America

                             UNITED STATES
                       DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

                       Fred A. Seaton, _Secretary_

                          NATIONAL PARK SERVICE

                       Conrad L. Wirth, _Director_

              For sale by the Superintendent of Documents
                   U. S. Government Printing Office
                 Washington 25, D. C. -- Price 35 cents

           (_Cover_) FRENCH 12-POUNDER FIELD GUN (1700-1750)


                           THROUGH THE AGES

                A Short Illustrated History of Cannon,
                  Emphasizing Types Used in America


                            _ALBERT MANUCY_

                    Southeastern National Monuments_

                           Drawings by Author

                 Technical Review by Harold L. Peterson

              _National Park Service Interpretive Series
                            History No. 3_

                          _WASHINGTON: 1949_
                            (Reprint 1956)

Many of the types of cannon described in this booklet may be seen in
areas of the National Park System throughout the country. Some parks
with especially fine collections are:

century field and garrison guns.

and siege guns.

COLONIAL NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, seventeenth and eighteenth century
field and siege guns, eighteenth century naval guns.

century field guns and Civil War garrison guns.



PETERSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK, Civil War field and siege guns.


VICKSBURG NATIONAL MILITARY PARK, Civil War field and siege guns.

     The National Park System is dedicated to conserving the scenic,
     scientific, and historic heritage of the United States for the
     benefit and enjoyment of its people.


    The Ancient Engines of War
    Gunpowder Comes to Europe
    The Bombards
    Sixteenth Century Cannon
    The Seventeenth Century and Gustavus Adolphus
    The Eighteenth Century
    United States Guns of the Early 1800's
    The War Between the States
    The Change into Modern Artillery

    Modern Use of Black Powder

    The Early Smoothbore Cannon
    Smoothbores of the Later Period
    Garrison and Ship Guns
    Siege Cannon
    Field Cannon

    Solid Shot
    Explosive Shells
    Scatter Projectiles
    Incendiaries and Chemical Projectiles
    Fixed Ammunition





from Francis Grose, Military Antiquities, 1796.]


     _Looking at an old-time cannon, most people are sure of just one
     thing: the shot came out of the front end. For that reason these
     pages are written; people are curious about the fascinating
     weapon that so prodigiously and powerfully lengthened the
     warrior's arm. And theirs is a justifiable curiosity, because the
     gunner and his "art" played a significant role in our history._


To compare a Roman catapult with a modern trench mortar seems absurd.
Yet the only basic difference is the kind of energy that sends the
projectile on its way.

In the dawn of history, war engines were performing the function of
artillery (which may be loosely defined as a means of hurling missiles
too heavy to be thrown by hand), and with these crude weapons the
basic principles of artillery were laid down. The Scriptures record
the use of ingenious machines on the walls of Jerusalem eight
centuries B.C.--machines that were probably predecessors of the
catapult and ballista, getting power from twisted ropes made of hair,
hide or sinew. The ballista had horizontal arms like a bow. The arms
were set in rope; a cord, fastened to the arms like a bowstring, fired
arrows, darts, and stones. Like a modern field gun, the ballista shot
low and directly toward the enemy.

The catapult was the howitzer, or mortar, of its day and could throw
a hundred-pound stone 600 yards in a high arc to strike the enemy
behind his wall or batter down his defenses. "In the middle of the
ropes a wooden arm rises like a chariot pole," wrote the historian
Marcellinus. "At the top of the arm hangs a sling. When battle is
commenced, a round stone is set in the sling. Four soldiers on each
side of the engine wind the arm down until it is almost level with the
ground. When the arm is set free, it springs up and hurls the stone
forth from its sling." In early times the weapon was called a
"scorpion," for like this dreaded insect it bore its "sting" erect.

[Illustration: Figure 1--BALLISTA. Caesar covered his landing in
Britain with fire from catapults and ballistas.]

The trebuchet was another war machine used extensively during the
Middle Ages. Essentially, it was a seesaw. Weights on the short arm
swung the long throwing arm.

[Illustration: Figure 2--CATAPULT.]

[Illustration: Figure 3--TREBUCHET. A heavy trebuchet could throw a
300-pound stone 300 yards.]

These weapons could be used with telling effect, as the Romans learned
from Archimedes in the siege of Syracuse (214-212 B.C.). As Plutarch
relates, "Archimedes soon began to play his engines upon the Romans
and their ships, and shot stones of such an enormous size and with so
incredible a noise and velocity that nothing could stand before them.
At length the Romans were so terrified that, if they saw but a rope
or a beam projecting over the walls of Syracuse, they cried out that
Archimedes was leveling some machine at them, and turned their backs
and fled."

Long after the introduction of gunpowder, the old engines of war
continued in use. Often they were side by side with cannon.


Chinese "thunder of the earth" (an effect produced by filling a large
bombshell with a gunpowder mixture) sounded faint reverberations
amongst the philosophers of the western world as early as A.D. 300.
Though the Chinese were first instructed in the scientific casting of
cannon by missionaries during the 1600's, crude cannon seem to have
existed in China during the twelfth century and even earlier.

In Europe, a ninth century Latin manuscript contains a formula for
gunpowder. But the first show of firearms in western Europe may have
been by the Moors, at Saragossa, in A.D. 1118. In later years the
Spaniards turned the new weapon against their Moorish enemies at the
siege of Cordova (1280) and the capture of Gibraltar (1306).

It therefore follows that the Arabian _madfaa_, which in turn had
doubtless descended from an eastern predecessor, was the original
cannon brought to western civilization. This strange weapon seems to
have been a small, mortar-like instrument of wood. Like an egg in an
egg cup, the ball rested on the muzzle end until firing of the charge
tossed it in the general direction of the enemy. Another primitive
cannon, with narrow neck and flared mouth, fired an iron dart. The
shaft of the dart was wrapped with leather to fit tightly into the
neck of the piece. A red-hot bar thrust through a vent ignited the
charge. The range was about 700 yards. The bottle shape of the weapon
perhaps suggested the name _pot de fer_ (iron jug) given early cannon,
and in the course of evolution the narrow neck probably enlarged until
the bottle became a straight tube.

During the Hundred Years' War (1339-1453) cannon came into general
use. Those early pieces were very small, made of iron or cast bronze,
and fired lead or iron balls. They were laid directly on the ground,
with muzzles elevated by mounding up the earth. Being cumbrous and
inefficient, they played little part in battle, but were quite useful
in a siege.


By the middle 1400's the little popguns that tossed one-or two-pound
pellets had grown into enormous bombards. Dulle Griete, the giant
bombard of Ghent, had a 25-inch caliber and fired a 700-pound granite
ball. It was built in 1382. Edinburgh Castle's famous Mons Meg threw a
19-1/2-inch iron ball some 1,400 yards (a mile is 1,760 yards), or a
stone ball twice that far.

The Scottish kings used Meg between 1455 and 1513 to reduce the
castles of rebellious nobles. A baron's castle was easily knocked to
pieces by the prince who owned, or could borrow, a few pieces of heavy
ordnance. The towering walls of the old-time strongholds slowly gave
way to the earthwork-protected Renaissance fortification, which is
typified in the United States by Castillo de San Marcos, in Castillo
de San Marcos National Monument, St. Augustine, Fla.

Some of the most formidable bombards were those of the Turks, who used
exceptionally large cast-bronze guns at the siege of Constantinople in
1453. One of these monsters weighed 19 tons and hurled a 600-pound
stone seven times a day. It took some 60 oxen and 200 men to move this
piece, and the difficulty of transporting such heavy ordnance greatly
reduced its usefulness. The largest caliber gun on record is the Great
Mortar of Moscow. Built about 1525, it had a bore of 36 inches, was 18
feet long, and fired a stone projectile weighing a ton. But by this
time the big guns were obsolete, although some of the old Turkish
ordnance survived the centuries to defend Constantinople against a
British squadron in 1807. In that defense a great stone cut the
mainmast of the British flagship, and another crushed through the
English ranks to kill or wound 60 men.

[Illustration: Figure 4--EARLY SMALL BOMBARD (1330). It was made of
wrought-iron bars, bound with hoops.]

The ponderosity of the large bombards held them to level land, where
they were laid on rugged mounts of the heaviest wood, anchored by
stakes driven into the ground. A gunner would try to put his bombard
100 yards from the wall he wanted to batter down. One would surmise
that the gunner, being so close to a castle wall manned by expert
Genoese cross-bowmen, was in a precarious position. He was; but
earthworks or a massive wooden shield arranged like a seesaw over his
gun gave him fair protection. Lowering the front end of the shield
made a barricade behind which he could charge his muzzle loader (see
fig. 49).

In those days, and for many decades thereafter, neither gun crews nor
transport were permanent. They had to be hired as they were needed.
Master gunners were usually civilian "artists," not professional
soldiers, and many of them had cannon built for rental to customers.
Artillerists obtained the right to captured metals such as tools and
town bells, and this loot would be cast into guns or ransomed for
cash. The making of guns and gunpowder, the loading of bombs, and
even the serving of cannon were jealously guarded trade secrets.
Gunnery was a closed corporation, and the gunner himself a guildsman.
The public looked upon him as something of a sorcerer in league with
the devil, and a captured artilleryman was apt to be tortured and
mutilated. At one time the Pope saw fit to excommunicate all gunners.
Also since these specialists kept to themselves and did not drink or
plunder, their behavior was ample proof to the good soldier of the old
days that artillerists were hardly human.


After 1470 the art of casting greatly improved in Europe. Lighter
cannon began to replace the bombards. Throughout the 1500's
improvement was mainly toward lightening the enormous weights of guns
and projectiles, as well as finding better ways to move the artillery.
Thus, by 1556 Emperor Ferdinand was able to march against the Turks
with 57 heavy and 127 light pieces of ordnance.

At the beginning of the 1400's cast-iron balls had made an appearance.
The greater efficiency of the iron ball, together with an improvement
in gunpowder, further encouraged the building of smaller and stronger
guns. Before 1500 the siege gun had been the predominant piece. Now
forged-iron cannon for field, garrison, and naval service--and later,
cast-iron pieces--were steadily developed along with cast-bronze guns,
some of which were beautifully ornamented with Renaissance
workmanship. The casting of trunnions on the gun made elevation and
transportation easier, and the cumbrous beds of the early days gave
way to crude artillery carriages with trails and wheels. The French
invented the limber and about 1550 took a sizable forward step by
standardizing the calibers of their artillery.

Meanwhile, the first cannon had come to the New World with Columbus.
As the _Pinta's_ lookout sighted land on the early morn of October 12,
1492, the firing of a lombard carried the news over the moonlit waters
to the flagship _Santa María_. Within the next century, not only the
galleons, but numerous fortifications on the Spanish Main were armed
with guns, thundering at the freebooters who disputed Spain's
ownership of American treasure. Sometimes the adventurers seized
cannon as prizes, as did Drake in 1586 when he made off with 14 bronze
guns from St. Augustine's little wooden fort of San Juan de Pinos.
Drake's loot no doubt included the ordnance of a 1578 list, which
gives a fair idea of the armament for an important frontier
fortification: three reinforced cannon, three demiculverins, two
sakers (one broken), a demisaker and a falcon, all properly mounted on
elevated platforms in the fort to cover every approach. Most of them
were highly ornamented pieces founded between 1546 and 1555. The
reinforced cannon, for instance, which seem to have been cast from the
same mold, each bore the figure of a savage hefting a club in one hand
and grasping a coin in the other. On a demiculverin, a bronze mermaid
held a turtle, and the other guns were decorated with arms,
escutcheons, the founder's name, and so on.

In the English colonies during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, lighter pieces seem to have been the more prevalent; there
is no record of any "cannon." (In those days, "cannon" were a special
class.) Culverins are mentioned occasionally and demiculverins rather
frequently, but most common were the falconets, falcons, minions, and
sakers. At Fort Raleigh, Jamestown, Plymouth, and some other
settlements the breech-loading half-pounder perrier or "Patterero"
mounted on a swivel was also in use. (See frontispiece.)

It was during the sixteenth century that the science of ballistics had
its beginning. In 1537, Niccolo Tartaglia published the first
scientific treatise on gunnery. Principles of construction were tried
and sometimes abandoned, only to reappear for successful application
in later centuries. Breech-loading guns, for instance, had already
been invented. They were unsatisfactory because the breech could not
be sealed against escape of the powder gases, and the crude, chambered
breechblocks, jammed against the bore with a wedge, often cracked
under the shock of firing. Neither is spiral rifling new. It appeared
in a few guns during the 1500's.

Mobile artillery came on the field with the cart guns of John Zizka
during the Hussite Wars of Bohemia (1419-24). Using light guns, hauled
by the best of horses instead of the usual oxen, the French further
improved field artillery, and maneuverable French guns proved to be an
excellent means for breaking up heavy masses of pikemen in the Italian
campaigns of the early 1500's. The Germans under Maximilian I,
however, took the armament leadership away from the French with guns
that ranged 1,500 yards and with men who had earned the reputation of
being the best gunners in Europe.

Then about 1525 the famous Spanish Square of heavily armed pikemen and
musketeers began to dominate the battlefield. In the face of musketry,
field artillery declined. Although artillery had achieved some
mobility, carriages were still cumbrous. To move a heavy English
cannon, even over good ground, it took 23 horses; a culverin needed
nine beasts. Ammunition--mainly cast-iron round shot, the bomb (an
iron shell filled with gunpowder), canister (a can filled with small
projectiles), and grape shot (a cluster of iron balls)--was carried
the primitive way, in wheelbarrows and carts or on a man's back. The
gunner's pace was the measure of field artillery's speed: the gunner
_walked_ beside his gun! Furthermore, some of these experts were
getting along in years. During Elizabeth's reign several of the
gunners at the Tower of London were over 90 years old.

Lacking mobility, guns were captured and recaptured with every
changing sweep of the battle; so for the artillerist generally, this
was a difficult period. The actual commander of artillery was usually
a soldier; but transport and drivers were still hired, and the drivers
naturally had a layman's attitude toward battle. Even the gunners,
those civilian artists who owed no special duty to the prince, were
concerned mainly over the safety of their pieces--and their hides,
since artillerists who stuck with their guns were apt to be picked off
by an enemy musketeer. Fusilier companies were organized as artillery
guards, but their job was as much to keep the gun crew from running
away as to protect them from the enemy.


So, during 400 years, cannon had changed from the little vases,
valuable chiefly for making noise, into the largest caliber weapons
ever built, and then from the bombards into smaller, more powerful
cannon. The gun of 1600 could throw a shot almost as far as the gun of
1850; not in fire power, but in mobility, organization, and tactics
was artillery undeveloped. Because artillery lacked these things, the
pike and musket were supreme on the battlefield.


Under the Swedish warrior Gustavus Adolphus, artillery began to take
its true position on the field of battle. Gustavus saw the need for
mobility, so he divorced anything heavier than a 12-pounder from his
field artillery. His famous "leatheren" gun was so light that it could
be drawn and served by two men. This gun was a wrought-copper tube
screwed into a chambered brass breech, bound with four iron hoops. The
copper tube was covered with layers of mastic, wrapped firmly with
cords, then coated with an equalizing layer of plaster. A cover of
leather, boiled and varnished, completed the gun. Naturally, the piece
could withstand only a small charge, but it was highly mobile.

Gustavus abandoned the leather gun, however, in favor of a cast-iron
4-pounder and a 9-pounder demiculverin produced by his bright young
artillery chief, Lennart Torstensson. The demiculverin was classed as
the "feildpeece" _par excellence_, while the 4-pounder was so light
(about 500 pounds) that two horses could pull it in the field.

These pieces could be served by three men. Combining the powder charge
and projectile into a single cartridge did away with the old method
of ladling the powder into the gun and increased the rapidity of
fire. Whereas in the past one cannon for each thousand infantrymen had
been standard, Gustavus brought the ratio up to six cannon, and
attached a pair of light pieces to each regiment as "battalion guns."
At the same time he knew the value of fire concentration, and he
frequently massed guns in strong batteries. His plans called for
smashing hostile infantry formations with artillery fire, while
neutralizing the ponderous, immobile enemy guns with a whirlwind
cavalry charge. The ideas were sound. Gustavus smashed the Spanish
Squares at Breitenfeld in 1631.

[Illustration: Figure 6--LIGHT ARTILLERY OF GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS (1630).]

Following the Swedish lead, all nations modified their artillery.
Leadership fell alternately to the Germans, the French, and the
Austrians. The mystery of artillery began to disappear, and gunners
became professional soldiers. Bronze came to be the favorite gunmetal.

Louis XIV of France seems to have been the first to give permanent
organization to the artillery. He raised a regiment of artillerymen in
1671 and established schools of instruction. The "standing army"
principle that began about 1500 was by now in general use, and small
armies of highly trained professional soldiers formed a class distinct
from the rest of the population. As artillery became an organized arm
of the military, expensive personnel and equipment had to be
maintained even in peacetime. Still, some necessary changes were slow
in coming. French artillery officers did not receive military rank
until 1732, and in some countries drivers were still civilians in the
1790's. In 1716, Britain had organized artillery into two permanent
companies, comprising the Royal Regiment of Artillery. Yet as late as
the American Revolution there was a dispute about whether a general
officer whose service had been in the Royal Artillery was entitled to
command troops of all arms. There was no such question in England of
the previous century: the artillery general was a personage having
"alwayes a part of the charge, and when the chief generall is absent,
he is to command all the army."

[Illustration: Figure 7--FRENCH GARRISON GUN (1650-1700). The gun is
on a sloping wooden platform at the embrasure. Note the heavy bed on
which the cheeks of the carriage rest and the built-in skid under the
center of the rear axletree.]


During the early 1700's cannon were used to protect an army's
deployment and to prepare for the advance of the troops by firing upon
enemy formations. There was a tendency to regard heavy batteries,
properly protected by field works or permanent fortifications, as the
natural role for artillery. But if artillery was seldom decisive in
battle, it nevertheless waxed more important through improved
organization, training, and discipline. In the previous century,
calibers had been reduced in number and more or less standardized;
now, there were notable scientific and technical improvements. The
English scientist Benjamin Robins wedded theory to practice; his _New
Principles of Gunnery_ (1742) did much to bring about a more
scientific attitude toward ballistics. One result of Robins' research
was the introduction, in 1779, of carronades, those short, light
pieces so useful in the confines of a ship's gun deck. Carronades
usually ranged in caliber from 6- to 68-pounders.

In North America, cannon were generally too cumbrous for Indian
fighting. But from the time (1565) the French, in Florida, loosed the
first bolt at the rival fleet of the Spaniard Menéndez, cannon were
used on land and sea during intercolonial strife, or against corsairs.
Over the vast distances of early America, transport of heavy guns was
necessarily by water. Without ships, the guns were inexorably walled
in by the forest. So it was when the Carolinian Moore besieged St.
Augustine in 1702. When his ships burned, Moore had to leave his guns
to the Spaniards.

One of the first appearances of organized American field artillery on
the battlefield was in the Northeast, where France's Louisburg fell to
British and Colonial forces in 1745. Serving with the British Royal
Artillery was the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston,
which had originated in 1637. English field artillery of the day had
"brigades" of four to six cannon, and each piece was supplied with 100
rounds of solid shot and 30 rounds of grape. John Müller's _Treatise
on Artillery_, the standard English authority, was republished in
Philadelphia (1779), and British artillery was naturally a model for
the arm in America.

[Illustration: Figure 8--AMERICAN 6-POUNDER FIELDPIECE (c. 1775).]

At the outbreak of the War of Independence, American artillery was an
accumulation of guns, mortars, and howitzers of every sort and some 13
different calibers. Since the source of importation was cut off, the
undeveloped casting industries of the Colonies undertook cannon
founding, and by 1775 the foundries of Philadelphia were casting both
bronze and iron guns. A number of bronze French guns were brought in
later. The mobile guns of Washington's army ranged from 3- to
24-pounders, with 5-1/2- and 8-inch howitzers. They were usually
bronze. A few iron siege guns of 18-, 24-, and 32-pounder caliber were
on hand. The guns used round shot, grape, and case shot; mortars and
howitzers fired bombs and carcasses. "Side boxes" on each side of the
carriage held 21 rounds of ammunition and were taken off when the
piece was brought into battery. Horses or oxen, with hired civilian
drivers, formed the transport. On the battlefield the cannoneers
manned drag ropes to maneuver the guns into position.

Sometimes, as at Guilford Courthouse, the ever-present forest
diminished the effectiveness of artillery, but nevertheless the arm
was often put to good use. The skill of the American gunners at
Yorktown contributed no little toward the speedy advance of the siege
trenches. Yorktown battlefield today has many examples of
Revolutionary War cannon, including some fine ship guns recovered from
British vessels sunk during the siege of 1781.

In Europe, meanwhile, Frederick the Great of Prussia learned how to
use cannon in the campaigns of the Seven Years' War (1756-63). The
education was forced upon him as gradual destruction of his veteran
infantry made him lean more heavily on artillery. To keep pace with
cavalry movements, he developed a horse artillery that moved rapidly
along with the cavalry. His field artillery had only light guns and
howitzers. With these improvements he could establish small batteries
at important points in the battle line, open the fight, and protect
the deployment of his columns with light guns. What was equally
significant, he could change the position of his batteries according
to the course of the action.

Frederick sent his 3- and 6-pounders ahead of the infantry. Gunners
dismounted 500 paces from the enemy and advanced on foot, pushing
their guns ahead of them, firing incessantly and using grape shot
during the latter part of their advance. Up to closest range they
went, until the infantry caught up, passed through the artillery line,
and stormed the enemy position. Remember that battle was pretty
formal, with musketeers standing or kneeling in ranks, often in full
view of the enemy!

[Illustration: Figure 9--FRENCH 12-POUNDER FIELD GUN (c. 1780).]

Perhaps the outstanding artilleryman of the 1700's was the Frenchman
Jean Baptiste de Gribeauval, who brought home a number of ideas after
serving with the capable Austrian artillery against Frederick. The
great reform in French artillery began in 1765, although Gribeauval
was not able to effect all of his changes until he became Inspector
General of Artillery in 1776. He all but revolutionized French
artillery, and vitally influenced other countries.

Gribeauval's artillery came into action at a gallop and smothered
enemy batteries with an overpowering volume of fire. He created a
distinct matériel for field, siege, garrison, and coast artillery. He
reduced the length and weight of the pieces, as well as the charge and
the windage (the difference between the diameters of shot and bore);
he built carriages so that many parts were interchangeable, and made
soldiers out of the drivers. For siege and garrison he adopted 12- and
16-pounder guns, an 8-inch howitzer and 8-, 10-, and 12-inch mortars.
For coastal fortifications he used the traversing platform which,
having rear wheels that ran upon a track, greatly simplified the
training of a gun right or left upon a moving target (fig. 10).
Gribeauval-type matériel was used with the greatest effect in the new
tactics which Napoleon introduced.

Napoleon owed much of his success to masterly use of artillery. Under
this captain there was no preparation for infantry advance by slowly
disintegrating the hostile force with artillery fire. Rather, his
artillerymen went up fast into closest range, and by actually
annihilating a portion of the enemy line with case-shot fire, covered
the assault so effectively that columns of cavalry and infantry
reached the gap without striking a blow!

After Napoleon, the history of artillery largely becomes a record of
its technical effectiveness, together with improvements or changes in
putting well-established principles into action.


The United States adopted the Gribeauval system of artillery carriages
in 1809, just about the time it was becoming obsolete (the French
abandoned it in 1829). The change to this system, however, did not
include adoption of the French gun calibers. Early in the century cast
iron replaced bronze as a gunmetal, a move pushed by the growing
United States iron industry; and not until 1836 was bronze readopted
in this country for mobile cannon. In the meantime, U. S. Artillery in
the War of 1812 did most of its fighting with iron 6-pounders. Fort
McHenry, which is administered by the National Park Service as a
national monument and historic shrine, has a few ordnance pieces of
the period.

[Illustration: Figure 10--U. S. 32-POUNDER ON BARBETTE CARRIAGE

During the Mexican War, the artillery carried 6- and 12-pounder guns,
the 12-pounder mountain howitzer (a light piece of 220 pounds which
had been added for the Indian campaigns), a 12-pounder field howitzer
(788 pounds), the 24- and 32-pounder howitzers, and 8- and 10-inch
mortars. For siege, garrison, and seacoast there were pieces of 16
types, ranging from a 1-pounder to the giant 10-inch Columbiad of
7-1/2 tons. In 1857, the United States adopted the 12-pounder Napoleon
gun-howitzer, a bronze smoothbore designed by Napoleon III, and this
muzzle-loader remained standard in the army until the 1880's.

The naval ironclads, which were usually armed with powerful 11- or
15-inch smoothbores, were a revolutionary development in mid-century.
They were low-hulled, armored, steam vessels, with one or two
revolving turrets. Although most cannonballs bounced from the armor,
lack of speed made the "cheese box on a raft" vulnerable, and poor
visibility through the turret slots was a serious handicap in battle.

[Illustration: Figure 11--U. S. NAVY 9-INCH SHELL-GUN ON MARSILLY
CARRIAGE (1866).]

While 20-, 30-, and 60-pounder Parrott rifles soon made an appearance
in the Federal Navy, along with Dahlgren's 12- and 20-pounder rifled
howitzers, the Navy relied mainly upon its "shell-guns": the 9-, 10-,
11-, and 15-inch iron smoothbores. There were also 8-inch guns of 55
and 63 "hundredweight" (the contemporary naval nomenclature), and four
sizes of 32-pounders ranging from 27 to 57 hundredweight. The heavier
guns took more powder and got slightly longer ranges. Many naval guns
of the period are characterized by a hole in the cascabel, through
which the breeching tackle was run to check recoil. The Navy also had
a 13-inch mortar, mounted aboard ship on a revolving circular
platform. Landing parties were equipped with 12- or 24-pounder
howitzers either on boat carriages (a flat bed something like a mortar
bed) or on three-wheeled "field" carriages.


Rifling, by imparting a spin to the projectile as it travels along the
spiral grooves in the bore, permits the use of a long projectile and
ensures its flight point first, with great increase in accuracy. The
longer projectile, being both heavier and more streamlined than round
shot of the same caliber, also has a greater striking energy.

Though Benjamin Robins was probably the first to give sound reasons,
the fact that rifling was helpful had been known a long time. A 1542
barrel at Woolwich has six fine spiral grooves in the bore. Straight
grooving had been applied to small arms as early as 1480, and during
the 1500's straight grooving of musket bores was extensively
practiced. Probably, rifling evolved from the early observation of the
feathers on an arrow--and from the practical results of cutting
channels in a musket, originally to reduce fouling, then because it
was found to improve accuracy of the shot. Rifled small-arm efficiency
was clearly shown at Kings Mountain during the American Revolution.

In spite of earlier experiments, however, it was not until the 1840's
that attempts to rifle cannon could be called successful. In 1846,
Major Cavelli in Italy and Baron Wahrendorff in Germany independently
produced rifled iron breech-loading cannon. The Cavelli gun had two
spiral grooves into which fitted the 1/4-inch projecting lugs of a
long projectile (fig. 12a). Other attempts at what might be called
rifling were Lancaster's elliptical-bore gun and the later development
of a spiraling hexagonal-bore by Joseph Whitworth (fig. 12b). The
English Whitworth was used by Confederate artillery. It was an
efficient piece, though subject to easy fouling that made it

Then, in 1855, England's Lord Armstrong designed a rifled breechloader
that included so many improvements as to be revolutionary. This gun
was rifled with a large number of grooves and fired lead-coated
projectiles. Much of its success, however, was due to the built-up
construction: hoops were shrunk on over the tube, with the fibers of
the metal running in the directions most suitable for strength.
Several United States muzzle-loading rifles of built-up construction
were produced about the same time as the Armstrong and included the
Chambers (1849), the Treadwell (1855), and the well-known Parrott of
1861 (figs. 12e and 13).

The German Krupp rifle had an especially successful breech mechanism.
It was not a built-up gun, but depended on superior crucible steel for
its strength. Cast steel had been tried as a gunmetal during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but metallurgical knowledge of
the early days could not produce sound castings. Steel was also used
in other mid-nineteenth century rifles, such as the United States
Wiard gun and the British Blakely, with its swollen, cast-iron breech
hoop. Fort Pulaski National Monument, near Savannah, Ga., has a fine
example of a 24-pounder Blakely used by the Confederates in the 1862
defense of the fort.

(1840-1900). a--Cavelli type, b--Whitworth, c--James, d--Hotchkiss,
e--Parrott, f--Copper rotating band type. (Not to scale.)]

The United States began intensive experimentation with rifled cannon
late in the 1850's, and a few rifled pieces were made by the South
Boston Iron Foundry and also by the West Point Foundry at Cold Spring,
N. Y. The first appearance of rifles in any quantity, however, was
near the outset of the 1861 hostilities, when the Federal artillery
was equipped with 300 wrought-iron 3-inch guns (fig. 14e). This
"12-pounder," which fired a 10-pound projectile, was made by wrapping
sheets of boiler iron around a mandrel. The cylinder thus formed was
heated and passed through the rolls for welding, then cooled, bored,
turned, and rifled. It remained in service until about 1900. Another
rifle giving good results was the cast-iron 4-1/2-inch siege gun. This
piece was cast solid, then bored, turned, and rifled. Uncertainty of
strength, a characteristic of cast iron, caused its later abandonment.

[Illustration: Figure 13--PARROTT 10-POUNDER RIFLE (1864).]

The United States rifle that was most effective in siege work was the
invention of Robert P. Parrott. His cast-iron guns (fig. 13), many of
which are seen today in the battlefield parks, are easily recognized
by the heavy wrought-iron jacket reinforcing the breech. The jacket
was made by coiling a bar over the mandrel in a spiral, then hammering
the coils into a welded cylinder. The cylinder was bored and shrunk on
the gun. Parrotts were founded in 10-, 20-, 30-, 60-, 100-, 200-, and
300-pounder calibers, one foundry making 1,700 of them during the
Civil War.

All nations, of course, had large stocks of smoothbores on hand, and
various methods were devised to make rifles out of them. The U. S.
Ordnance Board, for instance, believed the conversion simply involved
cutting grooves in the bore, right at the forts or arsenals where the
guns were. In 1860, half of the United States artillery was scheduled
for conversion. As a result, a number of old smoothbores were rebored
to fire rifle projectiles of the various patents which preceded the
modern copper rotating band (fig. 12c, d, f). Under the James patent
(fig. 12c) the weight of metal thrown by a cannon was virtually
doubled; converted 24-, 32- and 42-pounders fired elongated shot
classed respectively as 48-, 64-, and 84-pound projectiles. After the
siege of Fort Pulaski, Federal Gen. Q. A. Gillmore praised the
84-pounder and declared "no better piece for breaching can be
desired," but experience soon proved the heavier projectiles caused
increased pressures which converted guns could not withstand for long.

The early United States rifles had a muzzle velocity about the same as
the smoothbore, but whereas the round shot of the smoothbore lost
speed so rapidly that at 2,000 yards its striking velocity was only
about a third of the muzzle velocity, the more streamlined rifle
projectile lost speed very slowly. But the rifle had to be served more
carefully than the smoothbore. Rifling grooves were cleaned with a
moist sponge, and sometimes oiled with another sponge. Lead-coated
projectiles like the James, which tended to foul the grooves of the
piece, made it necessary to scrape the rifle grooves after every half
dozen shots, although guns using brass-banded projectiles did not
require the extra operation. With all muzzle-loading rifles, the
projectile had to be pushed close home to the powder charge;
otherwise, the blast would not fully expand its rotating band, the
projectile would not take the grooves, and would "tumble" after
leaving the gun, to the utter loss of range and accuracy.
Incidentally, gunners had to "run out" (push the gun into firing
position) both smoothbore and rifled muzzle-loaders carefully. A
sudden stop might make the shot start forward as much as 2 feet.

When the U. S. Ordnance Board recommended the conversion to rifles, it
also recommended that all large caliber iron guns be manufactured on
the method perfected by Capt. T. J. Rodman, which involved casting the
gun around a water-cooled core. The inner walls of the gun thus
solidified first, were compressed by the contraction of the outer
metal as it cooled down more slowly, and had much greater strength to
resist explosion of the charge. The Rodman smoothbore, founded in 8-,
10-, 15-, and 20-inch calibers, was the best cast-iron ordnance of its
time (fig. 14f). The 20-inch gun, produced in 1864, fired a
1,080-pound shot. The 15-incher was retained in service through the
rest of the century, and these monsters are still to be seen at Fort
McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine or on the ramparts of
Fort Jefferson, in the national monument of that name, in the Dry
Tortugas Islands. In later years, a number of 10-inch Rodmans were
converted into 8-inch rifles by enlarging the bore and inserting a
grooved steel tube.


At the opening of this civil conflict most of the matériel for both
armies was of the same type--smoothbore. The various guns included
weapons in the great masonry fortifications built on the long United
States coast line since the 1820's--weapons such as the Columbiad, a
heavy, long-chambered American muzzle-loader of iron, developed from
its bronze forerunner of 1810. The Columbiad (fig. 14d) was made in
8-, 10-, and 12-inch calibers and could throw shot and shell well over
5,000 yards. "New" Columbiads came out of the foundries at the start
of the 1860's, minus the powder chamber and with smoother lines.
Behind the parapets or in fort gunrooms were 32- and 42-pounder iron
seacoast guns (fig. 10); 24-pounder bronze howitzers lay in the
bastions to flank the long reaches of the fort walls. There were
8-inch seacoast howitzers for heavier work. The largest caliber piece
was the ponderous 13-inch seacoast mortar.

[Illustration: Figure 14--U. S. ARTILLERY TYPES (1861-1865). a--Siege
mortar, b--8-inch siege howitzer, c--24-pounder siege gun, d--8-inch
Columbiad, e--3-inch wrought-iron rifle, f--10-inch Rodman.]

Siege and garrison cannon included 24-pounder and 8-inch bronze
howitzers (fig. 14b), a 10-inch bronze mortar (fig. 14a), 12-, 18-,
and 24-pounder iron guns (fig. 14c) and later the 4-1/2-inch cast-iron
rifle. With the exception of the new 3-inch wrought-iron rifle (fig.
14e), field artillery cannon were bronze: 6- and 12-pounder guns, the
12-pounder Napoleon gun-howitzer, 12-pounder mountain howitzer, 12-,
24-, and 32-pounder field howitzers, and the little Coehorn mortar
(fig. 39). A machine gun invented by Dr. Richard J. Gatling became
part of the artillery equipment during the war, but was not much used.
Reminiscent of the ancient ribaudequin, a repeating cannon of several
barrels, the Gatling gun could fire about 350 shots a minute from its
10 barrels, which were rotated and fired by turning a crank. In Europe
it became more popular than the French mitrailleuse.

The smaller smoothbores were _effective_ with case shot up to about
600 or 700 yards, and _maximum_ range of field pieces went from
something less than the 1,566-yard solid-shot trajectory of the
Napoleon to about 2,600 yards (a mile and a half) for a 6-inch
howitzer. At Chancellorsville, one of Stonewall Jackson's guns fired a
shot which bounded down the center of a roadway and came to rest a
mile away. The performance verified the drill-book tables. Maximum
ranges of the larger pieces, however, ran all the way from the average
1,600 yards of an 18-pounder garrison gun to the well over 3-mile
range of a 12-inch Columbiad firing a 180-pound shell at high
elevation. A 13-inch seacoast mortar would lob a 200-pound shell 4,325
yards, or almost 2-1/2 miles. The shell from an 8-inch howitzer
carried 2,280 yards, but at such extreme ranges the guns could hardly
be called accurate.

On the battlefield, Napoleon's artillery tactics were no longer
practical. The infantry, armed with its own comparatively long-range
firearm, was usually able to keep artillery beyond case-shot range,
and cannon had to stand off at such long distances that their
primitive ammunition was relatively ineffective. The result was that
when attacking infantry moved in, the defending infantry and artillery
were still fresh and unshaken, ready to pour a devastating point-blank
fire into the assaulting lines. Thus, in spite of an intensive 2-hour
bombardment by 138 Confederate guns at the crisis of Gettysburg, as
the gray-clad troops advanced across the field to close range, double
canister and concentrated infantry volleys cut them down in masses.

Field artillery smoothbores, under conditions prevailing during the
war, generally gave better results than the smaller-caliber rifle. A
3-inch rifle, for instance, had twice the range of a Napoleon; but in
the broken, heavily wooded country where so much of the fighting took
place, the superior range of the rifle could not be used to full
advantage. Neither was its relatively small and sometimes defective
projectile as damaging to personnel as case or grape from a larger
caliber smoothbore. At the first battle of Manassas (July 1861) more
than half the 49 Federal cannon were rifled; but by 1863, even though
many more rifles were in service, the majority of the pieces in the
field were still the old reliable 6- and 12-pounder smoothbores.

It was in siege operations that the rifles forced a new era. As the
smoke cleared after the historic bombardment of Fort Sumter in 1861,
military men were already speculating on the possibilities of the
newfangled weapon. A Confederate 12-pounder Blakely had pecked away at
Sumter with amazing accuracy. But the first really effective use of
the rifles in siege operations was at Fort Pulaski (1862). Using 10
rifles and 26 smoothbores, General Gillmore breached the
7-1/2-foot-thick brick walls in little more than 24 hours. Yet his
batteries were a mile away from the target! The heavier rifles were
converted smoothbores, firing 48-, 64-, and 84-pound James projectiles
that drove into the fort wall from 19 to 26 inches at each fair shot.
The smoothbore Columbiads could penetrate only 13 inches, while from
this range the ponderous mortars could hardly hit the fort. A year
later, Gillmore used 100-, 200-, and 300-pounder Parrott rifles
against Fort Sumter. The big guns, firing from positions some 2 miles
away and far beyond the range of the fort guns, reduced Sumter to a
smoking mass of rubble.

The range and accuracy of the rifles startled the world. A 30-pounder
(4.2-inch) Parrott had an amazing carry of 8,453 yards with 80-pound
hollow shot; the notorious "Swamp Angel" that fired on Charleston in
1863 was a 200-pounder Parrott mounted in the marsh 7,000 yards from
the city. But strangely enough, neither rifles nor smoothbores could
destroy earthworks. As was proven several times during the war, the
defenders of a well-built earthwork were able to repair the trifling
damage done by enemy fire almost as soon as there was a lull in the
shooting. Learning this lesson, the determined Confederate defenders
of Fort Sumter in 1863-64 refused to surrender, but under the most
difficult conditions converted their ruined masonry into an earthwork
almost impervious to further bombardment.


With Rodman's gun, the muzzle-loading smoothbore was at the apex of
its development. Through the years great progress had been made in
mobility, organization, and tactics. Now a new era was beginning,
wherein artillery surpassed even the decisive role it had under
Gustavus Adolphus and Napoleon. In spite of new infantry weapons that
forced cannon ever farther to the rear, artillery was to become so
deadly that its fire caused over 75 percent of the battlefield
casualties in World War I.

Many of the vital changes took place during the latter years of the
1800's, as rifles replaced the smoothbores. Steel came into universal
use for gun founding; breech and recoil mechanisms were perfected;
smokeless powder and high explosives came into the picture. Hardly
less important was the invention of more efficient sighting and laying

The changes did not come overnight. In Britain, after breechloaders
had been in use almost a decade, the ordnance men went back to
muzzle-loading rifles; faulty breech mechanisms caused too many
accidents. Not until one of H.M.S. _Thunderer's_ guns was
inadvertently double-loaded did the English return to an improved

The steel breechloaders of the Prussians, firing two rounds a minute
with a percussion shell that broke into about 30 fragments, did much
to defeat the French (1870-71). At Sedan, the greatest artillery
battle fought prior to 1914, the Prussians used 600 guns to smother
the French army. So thoroughly did these guns do their work that the
Germans annihilated the enemy at the cost of only 5 percent
casualties. It was a demonstration of using great masses of guns,
bringing them quickly into action to destroy the hostile artillery,
then thoroughly "softening up" enemy resistance in preparation for the
infantry attack. While the technical progress of the Prussian
artillery was considerable, it was offset in large degree by the
counter-development of field entrenchment.

As the technique of forging large masses of steel improved, most
nations adopted built-up (reinforcing hoops over a steel tube) or
wire-wrapped steel construction for their cannon. With the advent of
the metal cartridge case and smokeless powder, rapid-fire guns came
into use. The new powder, first used in the Russo-Turkish War
(1877-78), did away with the thick white curtain of smoke that plagued
the gunner's aim, and thus opened the way for production of mechanisms
to absorb recoil and return the gun automatically to firing position.
Now, gunners did not have to lay the piece after every shot, and the
rate of fire increased. Shields appeared on the gun--protection that
would have been of little value in the days when gunners had to stand
clear of a back-moving carriage.

During the early 1880's the United States began work on a modern
system of seacoast armament. An 8-inch breech-loading rifle was built
in 1883, and the disappearing carriage, giving more protection to both
gun and crew, was adopted in 1886. Only a few of the weapons were
installed by 1898; but fortunately the overwhelming naval superiority
of the United States helped bring the War with Spain to a quick close.

[Illustration: Figure 15--Ranges.]

During this war, United States forces were equipped with a number of
British 2.95-inch mountain rifles, which, incidentally, served as late
as World War II in the pack artillery of the Philippine Scouts.
Within the next few years the antiquated pieces such as the 3-inch
wrought-iron rifle, the 4.2-inch Parrott siege gun, converted Rodmans,
and the 15-inch Rodman smoothbore were finally pushed out of the
picture by new steel guns. There were small-caliber rapid-fire guns of
different types, a Hotchkiss 1.65-inch mountain rifle, and Hotchkiss
and Gatling machine guns. The basic pieces in field artillery were
3.2- and 3.6-inch guns and a 3.6-inch mortar. Siege artillery included
a 5-inch gun, 7-inch howitzers, and mortars. In seacoast batteries
were 8-, 10-, 12-, 14-, and 16-inch guns and 12-inch mortars of the
primary armament; intermediate rapid-fire guns of 4-, 4.72-, 5-, and
6-inch calibers; and 6- and 15-pounder rapid-fire guns in the
secondary armament.

The Japanese showed the value of the French system of indirect laying
(aiming at a target not visible to the gunner) during the
Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). Meanwhile, the French 75-mm. gun of
1897, firing 6,000 yards, made all other field artillery cannon
obsolete. In essence, artillery had assumed the modern form. The next
changes were wrought by startling advances in motor transport, signal
communications, chemical warfare, tanks, aviation, and mass


Black powder was used in all firearms until smokeless and other type
propellants were invented in the latter 1800's. "Black" powder (which
was sometimes brown) is a mixture of about 75 parts saltpeter
(potassium nitrate), 15 parts charcoal, and 10 parts sulphur by
weight. It will explode because the mixture contains the necessary
amount of oxygen for its own combustion. When it burns, it liberates
smoky gases (mainly nitrogen and carbon dioxide) that occupy some 300
times as much space as the powder itself.

Early European powder "recipes" called for equal parts of the three
ingredients, but gradually the amount of saltpeter was increased until
Tartaglia reported the proportions to be 4-1-1. By the late 1700's
"common war powder" was made 6-1-1, and not until the next century was
the formula refined to the 75-15-10 composition in majority use when
the newer propellants arrived on the scene.

As the name suggests, this explosive was originally in the form of
powder or dust. The primitive formula burned slowly and gave low
pressures--fortunate characteristics in view of the barrel-stave
construction of the early cannon. About 1450, however, powder makers
began to "corn" the powder. That is, they formed it into larger
grains, with a resulting increase in the velocity of the shot. It was
"corned" in fine grains for small arms and coarse for cannon.

Making corned powder was fairly simple. The three ingredients were
pulverized and mixed, then compressed into cakes which were cut into
"corns" or grains. Rolling the grains in a barrel polished off the
corners; removing the dust essentially completed the manufacture. It
has always been difficult, however, to make powder twice alike and
keep it in condition, two factors which helped greatly to make gunnery
an "art" in the old days. Powder residue in the gun was especially
troublesome, and a disk-like tool (fig. 44) was designed to scrape the
bore. Artillerymen at Castillo de San Marcos complained that the
"heavy" powder from Mexico was especially bad, for after a gun was
fired a few times, the bore was so fouled that cannonballs would no
longer fit. The gunners called loudly for better grade powder from
Spain itself.

How much powder to use in a gun has been a moot question through the
centuries. According to the Spaniard Collado in 1592, the proper
yardstick was the amount of metal in the gun. A legitimate culverin,
for instance, was "rich" enough in metal to take as much powder as the
ball weighed. Thus, a 30-pounder culverin would get 30 pounds of
powder. Since a 60-pounder battering cannon, however, had in
proportion a third less metal than the culverin, the charge must also
be reduced by a third--to 40 pounds!

[Illustration: Figure 16--GUNPOWDER. Black powder (above) is a
mechanical mixture; modern propellants are chemical compounds.]

Other factors had to be taken into account, such as whether the powder
was coarse-or fine-grained; and a short gun got less powder than a
long one. The bore length of a legitimate culverin, said Collado, was
30 calibers (30 times the bore diameter), so its powder charge was the
same as the weight of the ball. If the gunner came across a culverin
only 24 calibers long, he must load this piece with only 24/30 of the
ball's weight. Collado's _pasavolante_ had a tremendous length of some
40 calibers and fired a 6- or 7-pound lead ball. Because it had plenty
of metal "to resist, and the length to burn" the powder, it was
charged with the full weight of the ball in fine powder, or
three-fourths as much with cannon powder. The lightest charge seems to
have been for the pedrero, which fired a stone ball. Its charge was a
third of the stone's weight.

In later years, powder charges lessened for all guns. English velocity
tables of the 1750's show that a 9-pounder charged with 2-1/4 pounds
of powder might produce its ball at a rate of 1,052 feet per second.
By almost tripling the charge, the velocity would increase about half.
But the increase did not mean the shot hit the target 50 percent
harder, for the higher the velocity, the greater was the air
resistance; or as Müller phrased it: "a great quantity of Powder does
not always produce a greater effect." Thus, from two-thirds the ball's
weight, standard charges dropped to one-third or even a quarter; and
by the 1800's they became even smaller. The United States manual of
1861 specified 6 to 8 pounds for a 24-pounder siege gun, depending on
the range; a Columbiad firing 172-pound shot used only 20 pounds of
powder. At Fort Sumter, Gillmore's rifles firing 80-pound shells used
10 pounds of powder. The rotating band on the rifle shell, of course,
stopped the gases that had slipped by the loose-fitting cannonball.

Black powder was, and is, both dangerous and unstable. Not only is it
sensitive to flame or spark, but it absorbs moisture from the air. In
other words, it was no easy matter to "keep your powder dry." During
the middle 1700's, Spaniards on a Florida river outpost kept powder in
glass bottles; earlier soldiers, fleeing into the humid forest before
Sir Francis Drake, carried powder in _peruleras_--stoppered,
narrow-necked pitchers.

As for magazines, a dry magazine was just about as important as a
shell-proof one. Charcoal and chloride of lime, hung in containers
near the ceiling, were early used as dehydrators, and in the
eighteenth century standard English practice was to build the floor 2
feet off the ground and lay stone chips or "dry sea coals" under the
flooring. Side walls had air holes for ventilation, but screened to
prevent the enemy from letting in some small animal with fire tied to
his tail. Powder casks were laid on their sides and periodically
rolled to a different position; "otherwise," explains a contemporary
expert, "the salt petre, being the heaviest ingredient, will descend
into the lower part of the barrel, and the powder above will lose much
of its goodness."

[Illustration: Figure 17--SPANISH POWDER BUCKET (c. 1750).]

In the dawn of artillery, loose powder was brought to the gun in a
covered bucket, usually made of leather. The loader scooped up the
proper amount with a ladle (fig. 44), and inserted it into the gun. He
could, by using his experienced judgment, put in just enough powder to
give him the range he wanted, much as our modern artillerymen
sometimes use only a portion of their charge. After Gustavus Adolphus
in the 1630's, however, powder bags came into wide use, although
English gunners long preferred to ladle their powder. The powder
bucket or "passing box" of course remained on the scene. It was
usually large enough to hold a pair of cartridge bags.

The root of the word cartridge seems to be "carta," meaning paper. But
paper was only one of many materials such as canvas, linen, parchment,
flannel, the "woolen stuff" of the 1860's, and even wood. Until the
advent of the silk cartridge, nothing was entirely satisfactory. The
materials did not burn completely, and after several rounds it was
mandatory to withdraw the unburnt bag ends with a wormer (fig. 44),
else they accumulated to the point where they blocked the vent or
"touch hole" by which the piece was fired. Parchment bags shriveled up
and stuck in the vent, purpling many a good gunner's face.


When the powder bag came into use, the gunner had to prick the bag
open so the priming fire from the vent could reach the charge. The
operation was accomplished simply enough by plunging the gunner's pick
into the vent far enough to pierce the bag. Then the vent was primed
with loose powder from the gunner's flask. The vent prime, which was
not much improved until the nineteenth century, was a trick learned
from the fourteenth century Venetians. There were numerous tries for
improvement, such as the powder-filled tin tube of the 1700's, the
point of which pierced the powder bag. But for all of them, the slow
match had to be used to start the fire train.

[Illustration: Figure 18--LINSTOCKS.]

Before 1800, the slow match was in universal use for setting off the
charge. The match was usually a 3-strand cotton rope, soaked in a
solution of saltpeter and otherwise chemically treated with lead
acetate and lye to burn very slowly--about 4 or 5 inches an hour. It
was attached to a linstock (fig. 18), a forked stick long enough to
keep the cannoneer out of the way of the recoil.

Chemistry advances, like the isolation of mercury fulminate in 1800,
led to the invention of the percussion cap and other primers. On many
a battleground you may have picked up a scrap of twisted wire--the
loop of a friction primer. The device was a copper tube (fig. 19)
filled with powder. The tube went into the vent of the cannon and
buried its tip in the powder charge. Near the top of this tube was
soldered a "spur"--a short tube containing a friction composition
(antimony sulphide and potassium chlorate). Lying in the composition
was the roughened end of a wire "slider." The other end of the slider
was twisted into a loop for hooking to the gunner's lanyard. It was
like striking a match: a smart pull on the lanyard, and the rough
slider ignited the composition. Then the powder in the long tube began
to burn and fired the charge in the cannon. Needless to say, it
happened faster than we can tell it!

[Illustration: Figure 19--FRICTION PRIMER.]

The percussion primer was even more simple: a "quill tube," filled
with fine powder, fitted into the vent. A fulminate cap was glued to
the top of the tube. A pull of the lanyard caused the hammer of the
cannon to strike the cap (just like a little boy's cap pistol) and
start the train of explosions.

Because the early methods of priming left the vent open when the
cannon fired, the little hole tended to enlarge. Many cannon during
the 1800's were made with two vents, side by side. When the first one
wore out, it was plugged, and the second vent opened. Then, to stop
this "erosion," the obturating (sealing) primer came into use. It was
like the common friction primer, but screwed into and sealed the vent.
Early electric primers, by the way, were no great departure from the
friction primer; the wires fired a bit of guncotton, which in turn
ignited the powder in the primer tube.


Aside from gradual improvement in the formula, no great change in
powder making came until 1860, when Gen. Thomas J. Rodman of the U. S.
Ordnance Department began to tailor the powder to the caliber of the
gun. The action of ordinary cannon powder was too sudden. The whole
charge was consumed before the projectile had fairly started on its
way, and the strain on the gun was terrific. Rodman compressed powder
into disks that fitted the bore of the gun. The disks were an inch or
two thick, and pierced with holes. With this arrangement, a minimum of
powder surface was exposed at the beginning of combustion, but as the
fire ate the holes larger (compare fig. 20f), the burning area
actually increased, producing a greater volume of gas as the
projectile moved forward. Rodman thus laid the foundation for the
"progressive burning" pellets of modern powders (fig. 20).

[Illustration: Figure 20--MODERN GANNON POWDER. A powder grain has the
characteristics of an explosive only when it is confined. Modern
_propellants_ are low explosives (that is, relatively slow burning),
but _projectiles_ may be loaded with high explosive, a--Flake,
b--Strip, c--Pellet, d--Single perforation, e--Standard,
7-perforation, f--Burning grain of 7-perforation type. Ideally, the
powder grain should burn progressively, with continuously increasing
surface, the grain being completely consumed by the time the
projectile leaves the bore, g--Walsh grain.]

For a number of reasons General Rodman did not take his "perforated
cake cartridge" beyond the experimental stage, and his "Mammoth"
powder, such a familiar item in the powder magazines of the latter
1800's, was a compromise. As a block of wood burns steadier and longer
than a quick-blazing pile of twigs, so the 3/4-inch grains of mammoth
powder gave a "softer" explosion, but one with more "push" and more
uniform pressure along the bore of the gun.

It was in the second year of the Civil War that Alfred Nobel started
the manufacture of nitroglycerin explosives in Europe. Smokeless
powders came into use, the explosive properties of picric acid were
discovered, and melanite, ballistite, and cordite appeared in the last
quarter of the century, so that by 1890 nitrocellulose and
nitroglycerin-base powders had generally replaced black powder as a

Still, black powder had many important uses. Its sensitivity to flame,
high rate of combustion, and high temperature of explosion made it a
very suitable igniter or "booster," to insure the complete ignition of
the propellant. Further, it was the main element in such modern
projectile fuzes as the ring fuze of the U. S. Field Artillery, which
was long standard for bursts shorter than 25 seconds. This fuze was in
the nose of the shell and consisted essentially of a plunger, primer,
and rings grooved to hold a 9-inch train of compressed black powder.
To set the fuze, the fuze man merely turned a movable ring to the
proper time mark. Turning the zero mark toward the channel leading to
the shell's bursting charge shortened the burning distance of the
train, while turning zero away from the channel, of course, did the
opposite. When the projectile left the gun, the shock made the plunger
ignite the primer (compare fig. 42e) and fire the powder train, which
then burned for the set time before reaching the shell charge. It was
a technical improvement over the tubular sheet-iron fuze of the
Venetians, but the principle was about the same.

[Illustration: Figure 21--MODERN POWDER TRAIN FUZE.]



Soon after he found he could hurl a rock with his good right arm, man
learned about trajectory--the curved path taken by a missile through
the air. A baseball describes a "flat" trajectory every time the
pitcher throws a hard, fast one. Youngsters tossing the ball to each
other over a tall fence use "curved" or "high" trajectory. In
artillery, where trajectory is equally important, there are three main
types of cannon: (1) the flat trajectory gun, throwing shot at the
target in relatively level flight; (2) the high trajectory mortar,
whose shell will clear high obstacles and descend upon the target from
above; and (3) the howitzer, an in-between piece of medium-high
trajectory, combining the mobility of the fieldpiece with the large
caliber of the mortar.

The Spaniard, Luis Collado, mathematician, historian, native of
Lebrija in Andalusia, and, in 1592, royal engineer of His Catholic
Majesty's Army in Lombardy and Piedmont, defined artillery broadly as
"a machine of infinite importance." Ordnance he divided into three
classes, admittedly following the rules of the "German masters, who
were admired above any other nation for their founding and handling of
artillery." Culverins and sakers (Fig. 23a) were guns of the first
class, designed to strike the enemy from long range. The battering
cannon (fig. 23b) were second class pieces; they were to destroy forts
and walls and dismount the enemy's machines. Third class guns fired
stone balls to break and sink ships and defend batteries from assault;
such guns included the pedrero, mortar, and bombard (fig. 23c, d).

Collado's explanation of how the various guns were invented is perhaps
naive, but nevertheless interesting: "Although the main intent of the
inventors of this machine [artillery] was to fire and offend the enemy
from both near and afar, since this offense must be in diverse ways it
so happened that they formed various classes in this manner: they came
to realize that men were not satisfied with the _espingardas_ [small
Moorish cannon], and for this reason the musket was made; and likewise
the _esmeril_ and the falconet. And although these fired longer shots,
they made the demisaker. To remedy a defect of that, the sakers were
made, and the demiculverins and culverins. While they were deemed
sufficient for making a long shot and striking the enemy from afar,
they were of little use as battering guns because they fire a small
ball. So they determined to found a second kind of piece, wherewith,
firing balls of much greater weight, they might realize their
intention. But discovering likewise that this second kind of piece was
too powerful, heavy and costly for batteries and for defense against
assaults or ships and galleys, they made a third class of piece,
lighter in metal and taking less powder, to fire balls of stone. These
are the commonly called _cañones de pedreros_. All the classes of
pieces are different in range, manufacture and design. Even the method
of charging them is different."

[Illustration: Figure 22--TRAJECTORIES. Maximum range of eighteenth
century guns was about 1 mile.

_Guns could:_ Batter heavy construction with solid shot at long or
short range; destroy fort parapets and, by ricochet fire, dismount
cannon; shoot grape, canister, or bombs against massed personnel.

_Mortars could:_ Reach targets behind obstructions; use high angle
fire to shoot bombs, destroying construction and personnel.

_Howitzers could:_ Move more easily in the field than mortars; reach
targets behind obstructions by high angle fire; shoot larger
projectiles than could field guns of similar weight.]

It was most important for the artillerist to understand the different
classes of guns. As Collado quaintly phrased it, "he who ignores the
present lecture on this _arte_ will, I assert, never do a good thing."
Cannon burst in the batteries every day because gunners were ignorant
of how the gun was made and what it was meant to do. Nor was such
ignorance confined to gunners alone. The will and whim of the prince
who ordered the ordnance or "the simple opinion of the unexpert
founder himself," were the guiding principles in gun founding. "I am
forced," wrote Collado, "to persuade the princes and advise the
founders that the making of artillery should always take into account
the purpose each piece must serve." This persuasion he undertook in
considerable detail.

from a 1592 manuscript, these drawings illustrate the three main
classes of artillery used by Spain during the early colonial period in
the New World, a--Culverin (Class 1). b--Cannon (Class 2). c--Pedrero
(Class 3). d--Mortar (Class 3).]

The first class of guns were the long-range pieces, comparatively
"rich" in metal. In the following table from Collado, the calibers and
ranges for most Spanish guns of this class are given, although as the
second column shows, at this period calibers were standardized only in
a general way. For translation where possible, and to list those
which became the most popular calibers, we have added a final column.
Most of the guns were probably of culverin length: 30- to 32-caliber.

_Sixteenth century Spanish cannon of the first class_

  Name of       Weight of    Length      Range in yards    Popular
    gun          ball        of gun      Point-  Maximum   caliber
                (pounds)  (in calibers)  blank

  Esmeril          1/2                    208      750  1/2-pounder
  Falconete      1 to  2                                  1-pounder
  Falcón         3 to  4                  417    2,500    3-pounder
  Pasavolante    1 to 15    40 to 44      500    4,166    6-pounder
  Media sacre    5 to  7                  417    3,750    6-pounder
  Sacre          7 to 10                                  9-pounder
  Moyana         8 to 10   shorter than                   9-pounder
                              saker                         moyenne.
    culebrina   10 to 18                  833    5,000   12-pounder
  Tercio de
    culebrina   14 to 22                                 18-pounder
  Culebrina   20, 24, 25,   30 to 32    1,742    6,666   24-pounder
              30, 40, 50
    real        24 to 40    30 to 32                     32-pounder
                                                           culverin royal.
    culebrina   40 and up   30 to 32                     48-pounder

In view of the range Collado ascribes to the culverin, some remarks on
gun performances are in order. "Greatest random" was what the old-time
gunner called his maximum range, and random it was. Beyond point-blank
range, the gunner was never sure of hitting his target. So with
smoothbores, long range was never of great importance. Culverins, with
their thick walls, long bores, and heavy powder charges, achieved
distance; but second class guns like field "cannon," with less metal
and smaller charges, ranged about 1,600 yards at a maximum, while the
effective range was hardly more than 500. Heavier pieces, such as the
French 33-pounder battering cannon, might have a point-blank range of
720 yards; at 200-yard range its ball would penetrate from 12 to 24
feet of earthwork, depending on how "poor and hungry" the earth was.
At 130 yards a Dutch 48-pounder cannon put a ball 20 feet into a
strong earth rampart, while from 100 yards a 24-pounder siege cannon
would bury the ball 12 feet.

But generalizations on early cannon are difficult, for it is not easy
to find two "mathematicians" of the old days whose ordnance lists
agree. Spanish guns of the late 1500's do, however, appear to be
larger in caliber than pieces of similar name in other countries, as
is shown by comparing the culverins: the smallest Spanish _culebrina_
was a 20-pounder, but the French great _coulevrine_ of 1551 was a
15-pounder and the typical English culverin of that century was an
18-pounder. Furthermore, midway of the 1500's, Henry II greatly
simplified French ordnance by holding his artillery down to the
33-pounder cannon, 15-pounder great culverin, 7-1/2-pounder bastard
culverin, 2-pounder small culverin, a 1-pounder falcon, and a
1/2-pounder falconet. Therefore, any list like the one following must
have its faults:

_Principal English guns of the sixteenth century_

                       Caliber   Length     Weight   Weight    Powder
                       (inches)             of gun   of shot   charge
                                Ft.  In.   (pounds)  (pounds)  (pounds)

  Rabinet               1.0                   300       0.3       0.18
  Serpentine            1.5                   400        .5        .3
  Falconet              2.0      3    9       500       1.0        .4
  Falcon                2.5      6    0       680       2.0       1.2
  Minion                3.5      6    6     1,050       5.2       3
  Saker                 3.65     6   11     1,400       6         4
  Culverin bastard      4.56     8    6     3,000      11         5.7
  Demiculverin          4.0                 3,400       8         6
  Basilisk              5.0                 4,000      14         9
  Culverin              5.2     10   11     4,840      18        12
  Pedrero               6.0                 3,800      26        14
  Demicannon            6.4     11    0     4,000      32        18
  Bastard cannon        7.0                 4,500      42        20
  Cannon serpentine     7.0                 5,500      42        25
  Cannon                8.0                 6,000      60        27
  Cannon royal          8.54     8    6     8,000      74        30

Like many gun names, the word "culverin" has a metaphorical meaning.
It derives from the Latin _colubra_ (snake). Similarly, the light gun
called _áspide_ or aspic, meaning "asp-like," was named after the
venomous asp. But these digressions should not obscure the fact that
both culverins and demiculverins were highly esteemed on account of
their range and the effectiveness of fire. They were used for
precision shooting such as building demolition, and an expert gunner
could cut out a section of stone wall with these guns in short order.

As the fierce falcon hawk gave its name to the falcon and falconet, so
the saker was named for the saker hawk; rabinet, meaning "rooster,"
was therefore a suitable name for the falcon's small-bore cousin. The
9-pounder saker served well in any military enterprise, and the
_moyana_ (or the French _moyenne_, "middle-sized"), being a shorter
gun of saker caliber, was a good naval piece. The most powerful of the
smaller pieces, however, was the _pasavolante_, distinguishable by its
great length. It was between 40 and 44 calibers long! In addition, it
had thicker walls than any other small caliber gun, and the
combination of length and weight permitted an unusually heavy
charge--as much powder as the ball weighed. A 6-pound lead ball was
what the typical _pasavolante_ fired; another gun of the same caliber
firing an iron ball would be a 4-pounder. The point-blank range of
this Spanish gun was a football field's length farther than either the
falcon or demisaker.

In today's Spanish, _pasavolante_ means "fast action," a phrase
suggestive of the vicious impetuosity to be expected from such a small
but powerful cannon. Sometimes it was termed a _drajón_, the English
equivalent of which may be the drake, meaning "dragon"; but perhaps
its most popular name in the early days was _cerbatana_, from Cerebus,
the fierce three-headed dog of mythology. Strange things happen to
words: a _cerbatana_ in modern Spanish is a pea shooter.

_Sixteenth century Spanish cannon of the second class_

  Spanish name             Weight of ball      Translation

  Quarto cañon                9 to 12          Quarter-cannon.
  Tercio cañon                16               Third-cannon.
  Medio cañon                 24               Demicannon.
  Cañon de abatir             32               Siege cannon.
  Doble cañon                 48               Double cannon.
  Cañon de batería            60               Battering cannon.
  Serpentino                                   Serpentine.
  Quebrantamuro or lombarda   70 to 90         Wallbreaker or lombard.
  Basilisco                   80 and up        Basilisk.

The second class of guns were the only ones properly called "cannon"
in this early period. They were siege and battering pieces, and in
some few respects were similar to the howitzers of later years. A
typical Spanish cannon was only about two-thirds as long as a
culverin, and the bore walls were thinner. Naturally, the powder
charge was also reduced (half the ball's weight for a common cannon,
while a culverin took double that amount).

The Germans made their light cannon 18 calibers long. Most Spanish
siege and battering guns had this same proportion, for a shorter gun
would not burn all the powder efficiently, "which," said Collado, "is
a most grievous fault." However, small cannon of 18-caliber length
were too short; the muzzle blast tended to destroy the embrasure of
the parapet. For this reason, Spanish demicannon were as long as 24
calibers and the quarter-cannon ran up to 28. The 12-pounder
quarter-cannon, incidentally, was "culverined" or reinforced so that
it actually served in the field as a demiculverin.

The great weight of its projectile gave the double cannon its name.
The warden of the Castillo at Milan had some 130-pounders made, but
such huge pieces were of little use, except in permanent
fortifications. It took a huge crew to move them, their carriages
broke under the concentrated weight, and they consumed mountains of
munitions. The lombard, which apparently originated in Lombardy, and
the basilisk had the same disadvantages. The fabled basilisk was a
serpent whose very look was fatal. Its namesake in bronze was
tremendously heavy, with walls up to 4 calibers thick and a bore up to
30 calibers long. It was seldom used by the Europeans, but the Turkish
General Mustafa had a pair of basilisks at the siege of Malta, in
1565, that fired 150- and 200-pound balls. The 200-pounder gun broke
loose as it was being transferred to a homeward bound galley and sank
permanently to the bottom of the sea. Its mate was left on the island,
where it became an object of great curiosity.

The third class of ordnance included the guns firing stone
projectiles, such as the pedrero (or perrier, petrary, cannon petro,
etc.), the mortars, and the old bombards like Edinburgh Castle's
famous Mons Meg. Bars of wrought iron were welded together to form
Meg's tube, and iron rings were clamped around the outside of the
piece. In spite of many accidents, this coopering technique persisted
through the fifteenth century. Mons Meg was made in two sections that
screwed together, forming a piece 13 feet long and 5 tons in weight.

Pedreros (fig. 23c) were comparatively light. The foundryman used only
half the metal he would put into a culverin, for the stone projectile
weighed only a third as much as an iron ball of the same size, and the
bore walls could therefore be comparatively thin. They were made in
calibers up to 50-pounders. There was a chamber for the powder charge
and little danger of the gun's bursting, unless a foolhardy fellow
loaded it with an iron ball. The wall thicknesses of this gun are
shown in Figure 24, where the inner circle represents the diameter of
the chamber, the next arc the bore caliber, and the outer lines the
respective diameters at chase, trunnions, and vent.

[Illustration: Figure 24--HOW MUCH METAL WAS IN EARLY GUNS? The charts
compare the wall diameters of sixteenth-seventeenth century types. The
center circle represents the bore, while the three outer arcs show the
relative thickness of the bore wall at (1) the smallest diameter of
the chase, (2) at the trunnions, and (3) at the vent. The small arc
inside the bore indicates the powder chamber found in the pedrero and

Mortars (fig. 23d) were excellent for "putting great fear and terror
in the souls of the besieged." Every night the mortars would play upon
the town: "it keeps them in constant turmoil, due to the thought that
some ball will fall upon their house." Mortars were designed like
pedreros, except much shorter. The convenient way to charge them was
with _saquillos_ (small bags) of powder. "They require," said Collado,
"a larger mouthful than any other pieces."

Just as children range from slight to stocky in the same family, there
are light, medium, or heavy guns--all bearing the same family name.
The difference lies in how the piece was "fortified"; that is, how
thick the founder cast the bore walls. The English language has
inelegantly descriptive terms for the three degrees of
"fortification": (1) bastard, (2) legitimate, and (3)
double-fortified. The thicker-walled guns used more powder. Spanish
double-fortified culverins were charged with the full weight of the
ball in powder; four-fifths that amount went into the legitimate, and
only two-thirds for the bastard culverin. In a short culverin (say, 24
calibers long instead of 30), the gunner used 24/30 of a standard

The yardstick for fortifying a gun was its caliber. In a legitimate
culverin of 6-inch caliber, for instance, the bore wall at the vent
might be one caliber (16/16 of the bore diameter) or 6 inches thick;
at the trunnions it would be 10/16 or 4-1/8 inches, and at the
smallest diameter of the chase, 7/16 or 2-5/8 inches. This table
compares the three degrees of fortification used in Spanish culverins:

                                            Wall thickness
                                           in 8ths of caliber
                                         Vent   Trunnion  Chase

  Bastard culverin                         7     5        3
  Legitimate culverin                      8     5-1/2    3-1/2
  Double-fortified culverin                9     6-1/2    4

As with culverins, so with cannon. This is Collado's table showing the
fortification for Spanish cannon:

                                            Wall thickness
                                           in 8ths of caliber
                                         Vent   Trunnion  Chase
  Cañon sencillo (light cannon)           6       4-1/2   2-1/2
  Cañon común (common cannon)             7       5       3-1/2
  Cañon reforzado (reinforced cannon)     8       5-1/2   3-1/2

Since cast iron was weaker than bronze, the walls of cast-iron pieces
were even thicker than the culverins. Spanish iron guns were founded
with 300 pounds of metal for each pound of the ball, and in lengths
from 18 to 20 calibers. English, Irish, and Swedish iron guns of the
period, Collado noted, had slightly more metal in them than even the
Spaniards recommended.

a--"Bell-chambered" demicannon, b--Chambered demicannon.]

Another way the designers tried to gain strength without loading the
gun with metal was by using a powder chamber. A chambered cannon (fig.
25b) might be fortified like either the light or the common cannon,
but it would have a cylindrical chamber about two-thirds of a caliber
in diameter and four calibers long. It was not always easy, however,
to get the powder into the chamber. Collado reported that many a good
artillerist dumped the powder almost in the middle of the gun. When
his ladle hit the mouth of the chamber, he thought he was at the
bottom of the bore! The cylindrical chamber was somewhat improved by a
cone-shaped taper, which the Spaniards called _encampanado_ or
"bell-chambered." A _cañon encampanado_ (fig. 25a) was a good
long-range gun, strong, yet light. But it was hard to cut a ladle for
the long, tapered chamber.

Of all these guns, the reinforced cannon was one of the best. Since it
had almost as much metal as a culverin, it lacked the defects of the
chambered pieces. A 60-pounder reinforced cannon fired a convenient
55-pound ball, was easy to move, load, and clean, and held up well
under any kind of service. It cooled quickly. Either cannon powder or
fine powder (up to two-thirds the ball's weight) could be used in it.
Reinforced cannon were an important factor in any enterprise, as King
Philip's famed "Twelve Apostles" proved during the Flanders wars.

            _Fortification of sixteenth and seventeenth century guns_

                          ¦  Thickness of bore wall ¦
                          ¦  in 8ths of the caliber ¦
        Spanish Guns      +-------+---------+-------+   English guns
                          ¦ Vent  ¦Trunnions¦ Chase ¦
                          ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦
  Light cannon;           ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦
    bell-chambered cannon ¦  6    ¦  4-1/2  ¦ 2-1/2 ¦      Bastard cannon.
  Demicannon              ¦  6    ¦    5    ¦ 3     ¦
  Common cannon; common   ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦
    siege cannon          ¦  7    ¦    5    ¦ 3-1/2 ¦
  Light culverin; common  ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦
    battering cannon      ¦  7    ¦    5    ¦ 3     ¦    Bastard culverin;
                          ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦   legitimate cannon.
  Common culverin;        ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦
  reinforced cannon       ¦  8    ¦  5-1/2  ¦ 3-1/2 ¦ Legitimate culverin;
                          ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦     double-fortified
                          ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦              cannon.
  Legitimate culverin     ¦  9    ¦  6-1/2  ¦ 4     ¦     Double-fortified
                          ¦       ¦         ¦       ¦            culverin.
  Cast-iron cannon        ¦ 10    ¦  8      ¦ 5     ¦
  Pasavolante             ¦ 11-1/2¦  8-1/2  ¦ 5-1/2 ¦

While there was little real progress in mobility until the days of
Gustavus Adolphus, the wheeled artillery carriage seems to have been
invented by the Venetians in the fifteenth century. The essential
parts of the design were early established: two large, heavy cheeks or
side pieces set on an axle and connected by transoms. The gun was
cradled between the cheeks, the rear ends of which formed a "trail"
for stabilizing and maneuvering the piece.

Wheels were perhaps the greatest problem. As early as the 1500's
carpenters and wheelwrights were debating whether dished wheels were
best. "They say," reported Collado, "that the [dished] wheel will
never twist when the artillery is on the march. Others say that a
wheel with spokes angled beyond the cask cannot carry the weight of
the piece without twisting the spoke, so the wheel does not last long.
I am of the same opinion, for it is certain that a perpendicular wheel
will suffer more weight than the other. The defect of twisting under
the pieces when on the march will be remedied by making the cart a
little wider than usual." However, advocates of the dished wheel
finally won.


From the guns of Queen Elizabeth's time came the 6-, 9-, 12-, 18-,
24-, 32-, and 42-pounder classifications adopted by Cromwell's
government and used by the English well through the eighteenth
century. On the Continent, during much of this period, the French were
acknowledged leaders. Louis XIV (1643-1715) brought several foreign
guns into his ordnance, standardizing a set of calibers (4-, 8-, 12-,
16-, 24-, 32-, and 48-pounders) quite different from Henry II's in the
previous century.

The cannon of the late 1600's was an ornate masterpiece of the
foundryman's art, covered with escutcheons, floral relief, scrolls,
and heavy moldings, the most characteristic of which was perhaps the
banded muzzle (figs. 23b-c, 25, 26a-b), that bulbous bit of
ornamentation which had been popular with designers since the days of
the bombards. The flared or bell-shaped muzzle (figs. 23a, 26c, 27),
did not supplant the banded muzzle until the eighteenth century, and,
while the flaring bell is a usual characteristic of ordnance founded
between 1730 and 1830, some banded-muzzle guns were made as late as
1746 (fig. 26a).

By 1750; however, design and construction were fairly well
standardized in a gun of much cleaner line than the cannon of 1650.
Although as yet there had been no sharp break with the older
traditions, the shape and weight of the cannon in relation to the
stresses of firing were becoming increasingly important to the men who
did the designing.

Conditions in eighteenth century England were more or less typical: in
the 1730's Surveyor-General Armstrong's formulae for gun design were
hardly more than continuations of the earlier ways. His guns were
about 20 calibers long, with these outside proportions:

  1st reinforce = 2/7 of the gun's length.
   2d reinforce = 1/7 plus 1 caliber.
  chase         = 4/7 less 1 caliber.

The trunnions, about a caliber in size, were located well forward
(3/7 of the gun's length) "to prevent the piece from kicking up
behind" when it was fired. Gunners blamed this bucking tendency on the
practice of centering the trunnions on the _lower_ line of the bore.
"But what will not people do to support an old custom let it be ever
so absurd?" asked John Müller, the master gunner of Woolwich. In 1756,
Müller raised the trunnions to the _center_ of the bore, an
improvement that greatly lessened the strain on the gun carriage.

[Illustration: Figure 26--EIGHTEENTH CENTURY CANNON, a--Spanish
bronze 24-pounder of 1746. b--French bronze 24-pounder of the early
1700's. c--English iron 6-pounder of the middle 1700's. The 6-pounder
is part of the armament at Castillo de San Marcos.]

[Illustration: Figure 27--SPANISH 24-POUNDER CAST-IRON GUN (1693).
Note the modern lines of this cannon, with its flat breech and slight
muzzle swell.]

The caliber of the gun continued to be the yardstick for "fortification"
of the bore walls:

  Vent                                  16       parts
  End of 1st reinforce                  14-1/2    do
  Beginning of second reinforce         13-1/2    do
  End of second reinforce               12-1/2    do
  Beginning of chase                    11-1/2    do
  End of chase                           8        do

For both bronze and iron guns, the above figures were the same, but
for bronze, Armstrong divided the caliber into 16 parts; for iron it
was only 14 parts. The walls of an iron gun thus were slightly thicker
than those of a bronze one.

This eighteenth century cannon was a cast gun, but hoops and rings
gave it the built-up look of the barrel-stave bombard, when hoops were
really functional parts of the cannon. Reinforces made the gun look
like "three frustums of cones joined together, so as the lesser base
of the former is always greater than the greatest of the succeeding
one." Ornamental fillets, astragals, and moldings, borrowed from
architecture, increased the illusion of a sectional piece. Tests with
24-pounders of different lengths showed guns from 18 to 21 calibers
long gave generally the best performance, but what was true for the
24-pounder was not necessarily true for other pieces. Why was the
32-pounder "brass battering piece" 6 inches longer than its 42-pounder
brother? John Müller wondered about such inconsistencies and set out
to devise a new system of ordnance for England.

Like many men before him, Müller sought to increase the caliber of
cannon without increasing weight. He managed it in two ways: he
modified exterior design to save on metal, and he lessened the powder
charge to permit shortening and lightening the gun. Müller's guns had
no heavy reinforces; the metal was distributed along the bore in a
taper from powder chamber to muzzle swell. But realizing man's
reluctance to accept new things, he carefully specified the location
and size for each molding on his gun, protesting all the while the
futility of such ornaments. Not until the last half of the next
century were the experts well enough versed in metallurgy and interior
ballistics to slough off all the useless metal.

So, using powder charges about one-third the weight of the projectile,
Müller designed 14-caliber light field pieces and 15-caliber ship
guns. His garrison and battering cannon, where weight was no great
disadvantage, were 18 calibers long. The figures in the table
following represent the principal dimensions for the four types of
cannon--all cast-iron except for the bronze siege guns. The first line
in the table shows the length of the cannon. To proportion the rest of
the piece, Müller divided the shot diameter into 24 parts and used it
as a yardstick. The caliber of the gun, for instance, was 25 parts, or
25/24th of the shot diameter. The few other dimensions--thickness of
the breech, length of the gun before the barrel began its taper,
fortification at vent and chase--were expressed the same way.

                                     | Field | Ship   | Siege | Garrison
  Length in calibers                 |  14   | 15     | 18    | 18
            (Other proportions in 24ths of the shot diameter) |
  Caliber                            |  25   | 25     | 25    | 25
  Thickness of breech                |  14   | 24     | 16    | 24
  Length from breech to taper        |  39   | 49     | 40    | 49
  Thickness at vent                  |  16   | 25     | 18    | 25
  Thickness at muzzle                |   8   | 12-1/2 |  9    | 12-1/2

The heaviest of Müller's garrison guns averaged some 172 pounds of
iron for every pound of the shot, while a ship gun weighed only 146,
less than half the iron that went into the sixteenth century cannon.
And for a seafaring nation such as England, these were important
things. Perhaps the opposite table will give a fair idea of the
changes in English ordnance during the eighteenth century. It is based
upon John Müller's lists of 1756; the "old" ordnance includes cannon
still in use during Müller's time, while the "new" ordnance is
Müller's own.

Windage in the English gun of 1750 was about 20 percent greater than
in French pieces. The English ratio of shot to caliber was 20:21;
across the channel it was 26:27. Thus, an English 9-pounder fired a
4.00-inch ball from a 4.20-inch bore; the French 9-pounder ball was
4.18 inches and the bore 4.34.

The English figured greater windage was both convenient and
economical: windage, said they, ought to be just as thick as the metal
in the gunner's ladle; standing shot stuck in the bore and unless it
could be loosened with the ladle, had to be fired away and lost. John
Müller brushed aside such arguments impatiently. With a proper wad
over the shot, no dust or dirt could get in; and when the muzzle was
lowered, said Müller, the shot "will roll out of course." Besides,
compared with increased accuracy, the loss of a shot was trifling.
Furthermore, with less room for the shot to bounce around the bore,
the cannon would "not be spoiled so soon." Müller set the ratio of
shot to caliber as 24:25.

_Calibers and lengths of principal eighteenth century English cannon_

  Caliber  |    Field  |        Ship         |   Siege   | Garrison |
           |    Iron   |  Bronze  |   Iron   |   Bronze  |   Iron   |
  (pounder)| Old | New | Old| New | Old | New| Old | New | Old| New |
   1-1/2   |     |     |    |     |     |    | 6'0"|     |    |     |
   3       |3'6" |3'3" |    |3'6" | 4'6"|3'6"| 7'0"|     |4'6"| 4'2"|
   4       |     |     |    |     | 6'0"|    |     |     |    |     |
   6       |4'6" |4'1" |8'0"|4'4" | 7'0"|4'4"| 8'0"|     |6'6"| 5'3"|
   9       |     |4'8" |    |5'0" | 7'0"|5'0"| 9'0"|     |7'0"| 6'0"|
  12       |5'0" |5'1" |9'0"|5'6" | 9'0"|5'6"| 9'0"| 6'7"|8'0"| 6'7"|
  18       |     |5'10"|    |6'4" | 9'0"|6'4"| 9'6"| 8'4"|9'0"| 7'6"|
  24       |5'6" |6'5" |9'6"|7'0" | 9'0"|7'0"| 9'6"| 8'4"|9'0"| 8'4"|
  32       |     |     |    |7'6" | 9'6"|7'6"|10'0"| 9'2"|9'6"| 9'2"|
  36       |     |     |    |7'10"|     |    |     | 9'6"|    |     |
  42       |     |     |9'6"|8'4" |10'0"|8'4"| 9'6"|10'0"|    |10'0"|
  48       |     |     |    |8'6" |     |8'6"|     |10'6"|    |     |

In the 1700's cast-iron guns became the principal artillery afloat and
ashore, yet cast bronze was superior in withstanding the stresses of
firing. Because of its toughness, less metal was needed in a bronze
gun than in a cast-iron one, so in spite of the fact that bronze is
about 20 percent heavier than iron, the bronze piece was usually the
lighter of the two. For "position" guns in permanent fortifications
where weight was no disadvantage, iron reigned supreme until the
advent of steel guns. But non-rusting bronze was always preferable
aboard ship or in seacoast forts.

Müller strongly advocated bronze for ship guns. "Notwithstanding all
the precautions that can be taken to make iron Guns of a sufficient
strength," he said, "yet accidents will sometimes happen, either by
the mismanagement of the sailors, or by frosty weather, which renders
iron very brittle." A bronze 24-pounder cost £156, compared with £75
for the iron piece, but the initial saving was offset when the gun
wore out. The iron gun was then good for nothing except scrap at a
farthing per pound, while the bronze cannon could be recast "as often
as you please."

In 1740, Maritz of Switzerland made an outstanding contribution to the
technique of ordnance manufacture. Instead of hollow casting (that is,
forming the bore by casting the gun around a core), Maritz cast the
gun solid, then drilled the bore, thus improving its uniformity. But
although the bore might be drilled quite smooth, the outside of a
cast-iron gun was always rough. Bronze cannon, however, could be put
in the lathes to true up even the exterior. While after 1750 the
foundries seldom turned out bronze pieces as ornate as the Renaissance
culverins, a few decorations remained and many guns were still
personalized with names in raised letters on the gun. Castillo de San
Marcos has a 4-pounder "San Marcos," and, indeed, saints' names were
not uncommon on Spanish ordnance. Other typical names were _El
Espanto_ (The Terror), _El Destrozo_ (The Destroyer), _Generoso_
(Generous), _El Toro_ (The Bull), and _El Belicoso_ (The Quarrelsome

In some instances, decoration was useful. The French, for instance, at
one time used different shapes of cascabels to denote certain
calibers; and even a fancy cascabel shaped like a lion's head was
always a handy place for anchoring breeching tackle or maneuvering
lines. The dolphins or handles atop bronze guns were never merely
ornaments. Usually they were at the balance point of the gun; tackle
run through them and hooked to the big tripod or "gin" lifted the
cannon from its carriage.


Cannon for permanent fortifications were of various sizes and
calibers, depending upon the terrain that had to be defended. At
Castillo de San Marcos, for instance, the strongest armament was on
the water front; lighter guns were on the land sector, an area
naturally protected by the difficult terrain existing in the colonial


Before the Castillo was completed, guns were mounted only in the
bastions or projecting corners of the fort. A 1683 inventory clearly
shows that heaviest guns were in the San Agustín, or southeastern
bastion, commanding not only the harbor and its entrance but the town
of St. Augustine as well San Pablo, the northwestern bastion,
overlooked the land approach to the Castillo and the town gate; and,
though its armament was lighter, it was almost as numerous as that in
San Agustín. Bastion San Pedro to the southwest was within the town
limits, and its few light guns were a reserve for San Pablo. The
watchtower bastion of San Carlos overlooked the northern marshland and
the harbor; its armament was likewise small. The following list
details the variety and location of the ordnance:

_Cannon mounted at Castillo de San Marcos in 1683_

  Location   No.   Caliber   Class   Metal   Remarks

  In the bastion
    of San Agustín
     1   40-pounder   Cannon   Bronze   Carriage battered.
     1   18-pounder      do      do          New carriage.
     2   16-pounder      do    Iron         Old carriages,
                                               wheels bad.
     1   12-pounder      do    Bronze        New carriage.
     1   12-pounder      do    Iron                    do.
     1    8-pounder      do    Bronze        Old carriage.
     1    7-pounder      do    Iron          Carriage bad.
     1    4-pounder      do      do          New carriage.
     1    3-pounder      do    Bronze                  do.

  In the bastion
    of San Pablo
     1   16-pounder   Demicannon      Iron       Old carriage.
     1   10-pounder   Demiculverin    Bronze               do.
     2    9-pounder   Cannon          Iron                 do.
     1    7-pounder   Demiculverin    Bronze               do.
     1    7-pounder   Cannon          Iron       Carriage bad.
     1    5-pounder      do             do       New carriage.

  In the bastion
    of San Pedro
     1    9-pounder   Cannon         Iron        Old carriage.
     2    7-pounder      do            do        Carriage bad.
     2    5-pounder      do            do                  do.
     1    4-pounder      do          Bronze      Old carriage.

  In the bastion
    of San Carlos
     1   10-pounder   Cannon    Iron      Old carriage.
     1    5-pounder      do         do      New carriage.
     1    5-pounder      do       Bronze   Good carriage.
     1    2-pounder      do       Iron      New carriage.

The total number of Castillo guns in service at this date was 27, but
there were close to a dozen unmounted pieces on hand, including a pair
of pedreros. The armament was gradually increased to 70-odd guns as
construction work on the fort made additional space available, and as
other factors warranted more ordnance. Below is a summary of Castillo
armament through the years:

_Armament of Castillo de San Marcos, 1683-1834_

   Kind         1683    1706    1740    1763    1765    1812    1834
  of gun      Iron    Iron    Iron    Iron    Iron    Iron    Iron
                Bronze  Bronze  Bronze  Bronze  Bronze  Bronze  Bronze

   2-pounder   1  ..  ..  **  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
   3-pounder  ..   1  ..  **   2   3  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
   4-pounder   1   1   *  **   5   1  ..  ..  ..  ..   1  ..  ..  ..
   5-pounder   4   1   *  **  15   1  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
   6-pounder  ..  ..   *  **   5  ..  ..  ..  ..   1  ..  ..   3  ..
   7-pounder   4   1   *  **   5   2  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
   8-pounder  ..   1   *  **  11   1   5  11  ..  ..   1  ..  ..  ..
   3-1/2 in.
    carronade ..  ..   *  **  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   4  ..  ..  ..
   9-pounder   3  ..   *  **  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
  10-pounder   1   1   *  **  ..  ..   6  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
  12-pounder   1   1   *  **  ..  ..  13  ..   7  ..   2  ..  ..  ..
  15-pounder  ..  ..  ..  **   6  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
  16-pounder   3  ..  ..  **  ..  ..   2   1  ..  ..   8  ..  ..  ..
  18-pounder  ..   1  ..  ..   4   1   7  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   4  ..
  24-pounder  ..  ..  ..  ..   2  ..   7  ..  32  ..  10  ..   5  ..
  33-pounder  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   1  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
  36-pounder  ..  ..  ..   1  ..  ..  ..   1  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
  40-pounder  ..   1  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..
    howitzer  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   2   2
     howitzer ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   2  ..   2
    howitzer  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   2  ..  ..  ..  ..
    mortar    ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  18  ..  20  ..  ..  ..  ..
    mortar    ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   1  ..   1
    mortar    ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   1
    mortar    ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   6  ..   1  ..  ..  ..  ..
    mortar     2  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..  ..   3  ..  ..

  Total       20   9  26   9  55  10  40  37  39  24  26   8  14   6

  Grand total   29      35      65      77      63      34      20

* 26 guns from 4- to 10-pounders

** 8 guns from 2- to 16-pounders

This tabulation reflects contemporary conditions quite clearly. The
most serious invasions of Spanish Florida took place during the first
half of the eighteenth century, precisely the time when the Castillo
armament was strongest. While most of the guns were in battery
condition, the table does have some pieces rated only fair and may
also include a few unserviceables. Colonial isolation meant that
ordnance often served longer than the normal 1,200-round life of an
iron piece. A usual failure was the development of cracks around the
vent or in the bore. Sometimes a muzzle blew off. The worst casualties
of the 1702 siege came from the bursting of an iron 16-pounder which
killed four and seriously wounded six men. At that period,
incidentally, culverins were the only guns with the range to reach the
harbor bar some 3,000 yards away.

Although when the Spanish left Florida to Britain in 1763 they took
serviceable cannon with them, two guns at Castillo de San Marcos
National Monument today appear to be seventeenth century Spanish
pieces. Most of the 24- and 32-pounder garrison cannon, however, are
English-founded, after the Armstrong specifications of the 1730's, and
were part of the British armament during the 1760's. Amidst the
general confusion and shipping troubles that attended the British
evacuation in 1784, some ordnance seems to have been left behind, to
remain part of the defenses until the cession to the United States in

The Castillo also has some interesting United States guns, including a
pair of early 24-pounder iron field howitzers (c. 1777-1812). During
the 1840's the United States modernized Castillo defenses by
constructing a water battery in the moat behind the sea wall. Many of
the guns for that battery are extant, including 8-inch Columbiads,
32-pounder cannon, 8-inch seacoast and garrison howitzers. St.
Augustine's Plaza even boasts a converted 32-pounder rifle.

[Illustration: Figure 29--VAUBAN'S MARINE CARRIAGE (c. 1700).]

Garrison and ship carriages were far different from field, siege, and
howitzer mounts, while mortar beds were in a separate class entirely.
Basic proportions for the carriage were obtained by measuring (1) the
distance from trunnion to base ring of the gun, (2) the diameter of
the base ring, and (3) the diameter of the second reinforce ring. The
result was a quadrilateral figure that served as a key in laying out
the carriage to fit the gun. Cheeks, or side pieces, of the carriage
were a caliber in thickness, so the bigger the gun, the more massive
the mount.

A 24-pounder cheek would be made of timber about 6 inches thick. The
Spaniards often used mahogany. At Jamestown, in the early 1600's,
Capt. John Smith reported the mounting of seven "great pieces of
ordnance upon new carriages of cedar," and the French colonials also
used this material. British specifications in the mid-eighteenth
century called for cheeks and transoms of dry elm, which was very
pliable and not likely to split; but some carriages were made of young
oak, and oak was standard for United States garrison carriages until
it was replaced by wrought-iron after the Civil War.

For a four-wheeled English carriage of 1750, height of the cheek was
4-2/3 diameters of the shot, unless some change in height had to be
made to fit a gun port or embrasure. To prevent cannon from pushing
shutters open when the ship rolled in a storm, lower tier carriages
let the muzzle of the gun, when fully elevated, butt against the sill
over the gun port.

On the eighteenth century Spanish garrison carriage (fig. 28), no
bolts were threaded; all were held either by a key run through a slot
in the foot of the bolt, or by bradding the foot over a decorative
washer. Compared with American mounts of the same type (figs. 30 and
31), the Spanish carriage was considerably more complicated, due
partly to the greater amount of decorative ironwork and partly to the
design of the wooden parts which, with their carefully worked
mortises, required a craftsman's skill. The cheek of the Spanish
carriage was a single great plank. English and American construction
called for a built-up cheek of several planks, cleverly jogged or
mortised together to prevent starting under the strain of firing.

[Illustration: Figure 30--ENGLISH GARRISON CARRIAGE (1756). By
substituting wooden wheels for the cast-iron ones, this carriage
became a standard naval gun carriage.]

Müller furnished specifications for building truck (four-wheeled)
carriages for 3- to 42-pounders. Aboard ship, of course, the truck
carriage was standard for almost everything except the little swivel
guns and the mortars.

Carriage trucks (wheels), unless they were made of cast iron, had iron
thimbles or bushings driven into the hole of the hub, and to save the
wood of the axletree, the spindle on which the wheel revolved was
partly protected by metal. The British put copper on the _bottom_ of
the spindle; Spanish and French designers put copper on the _top_,
then set iron "axletree bars" into the bottom. These bars strengthened
the axletree and resisted wear at the spindle.

A 24-pounder fore truck was 18 inches in diameter. Rear trucks were 16
inches. The difference in size compensated for the slope in the gun
platform or deck--a slope which helped to check recoil. Aboard ship,
where recoil space was limited, the "kick" of the gun was checked by a
heavy rope called a breeching, shackled to the side of the vessel
(see fig. 11). Ship carriages of the two-or four-wheel type (fig. 31),
were used through the War between the States, and there was no great
change until the advent of automatic recoil mechanisms made a
stationary mount possible.

[Illustration: Figure 31--U. S. NAVAL TRUCK CARRIAGE (1866).]

With garrison carriages, however, changes came much earlier. In 1743,
Fort William on the Georgia coast had a pair of 18-pounders mounted
upon "curious moving Platforms" which were probably similar to the
traversing platforms standardized by Gribeauval in the latter part of
the century. United States forts of the early 1800's used casemate and
barbette carriages (fig. 10) of the Gribeauval type, and the
traversing platforms of these mounts made training (aiming the gun
right or left) comparatively easy.

Training the old truck carriage had been heavy work for the
handspikemen, who also helped to elevate or depress the gun. Maximum
elevation or depression was about 15° each way--about the same as
naval guns used during the Civil War. If one quoin was not enough to
secure proper depression, a block or a second quoin was placed below
the first. But before the gunner depressed a smoothbore below zero
elevation, he had to put either a wad or a grommet over the ball to
keep it from rolling out.

Ship and garrison cannon were not moved around on their carriages. If
the gun had to be taken any distance, it was dismounted and chained
under a sling wagon or on a "block carriage," the big wheels of which
easily rolled over difficult terrain. It was not hard to dismount a
gun: the keys locking the cap squares were removed, and then the gin
was rigged and the gun hoisted clear of the carriage.

A typical garrison or ship cannon could fire any kind of projectile,
but solid shot, hot shot, bombs, grape, and canister were in widest
use. These guns were flat trajectory weapons, with a point-blank range
of about 300 yards. They were effective--that is, fairly accurate--up
to about half a mile, although the maximum range of guns like the
Columbiad of the nineteenth century, when elevation was not restricted
by gun port confines, approached the 4-mile range claimed by the
Spanish for the sixteenth century culverin. The following ranges of
United States ordnance in the 1800's are not far different from
comparable guns of earlier date.

_Ranges of United States smoothbore garrison guns of 1861_

           Caliber                    Elevation    Range in yards

  18-pounder siege and garrison        5° 0"          1,592
  24-pounder siege and garrison        5° 0"          1,901
  32-pounder seacoast                  5° 0"          1,922
  42-pounder seacoast                  5° 0"          1,955
  8-inch Columbiad                    27°30"          4,812
  10-inch Columbiad                   39°15"          5,654
  12-inch Columbiad                   39° 0"          5,506

_Ranges of United States naval smoothbores of 1866_

  Caliber                 Point-blank range    Elevation   Range in yards
                              in yards
  32-pounder of 42 cwt         313                 5°         1,756
  8-inch of 63 cwt             330                 5°         1,770
  IX-inch shell gun            350                15°         3,450
  X-inch shell gun             340                11°         3,000
  XI-inch shell gun            295                15°         2,650
  XV-inch shell gun            300                 7°         2,100

_Ranges of United States naval rifles in 1866_

  Caliber                      Elevation          Range in yards

  20-pounder Parrott              15°                4,400
  30-pounder Parrott              25°                6,700
  100-pounder Parrott             25°                7,180

In accuracy and range the rifle of the 1860's far surpassed the
smoothbores, but such tremendous advances were made in the next few
decades with the introduction of new propellants and steel guns that
the performances of the old rifles no longer seem remarkable. In the
eighteenth century, a 24-pounder smoothbore could develop a muzzle
velocity of about 1,700 feet per second. The 12-inch rifled cannon of
the late 1800's had a muzzle velocity of 2,300 foot-seconds. In 1900,
the Secretary of the Navy proudly reported that the new 12-inch guns
for _Maine_-class battleships produced a muzzle velocity of 2,854
foot-seconds, using an 850-pound projectile and a charge of 360 pounds
of smokeless powder. Such statistics elicit a chuckle from today's


Field counterpart of the garrison cannon was the siege gun--the
"battering cannon" of the old days, mounted upon a two-wheeled siege
or "traveling" carriage that could be moved about in field terrain.
Whereas the purpose of the garrison cannon was to destroy the attacker
and his matériel, the siege cannon was intended to destroy the fort.
Calibers ranged from 3- to 42-pounders in eighteenth century English
tables, but the 18- and 24-pounders seem to have been the most widely
used for siege operations.


The siege carriage closely resembled the field gun carriage, but was
much more massive, as may be seen from these comparative figures drawn
from eighteenth century English specifications:

    24-pounder                                      24-pounder
  field carriage                                siege carriage

    9 feet long         Length of cheek               13 feet.
    4.5 inches          Thickness of cheek         5.8 inches.
    50 inches           Wheel diameter              58 inches.
    6x8x68 inches       Axletree                7x9x81 inches.

Heavy siege guns were elevated with quoins, and elevation was
restricted to 12° or less, which was about the same as United States
siege carriages permitted in 1861. It was considered ample for these
flat trajectory pieces.

Both field and siege carriages were pulled over long distances by
lifting the trail to a horse-or ox-drawn limber; a hole in the trail
transom seated on an iron bolt or pintle on the two-wheeled limber.
Some late eighteenth century field and siege carriages had a second
pair of trunnion holes a couple of feet back from the regular holes,
and the cannon was shifted to the rear holes where the weight was
better distributed for traveling. The United States siege carriage of
the 1860's had no extra trunnion holes, but a "traveling bed" was
provided where the gun was cradled in position 2 or 3 feet back of its
firing position. A well-drilled gun crew could make the shift very
rapidly, using a lifting jack, a few rollers, blocks, and chocks. When
there was danger of straining or breaking the gun carriage, however,
massive block carriages, sling carts, or wagons were used to carry the

Sling wagons were of necessity used for transport in siege operations
when the guns were to be mounted on barbette (traversing platform)
carriages (fig. 10). Emplacing the barbette carriage called for
construction of a massive, level subplatform, but it also eliminated
the old need for the gunner to chalk the location of his wheels in
order to return his gun to the proper firing position after each shot.

The Federal sieges of Forts Pulaski and Sumter were highly complicated
engineering operations that involved landing tremendously heavy
ordnance (the 300-pounder Parrott weighed 13 tons) through the surf,
moving the big guns over very difficult terrain and, in some cases,
building roads over the marshes and driving foundation piles for the
gun emplacements.

The heavy caliber Parrotts trained on Fort Sumter were in batteries
from 1,750 to 4,290 yards distant from their target. They were very
accurate, but their endurance was an uncertain factor. The notorious
"Swamp Angel," for instance, burst after 36 rounds.


[Illustration: Figure 33--SPANISH 4-POUNDER FIELD CARRIAGE (c. 1788).
This carriage, designed on the "new method," employed a handscrew
instead of a wedge for elevating the piece, a--The handspike was
inserted through eyebolts in the trail, b--The ammunition locker held
the cartridges.]

The field guns were the mobile pieces that could travel with the army
and be brought quickly into firing position. They were lighter in
weight than any other type of flat trajectory weapon. To achieve this
lightness the designers had not only shortened the guns, but thinned
down the bore walls. In the eighteenth century, calibers ran from the
3- to the 24-pounder, mounted on comparatively light, two-wheeled
carriages. In addition, there was the 1-1/2-pounder (and sometimes the
light 3- or 6-pounder) on a "galloper" carriage--a vehicle with its
trail shaped into shafts for the horse. The elevating-screw mechanism
was early developed for field guns, although the heavier pieces like
the 18- and 24-pounders were still elevated by quoins as late as the
early 1800's.

In the Castillo collection are parts of early United States field
carriages little different from Spanish carriages that held a score of
4-pounders in the long, continuous earthwork parapet surrounding St.
Augustine in the eighteenth century. The Spanish mounts were a little
more complicated in construction than English or American carriages,
but not much. Spanish pyramid-headed nails for securing ironwork were
not far different from the diamond-and rose-headed nails of the
English artificer.

Each piece of hardware on the carriage had its purpose. Gunner's tools
were laid in hooks on the cheeks. There were bolts and rings for the
lines when the gun had to be moved by manpower in the field. On the
trail transom, pintle plates rimmed the hole that went over the pintle
on the limber. Iron reinforced the carriage at weak points or where
the wood was subject to wear. Iron axletrees were common by the late

For training the field gun, the crew used a special handspike quite
different from the garrison handspike. It was a long, round staff,
with an iron handle bolted to its head (fig. 33a). The trail transom
of the carriage held two eyebolts, into which the foot of the spike
was inserted. A lug fitted into an offset in the larger eyebolt so
that the spike could not twist. With the handspike socketed in the
eyebolts, lifting the trail and laying the gun was easy.

The single-trail carriage (fig. 13) used so much during the middle
1800's was a remarkable simplification of carriage design. It was also
essential for guns like the Parrott rifles, since the thick reinforce
on the breech of an otherwise slender barrel would not fit the older
twin-trail carriage. The single, solid "stock" or trail eliminated
transoms, for to the sides of the stock itself were bolted short, high
cheeks, humped like a camel to cradle the gun so high that great
latitude in elevation was possible. The elevating screw was threaded
through a nut in the stock, right under the big reinforce of the gun.

While the larger bore siege Parrotts were not noted for long
serviceability, Parrott field rifles had very high endurance. As for
performance, see the following table:

_Ranges of Parrott field rifles (1863)_

  Caliber Weight   Type of     Projectile  Elevation  Range  Smoothbore
          of gun   projectile  weight                        of same
          (pounds)             (pounds)                      caliber

  10-pounder 890   Shell       9.75        5°         2,000  3-pounder.
                    do         9.75       20°         5,000
  20-pounder 1,750  do        18.75        5°         2,100  6-pounder.
                    do        18.75       15°         4,400
  30-pounder 4,200  do        29.00       15°         4,800  9-pounder.
                    do        29.00       25°         6,700
                  Long shell 101.00       15°         4,790
                    do       101.00       25°         6,820
                  Hollow shot 80.00       25°         7,180
                    do        80.00       35°         8,453

Amazingly enough, these ranges were obtained with about the same
amount of powder used for the smoothbores of similar caliber: the
10-pounder Parrott used only a pound of powder; the 20-pounder used a
two-pound charge; and the 30-pounder, 3-1/4 pounds!


The howitzer was invented by the Dutch in the seventeenth century to
throw larger projectiles (usually bombs) than could the field pieces,
in a high trajectory similar to the mortar, but from a lighter and
more mobile weapon. The wide-purpose efficiency of the howitzer was
appreciated almost at once, and it was soon adopted by all European
armies. The weapon owed its mobility to a rugged, two-wheeled carriage
like a field carriage, but with a relatively short trail that
permitted the wide arc of elevation needed for this weapon.

[Illustration: Figure 34--SPANISH 6-INCH HOWITZER (1759-88). This
bronze piece was founded during the reign of Charles III and bears his
shield. a--Dolphin, or handle, b--Bore, c--Powder chamber.]

English howitzers of the 1750's were of three calibers: 5.8-, 8-, and
10-inch, but the 10-incher was so heavy (some 50 inches long and over
3,500 pounds) that it was quickly discarded. Müller deplored the
superfluous weight of these pieces and developed 6-, 8-, 10, and
13-inch howitzers in which, by a more calculated distribution of the
metal, he achieved much lighter weapons. Müller's howitzers survived
in the early 6- to 10-inch pieces of United States artillery and one
fine little 24-pounder of the late eighteenth century happens to be
among the armament of Castillo de San Marcos, along with some early
nineteenth century howitzers. The British, incidentally, were the
first to bring this type gun to Florida. None appeared on the Castillo
inventory until the 1760's.

[Illustration: Figure 35--ENGLISH 8-INCH "HOWITZ" CARRIAGE (1756). The
short trail enabled greater latitude in elevating the howitzer.]

In addition to the very light and therefore easily portable mountain
howitzer used for Indian warfare, United States artillery of 1850
included 12-, 24-, and 32-pounder field, 24-pounder and 8-inch siege
and garrison, and the 10-inch seacoast howitzer. The Navy had a
12-pounder heavy and a 24-pounder, to which were added the 12- and
24-pounder Dahlgren rifled howitzers of the Civil War period. Such
guns were often used in landing operations. The following table gives
some typical ranges:

_Ranges of U. S. Howitzers in the 1860's_

  Caliber                      Elevation               Range in yards

  10-inch seacoast                   5°                   1,650
  8-inch siege                      12°30'                2,280
  24-pounder naval                   5°                   1,270
  12-pounder heavy naval             5°                   1,085
  20-pounder Dahlgren rifled         5°                   1,960
  12-pounder Dahlgren rifled         5°                   1,770

[Illustration: Figure 36--ENGLISH MORTAR ON ELEVATING BED (1740).]

From earliest times the usefulness of the mortar as an arm of the
artillery has been clearly recognized. Up until the 1800's the weapon
was usually made of bronze, and many mortars had a fixed elevation of
45°, which in the sixteenth century was thought to be the proper
elevation for maximum range of any cannon. In the 1750's Müller
complained of the stupidity of English artillerists in continuing to
use fixed-elevation mortars, and the Spanish made a _mortero de
plancha_, or "plate" mortar (fig. 37), as late as 1788. Range for such
a fixed-elevation weapon was varied by using more or less powder, as
the case required. But the most useful mortar, of course, had
trunnions and adjustable elevation by means of quoins.

[Illustration: Figure 37--SPANISH 5-INCH BRONZE MORTAR (1788).]

The mortar was mounted on a "bed"--a pair of wooden cheeks held
together by transoms. Since a bed had no wheels, the piece was
transported on a mortar wagon or sling cart. In the battery, the
mortar was generally bedded upon a level wooden platform; aboard ship,
it was a revolving platform, so that the piece could be quickly aimed
right or left. The mortar's weight, plus the high angle of elevation,
kept it pretty well in place when it was fired, although English
artillerists took the additional precaution of lashing it down.

The mortar did not use a wad, because a wad prevented the fuze of the
shell from igniting. To the layman, it may seem strange that the shell
was never loaded with the fuze toward the powder charge of the gun.
But the fuze was always toward the muzzle and away from the blast, a
practice which dated from the early days when mortars were discharged
by "double firing": the gunner lit the fuze of the shell with one hand
and the priming of the mortar with the other. Not until the late
1600's did the method of letting the powder blast ignite the fuze
become general. It was a change that greatly simplified the use of the
arm and, no doubt, caused the mortarman to heave a sigh of relief.

[Illustration: Figure 38--SPANISH 10-INCH BRONZE MORTAR (1759-88).
a--Dolphin, or handle, b--Bore, c--Powder chamber.]

Most mortars were equipped with dolphins, either singly or in pairs,
which were used for lifting the weapon onto its bed. Often there was a
little bracketed cup--a priming pan--under the vent, a handy gadget
that saved spilling a lot of powder at the almost vertical breech. As
with other bronze cannon, mortars were embellished with shields,
scrolls, names, and other decoration.

About 1750, the French mortar had a bore length 1-1/2 diameters of the
shell; in England, the bore was 2 diameters for the smaller calibers
and 3 for the 10- and 13-inchers. The extra length added a great deal
of weight to the English mortars: the 13-inch weighed 25
hundredweight, while the French equivalent weighed only about half
that much. Müller complained that mortar designers slavishly copied
what they saw in other guns. For instance, he said, the reinforce was
unnecessary; it "... overloads the Mortar with a heap of useless
metal, and that in a place where the least strength is required, yet
as if this unnecessary metal was not sufficient, they add a great
projection at the mouth, which serves to no other purpose than to make
the Mortar top-heavy. The mouldings are likewise jumbled together,
without any taste or method, tho' they are taken from architecture."
Field mortars in use during Müller's time included 4.6-, 5.8-, 8-,
10-, and 13-inch "land" mortars and 10- and 13-inch "sea" mortars.
Müller, of course, redesigned them.

[Illustration: Figure 39--COEHORN MORTAR. The British General
Oglethorpe used 20 coehorns in his 1740 bombardment of St. Augustine.
These small mortars were also used extensively during the War Between
the States.]

The small mortars called coehorns (fig. 39) were invented by the famed
Dutch military engineer, Baron van Menno Coehoorn, and used by him in
1673 to the great discomfit of French garrisons. Oglethorpe had many
of them in his 1740 bombardment of St. Augustine when the Spanish,
trying to translate coehorn into their own tongue, called them
_cuernos de vaca_--"cow horns." They continued in use through the U.
S. Civil War, and some of them may still be seen in the battlefield
parks today.

Bombs and carcasses were usual for mortar firing, but stone
projectiles remained in use as late as 1800 for the pedrero class
(fig. 43). Mortar projectiles were quite formidable; even in the
sixteenth century missiles weighing 100 or more pounds were not
uncommon, and the 13-inch mortar of 1860 fired a 200-pound shell. The
larger projectiles had to be whipped up to the muzzle with block and

[Illustration: Figure 40--THE "DICTATOR." This huge 13-inch mortar was
used by the Federal artillery in the bombardment of Petersburg, Va.,

In the last century, the bronze mortars metamorphosed into the great
cast-iron mortars, such as "The Dictator," that mammoth Federal piece
used against Petersburg, Va. Wrought-iron beds with a pair of rollers
were built for them. In spite of their high trajectory, mortars could
range well over a mile, as witness these figures for United States
mortars of the 1860's, firing at 45° elevation:

_Ranges of U. S. Mortars in 1861_

  Caliber              Projectile       Range
                     weight (pounds)  (yards)

  8-inch siege           45            1,837
  10-inch siege          90            2,100
  12-inch seacoast      200            4,625
  13-inch seacoast      200            4,325

At the siege of Fort Pulaski in 1862, however, General Gillmore
complained that the mortars were highly inaccurate at mile-long range.
On this point, John Müller would have nodded his head emphatically. A
hundred years before Gillmore's complaint, Müller had argued that a
range of something less than 1,500 yards was ample for mortars or, for
that matter, all guns. "When the ranges are greater," said Müller,
"they are so uncertain, and it is so difficult to judge how far the
shell falls short, or exceeds the distance of the object, that it
serves to no other purpose than to throw away the Powder and shell,
without being able to do any execution."


"Hoist with his own petard," an ancient phrase signifying that one's
carefully laid scheme has exploded, had truly graphic meaning in the
old days when everybody knew what a petard was. Since the petard fired
no projectile, it was hardly a gun. Roughly speaking, it was nothing
but an iron bucket full of gunpowder. The petardier would hang it on a
gate, something like hanging your hat on a nail, and blast the gate
open by firing the charge.

Small petards weighed about 50 pounds; the large ones, around 70
pounds. They had to be heavy enough to be effective, yet light enough
for a couple of men to lift up handily and hang on the target. The
bucket part was packed full of the powder mixture, then a
2-1/2-inch-thick board was bolted to the rim in order to keep the
powder in and the air out. An iron tube fuze was screwed into a small
hole in the back or side of the weapon. When all was ready, the
petardiers seized the two handles of the petard and carried it to the
troublesome door. Here they set a screw, hung the explosive instrument
upon it, lit the fuze, and "retired."

Petards were used frequently in King William's War of the 1680's to
force the gates of small German towns. But on a well-barred, double
gate the small petard was useless, and the great petard would break
only the fore part of such a gate. Furthermore, as one would guess,
hanging a petard was a hazardous occupation; it went out of style in
the early 1700's.


There are four different types of artillery projectiles which, in one
form or another, have been used since very early times:

  (1) Battering projectiles (solid shot).
  (2) Exploding shells.
  (3) Scatter shot (case or canister, grape, shrapnel).
  (4) Incendiary and chemical projectiles.


At Havana, Cuba, in the early days, there was an abundance of round
stones lying around, put there by Mother Nature. Artillerists at
Havana never lacked projectiles. Stone balls, cheap to manufacture,
relatively light and therefore well suited to the feeble construction
of early ordnance, were in general use for large caliber cannon in the
fourteenth century. There were experiments along other lines such as
those at Tournay in the 1330's with long, pointed projectiles.
Lead-coated stones were fairly popular, and solid lead balls were used
in some small pieces, but the stone ball was more or less standard.

Cast-iron shot had been introduced by 1400, and, with the improvement
of cannon during that century, iron shot gradually replaced stone. By
the end of the 1500's stone survived for use only in the pedreros,
murtherers, and other relics of the earlier period. Iron shot for the
smoothbore was a solid, round shot, cast in fairly accurate molds; the
mold marks that invariably show on all cannonballs were of small
importance, for the ball did not fit the bore tightly. After casting,
shot were checked with a ring gauge (fig. 41)--a hoop through which
each ball had to pass. The Spanish term for this tool is very
descriptive: _pasabala_, "ball-passer."

Shot was used mainly in the flat-trajectory cannon. The small caliber
guns fired nothing but shot, for small sizes of the other type
projectiles were not effective. Shot was the prescription when the
situation called for "great accuracy, at very long range," and
penetration. Fired at ships, a shot was capable of breaching the
planks (at 100-yard range a 24-pounder shot would penetrate 4-1/2 feet
of "sound and hard" oak). With a fair aim at the waterline, a gunner
could sink or seriously damage a vessel with a few rounds. On ironclad
targets like the _Monitor_ and _Merrimac_, however, round shot did
little more than bounce; it took the long, armor-piercing rifle
projectile to force the development of the tremendously thick plate of
modern times.

[Illustration: Figure 41--EIGHTEENTH CENTURY PROJECTILES. (Not to

Round shot was very useful for knocking out enemy batteries. The
gunner put his cannon on the flank of the hostile guns and used
ricochet firing so that the ball, just clearing the defense wall,
would bounce among the enemy guns, wound the crews, and break the gun
carriages. In the destruction of fort walls, shot was essential. After
dismounting the enemy pieces, the siege guns moved close enough to
batter down the walls. The procedure was not as haphazard as it
sounds. Cannon were brought as close as possible to the target, and
the gunner literally cut out a low section with gunfire so that the
wall above tumbled down into the moat and made a ramp right up to the
breach. Firing at the upper part of the wall defeated its own purpose,
for the rubble brought down only protected the foundation area, and
the breach was so high that assault troops had to use ladders.

The most effective bombardment of Castillo de San Marcos occurred
during the 1740 siege, and shot did the most damage. The heaviest
English siege cannon were 18-pounders, over 1,000 yards from the fort.
Spanish Engineer Pedro Ruiz de Olano reported that the balls did not
penetrate the massive main walls more than a foot and a half, but the
parapets, being only 3 feet thick, suffered considerable damage. Some
of the old parapets, Engineer Ruiz said, "have been demolished, and
the new ones have suffered very much owing to their recent
construction." (He meant that the new mortar had not sufficiently
hardened.) Ruiz was not deceived about what would happen if hostile
batteries were able to get closer; in such case, he thought, the enemy
"will no doubt succeed in destroying the parapets and dismounting the

Variations of round shot were bar shot and chain shot (fig. 41), two
or more projectiles linked together for simultaneous firing. Bar shot
appears in a Castillo inventory of 1706, and like chain shot, was for
specialized work like cutting a ship's rigging. There is one
apocryphal tale, however, about an experiment with chain shot as
anti-personnel missiles: instead of charging a single cannon with the
two balls, two guns were used, side by side. The ball in one gun was
chained to the ball in the other. The projectiles were to fly forth,
stretching the long chain between them, mowing down a sizeable segment
of the enemy. Instead, the chain wrapped the gun crews in a murderous
embrace; one gun had fired late.


The word "bomb" comes to us from the French, who derived it from the
Latin. But the Romans got it originally from the Greek _bombos_,
meaning a deep, hollow sound. "Bombard" is a derivation. Today bomb is
pronounced "balm," but in the early days it was commonly pronounced
"bum." The modern equivalent of the "bum" is an HE shell.

The first recorded use of explosive shells was by the Venetians in
1376. Their bombs were hemispheres of stone or bronze, joined together
with hoops and exploded by means of a primitive powder fuze. Shells
filled with explosive or incendiary mixtures were standard for
mortars, after 1550, but they did not come into general use for
flat-trajectory weapons until early in the nineteenth century,
whereafter the term "shell" gradually won out over "bomb."

In any event, this projectile was one of the most effective ever used
in the smoothbore against earthworks, buildings, and for general
bombardment. A delayed action shell, diabolically timed to roll
amongst the ranks with its fuze burning, was calculated to "disorder
the stoutest men," since they could not know at what awful instant the
bomb would burst.

A bombshell was simply a hollow, cast-iron sphere. It had a single
hole where the powder was funneled in--full, but not enough to pack
too tightly when the fuze was driven in. Until the 1800's, the larger
bombs were not always smooth spheres, but had either a projecting
neck, or collar, for the fuze hole or a pair of rings at each side of
the hole for easier handling (fig. 41). In later years, however, such
projections were replaced by two "ears," little recesses beside the
fuze hole. A pair of tongs (something like ice tongs) seized the shell
by the ears and lifted it up to the gun bore.

During most of the eighteenth century, shells were cast thicker at the
base than at the fuze hole on the theory that they were (1) better
able to resist the shock of firing from the cannon and (2) more likely
to fall with the heavy part underneath, leaving the fuze uppermost and
less liable to extinguishment. Müller scoffed at the idea of
"choaking" a fuze, which, he said, burnt as well in water as in any
other element. Furthermore, he preferred to use shells "everywhere
equally thick, because they would then burst into a greater number of
pieces." In later years, the shells were scored on the interior to
ensure their breaking into many fragments.


a--Cross-section of Bormann fuze, b--Top of Bormann fuze, c--Wooden
fuze for spherical shell, d--Wood-and-paper fuze for spherical shell,
e--Percussion fuze.]

The eighteenth century fuze was a wooden tube several inches long,
with a powder composition tamped into its hole much like the
nineteenth century fuze (fig. 42c). The hole was only a quarter of an
inch in diameter, but the head of the fuze was hollowed out like a
cup, and "mealed" (fine) powder, moistened with "spirits of wine"
(alcohol), was pressed into the hollow to make a larger igniting
surface. To time the fuze, a cannoneer cut the cylinder at the proper
length with his fuze-saw, or drilled a small hole (G) where the fire
could flash out at the right time. Some English fuzes at this period
were also made by drawing two strands of a quick match into the hole,
instead of filling it with powder composition. The ends of the match
were crossed into a sort of rosette at the head of the fuze. Paper
caps to protect the powder composition covered the heads of these
fuzes and had to be removed before the shell was put into the gun.

Bombs were not filled with powder very long before use, and fuzes were
not put into the projectiles until the time of firing. To force the
fuze into the hole of the shell, the cannoneer covered the fuze head
with tow, put a fuze-setter on it, and hammered the setter with a
mallet, "drifting" the fuze until the head stuck out of the shell only
2/10 of an inch. If the fuze had to be withdrawn, there was a fuze
extractor for the job. This tool gripped the fuze head tightly, and
turning a screw slowly pulled out the fuze.

Wooden tube fuzes were used almost as long as the spherical shell. A
United States 12-inch mortar fuze (fig. 42c), 7 inches long and
burning 49 seconds, was much like the earlier fuze. During the 1800's,
however, other types came into wide use.

The conical paper-case fuze (fig. 42d), inserted in a metal or wooden
plug that fitted the fuze hole, contained composition whose rate of
burning was shown by the color of the paper. A black fuze burned an
inch every 2 seconds. Red burned 3 seconds, green 4, and yellow 5
seconds per inch. Paper fuzes were 2 inches long, and could be cut
shorter if necessary. Since firing a shell from a 24-pounder to burst
at 2,000 yards meant a time flight of 6 seconds, a red fuze would
serve without cutting, or a green fuze could be cut to 1-1/2 inches.
Sea-coast fuzes of similar type were used in the 15-inch Rodmans until
these big smoothbores were finally discarded sometime after 1900.

The Bormann fuze (fig. 42a), the quickest of the oldtimers to set, was
used for many years by the U. S. Field Artillery in spherical shell
and shrapnel. Its pewter case, which screwed into the shell, contained
a time ring of powder composition (A). Over this ring the top of the
fuze case was marked in seconds. To set the fuze, the gunner merely
had to cut the case at the proper mark--at four for 4 seconds, three
for 3 seconds, and so on--to expose the ring of powder to the powder
blast of the gun. The ring burned until it reached the zero end and
set off the fine powder in the center of the case; the powder flash
then blew out a tin plate in the bottom of the fuze and ignited the
shell charge. Its short burning time (about 6 seconds) made the
Bormann fuze obsolete as field gun ranges increased. The main trouble
with this fuze, however, was that it did not always ignite!

The percussion fuze was an extremely important development of the
nineteenth century, particularly for the long-range rifles. The shock
of impact caused this fuze to explode the shell at almost the instant
of striking. Percussion fuzes were made in two general types: the
front fuze, for the nose of an elongated projectile; and the base
fuze, at the center of the projectile base. The base fuze was used
with armor-piercing projectiles where it was desirable to have the
shell penetrate the target for some distance before bursting. Both
types were built on the same principles.

A Hotchkiss front percussion fuze (fig. 42e) had a brass case which
screwed into the shell. Inside the case was a plunger (A) containing a
priming charge of powder, topped with a cap of fulminate. A brass wire
at the base of the plunger was a safety device to keep the cap away
from a sharp point at the top of the fuze until the shell struck the
target. When the gun was fired, the shock of discharge dropped a lead
plug (B) from the base of the fuze into the projectile cavity,
permitting the plunger to drop to the bottom of the fuze and rest
there, held by the spread wire, while the shell was in flight. Upon
impact, the plunger was thrown forward, the cap struck the point and
ignited the priming charge, which in turn fired the bursting charge of
the shell.


When one of our progenitors wrathfully seized a handful of pebbles and
flung them at the flock of birds in his garden, he discovered the
principle of the scatter projectile. Perhaps its simplest application
was in the stone mortar (fig. 43). For this weapon, round stones about
the size of a man's fist (and, by 1750, hand grenades) were dumped
into a two-handled basket and let down into the bore. This primitive
charge was used at close range against personnel in a fortification,
where the effect of the descending projectiles would be uncommonly
like a short but severe barrage of over-sized hailstones. There were
6,000 stones in the ammunition inventory for Castillo de San Marcos in

[Illustration: Figure 43--SPANISH 16-INCH PEDRERO (1788). This mortar
fired baskets of stones.]

One of the earliest kinds of scatter projectiles was case shot, or
canister, used at Constantinople in 1453. The name comes from its
case, or can, usually metal, which was filled with scrap, musket
balls, or slugs (fig. 41). Somewhat similar, but with larger iron
balls and no metal case, was grape shot, so-called from the grape-like
appearance of the clustered balls. A stand of grape in the 1700's
consisted of a wooden disk at the base of a short wooden rod that
served as the core around which the balls stood (fig. 41). The whole
assembly was bagged in cloth and reinforced with a net of heavy cord.
In later years grape was made by bagging two or three tiers of balls,
each tier separated by an iron disk. Grape could disable men at almost
900 yards and was much used during the 1700's. Eventually, it was
almost replaced by case shot, which was more effective at shorter
ranges (400 to 700 yards). Incidentally, there were 2,000 sacks of
grape at the Castillo in 1740, more than any other type projectile.

Spherical case shot (fig. 41) was an attempt to carry the
effectiveness of grape and canister beyond its previous range, by
means of a bursting shell. It was the forerunner of the shrapnel used
so much in World War I and was invented by Lt. Henry Shrapnel, of the
British Army, in 1784. There had been previous attempts to produce a
projectile of this kind, such as the German Zimmerman's "hail shot" of
1573--case shot with a bursting charge and a primitive time fuze--but
Shrapnel's invention was the first air-bursting case shot which, in
technical words, "imparted directional velocity" to the bullets it
contained. Shrapnel's new shell was first used against the French in
1808, but was not called by its inventor's name until 1852.


Incendiary missiles, such as buckets or barrels filled with a fiercely
burning composition, had been used from earliest times, long before
cannon. These crude incendiaries survived through the 1700's as, for
instance, the flaming cargoes of fire ships that were sent amidst the
enemy fleet. But in the year 1672 there appeared an iron shell called
a carcass (fig. 41), filled with pitch and other materials that burned
at intense heat for about 8 minutes. The flame escaped through vents,
three to five in number, around the fuze hole of the shell. The
carcass was standard ammunition until smoothbores went out of use. The
United States ordnance manual of 1861 lists carcasses for 12-, 18-,
24-, 32-, and 42-pounder guns as well as 8-, 10-, and 13-inch mortars.

During the late 1500's, the heating of iron cannon balls to serve as
incendiaries was suggested, but not for another 200 years was the idea
successfully carried out. Hot shot was nothing but round shot, heated
to a red glow over a grate or in a furnace. It was fired from cannon
at such inflammable targets as wooden ships or powder magazines.
During the siege of Gibraltar in 1782, the English fired and destroyed
a part of Spain's fleet with hot shot; and in United States seacoast
forts shot furnaces were standard equipment during the first half of
the 1800's. The little shot furnace at Castillo de San Marcos National
Monument was built during the 1840's; a giant furnace of 1862 still
remains at Fort Jefferson National Monument. Few other examples are

Loading hot shot was not particularly dangerous. After the powder
charge was in the gun with a dry wad in front of it, another wad of
wet straw, or clay, was put into the barrel. When the cherry-red shot
was rammed home, the wet wad prevented a premature explosion of the
charge. According to the _Ordnance Manual_, the shot could cool in the
gun without setting off the charge! Hot shot was superseded, about
1850, by Martin's shell, filled with molten iron.

The smoke shell appeared in 1681, but was never extensively used.
Similarly, a form of gas projectile, called a "stink shell," was
invented by a Confederate officer during the Civil War. Because of its
"inhumanity," and probably because it was not thought valuable enough
to offset its propaganda value to the enemy, it was not popular. These
were the beginnings of the modern chemical shells.

In connection with chemical warfare, it is of interest to review the
Hussite siege of Castle Karlstein, near Prague, in the first quarter
of the fifteenth century. The Hussites emplaced 46 small cannon, 5
large cannon, and 5 catapults. The big guns would shoot once or twice
a day, and the little ones from six to a dozen rounds.

Marble pillars from Prague churches furnished the cannonballs. Many
projectiles for the catapults, however, were rotting carcasses and
other filth, hurled over the castle walls to cause disease and break
the morale of the besieged. But the intrepid defenders neutralized
these "chemical bursts" with lime and arsenic. After firing 10,930
cannonballs, 932 stone fragments, 13 fire barrels, and 1,822 tons of
filth, the Hussites gave up.


In early days, due partly to the roughly made balls, wads were very
important as a means of confining the powder and increasing its
efficiency. Wads could be made of almost any suitable material at
hand, but perhaps straw or hay ones were most common. The hay was
first twisted into a 1-inch rope, then a length of the rope was folded
together several times and finally rolled up into a short cylinder, a
little larger than the bore. After the handier sabots came into use,
however, wads were needed only to keep the ball from rolling out when
the muzzle was down, or for hot shot firing.

Gunners early began to consolidate ammunition for easier and quicker
loading. For instance, after the powder charge was placed in a bag,
the next logical step was to attach the wad and the cannonball to it,
so that loading could be made in one simple operation--pushing the
single round into the bore (fig. 48). Toward that end, the sabot or
"shoe" (fig. 41) took the place of the wad. The sabot was a wooden
disk about the same diameter as the shot. It was secured to the ball
with a pair of metal straps to make "semi-fixed" ammunition; then, if
the neck of the powder bag were tied around the sabot, the result was
one cartridge, containing powder, sabot, and ball, called "fixed"
ammunition. Fixed ammunition was usual for the lighter field pieces by
the end of the 1700's, while the bigger guns used "semi-fixed."

In transportation, cartridges were protected by cylinders and caps of
strong paper. Sabots were sometimes made of paper, too, or of
compressed wood chips, to eliminate the danger of a heavy, unbroken
sabot falling amongst friendly troops. A big mortar sabot was a lethal
projectile in itself!


Today's rocket projectiles are not exactly new inventions. About the
time of artillery's beginning, the military fireworker came into the
business of providing pyrotechnic engines of war; later, his job
included the spectacular fireworks that were set off in celebration of
victory or peace.

Artillery manuals of very early date include chapters on the
manufacture and use of fireworks. But in making war rockets there was
no marked progress until the late eighteenth century. About 1780, the
British Army in India watched the Orientals use them; and within the
next quarter century William Congreve, who set about the task of
producing a rocket that would carry an incendiary or explosive charge
as far as 2 miles, had achieved such promising results that English
boats fired rocket salvos against Boulogne in 1806, The British Field
Rocket Brigade used rockets effectively at Leipsic in 1812--the first
time they appeared in European land warfare. They were used again 2
years later at Waterloo. The warheads of such rockets were cast iron,
filled with black powder and fitted with percussion fuzes. They were
fired from trough-like launching stands, which were adjustable for

Rockets seem to have had a demoralizing effect upon untrained troops,
and perhaps their use by the English against raw American levies at
Bladenburg, in 1814, contributed to the rout of the United States
forces and the capture of Washington. They also helped to inspire
Francis Scott Key. Whether or not he understands the technical
characteristics of the rocket, every schoolboy remembers the "rocket's
red glare" of the National Anthem, wherein Key recorded his eyewitness
account of the bombardment of Fort McHenry. The U. S. Army in Mexico
(1847) included a rocket battery, and, indeed, war rockets were an
important part of artillery resources until the rapid progress of
gunnery in the latter 1800's made them obsolescent.


Gunner's equipment was numerous. There were the tompion (a lid that
fitted over the muzzle of the gun to keep wind and weather out of the
bore) and the lead cover for the vent; water buckets for the sponges
and passing boxes for the powder; scrapers and tools for "searching"
the bore to find dangerous cracks or holes; chocks for the wheels;
blocks and rollers, lifting jacks, and gins for moving guns; and
drills and augers for clearing the vent (figs. 17, 44). But among the
most important tools for everyday firing were the following:

_The sponge_ was a wooden cylinder about a foot long, the same
diameter as the shot, and covered with lambskin. Like all bore tools,
it was mounted on a long staff; after being dampened with water, it
was used for cleaning the bore of the piece after firing. Essentially,
sponging made sure there were no sparks in the bore when the new
charge was put in. Often the sponge was on the opposite end of the
rammer, and sometimes, instead of being lambskin-covered, the sponge
was a bristle brush.

_The wormer_ was a double screw, something like a pair of intertwined
corkscrews, fixed to a long handle. Inserted in the gun bore and
twisted, it seized and drew out wads or the remains of cartridge bags
stuck in the gun after firing. Worm screws were sometimes mounted in
the head of the sponge, so that the piece could be sponged and wormed
at the same time.

_The ladle_ was the most important of all the gunner's tools in the
early years, since it was not only the measure for the powder but the
only way to dump the powder in the bore at the proper place. It was
generally made of copper, the same gauge as the windage of the gun;
that is, the copper was just thick enough to fit between ball and

Essentially, the ladle is merely a scoop, a metal cylinder secured to
a wooden disk on a long staff. But before the introduction of the
powder cartridge, cutting a ladle to the right size was one of the
most important accomplishments a gunner had to learn. Collado, that
Spanish mathematician of the sixteenth century, used the culverin
ladle as the master pattern (fig. 45). It was 4-1/2 calibers long and
would carry exactly the weight of the ball in powder. Ladles for
lesser guns could be proportioned (that is, shortened) from the master

to scale.)]

The ladle full of powder was pushed home in the bore. Turning the
handle dumped the charge, which then had to be packed with the rammer.
As powder charges were lessened in later years, the ladle was
shortened; by 1750, it was only three shot diameters long. With
cartridges, the ladle was no longer needed for loading the gun, but it
was still handy for withdrawing the round.

_The rammer_ was a wooden cylinder about the same diameter and length
as the shot. It pushed home the powder charge, the wad, and the shot.
As a precaution against faulty or double loading, marks on the rammer
handle showed the loaders when the different parts of the charge were
properly seated.

_The gunner's pick or priming wire_ was a sharp pointed tool
resembling a common ice pick blade. It was used to clear the vent of
the gun and to pierce the powder bag so that flame from the primer
could ignite the charge.


_Handspikes_ were big pinch bars to manhandle cannon. They were used
to move the carriage and to lift the breech of the gun so that the
elevating quoin or screw might be adjusted. They were of different
types (figs. 33a, 44), but were essentially 6-foot-long wooden poles,
shod with iron. Some of them, like the Marsilly handspike (fig. 11),
had rollers at the toe so that the wheelless rear of the carriage
could be lifted with the handspike and rolled with comparative ease.

_The gunner's quadrant_ (fig. 46), invented by Tartaglia about 1545,
was an aiming device so basic that its principle is still in use
today. The instrument looked like a carpenter's square, with a
quarter-circle connecting the two arms. From the angle of the square
dangled a plumb bob. The gunner laid the long arm of the quadrant in
the bore of the gun, and the line of the bob against the graduated
quarter-circle showed the gun's angle of elevation.

The addition of the quadrant to the art of artillery opened a whole
new field for the mathematicians, who set about compiling long,
complicated, and jealously guarded tables for the gunner's guidance.
But the theory was simple: since a cannon at 45° elevation would fire
_ten_ times farther than it would when the barrel was level (at zero°
elevation), the quadrant should be marked into _ten_ equal parts; the
range of the gun would therefore increase by _one-tenth_ each time the
gun was elevated to the next mark on the quadrant. In other words, the
gunner could get the range he wanted simply by raising his piece to
the proper mark on the instrument.

long end of the quadrant was laid in the bore of the cannon. The plumb
bob indicated the degree of elevation on the scale.]

Collado explained how it worked in the 1590's. "We experimented with a
culverin that fired a 20-pound iron ball. At point-blank the first
shot ranged 200 paces. At 45-degree elevation it shot ten times
farther, or 2,000 paces.... If the point-blank range is 200 paces,
then elevating to the _first_ position, or a tenth part of the
quadrant, will gain 180 paces more, and advancing another point will
gain so much again. It is the same with the other points up to the
elevation of 45 degrees; each one gains the same 180 paces." Collado
admitted that results were not always consistent with theory, but it
was many years before the physicists understood the effect of air
resistance on the trajectory of the projectile.

_Sights_ on cannon were usually conspicuous by their absence in the
early days. A dispart sight (an instrument similar to the modern
infantry rifle sight), which compensated for the difference in
diameter between the breech and the muzzle, was used in 1610, but the
average artilleryman still aimed by sighting over the barrel. The
Spanish gunner, however, performed an operation that put the bore
parallel to the gunner's line of sight, and called it "killing the
_vivo_" (_matar el vivo_). How _vivo_ affected aiming is easily seen:
with its bore level, a 4-pounder falconet ranged 250 paces. But when
the _top of the gun_ was level, the bore was slightly elevated and the
range almost doubled to 440 paces.

To "kill the _vivo_," you first had to find it. The gunner stuck his
pick into the vent down to the bottom of the bore and marked the pick
to show the depth. Next he took the pick to the muzzle, stood it up in
the bore, and marked the height of the muzzle. The difference between
the two marks, with an adjustment for the base ring (which was higher
than the vent), was the _vivo_. A little wedge of the proper size,
placed under the breech, would then eliminate the troublesome _vivo_.

During the first half of the 1700's Spanish cannon of the "new
invention" were made with a notch at the top of the base ring and a
sighting button on the muzzle, and these features were also adopted by
the French. But they soon went out of use. There was some argument, as
late as the 1750's, about the desirability of casting the muzzle the
same size as the base ring, so that the sighting line over the gun
would always be parallel to the bore; but, since the gun usually had
to be aimed higher than the objective, gunners claimed that a fat
muzzle hid their target!

[Illustration: Figure 47--SEVENTEENTH CENTURY GUNNER'S LEVEL. This
tool was useful in many ways, but principally for finding the line of
sight on the barrel of the gun.]

Common practice for sighting, as late as the 1850's, was to find the
center line at the top of the piece, mark it with chalk or filed
notches, and use it as a sighting line. To find this center line, the
gunner laid his level (fig. 47) first on the base ring, then on the
muzzle. When the instrument was level atop these rings, the plumb bob
was theoretically over the center line of the cannon. But guns were
crudely made, and such a line on the outside of the piece was not
likely to coincide exactly with the center line of the bore, so there
was still ample opportunity for the gunner to exercise his "art."
Nonetheless the marked lines did help, for the gunner learned by
experiment how to compensate for errors.

Fixed rear sights came into use early in the 1800's, and tangent
sights (graduated rear sights) were in use during the War Between the
States. The trunnion sight, a graduated sight attached to the
trunnion, could be used when the muzzle had to be elevated so high
that it blocked the gunner's view of the target.

Naval gunnery officers would occasionally order all their guns trained
at the same angle and elevated to the same degree. The gunner might
not even see his target. While with the crude traversing mechanism of
the early 1800's the gunners may not have laid their pieces too
accurately, at least it was a step toward the indirect firing
technique of later years which was to take full advantage of the
longer ranges possible with modern cannon. Use of tangent and trunnion
sights brought gunnery further into the realm of mathematical science;
the telescopic sight came about the middle of the nineteenth century;
gunners were developing into technicians whose job was merely to load
the piece and set the instruments as instructed by officers in fire
control posts some distance away from the gun.


The old-time gunner was not only an artist, vastly superior to the
average soldier, but, when circumstances permitted, he performed his
wizardry with all due ceremony. Diego Ufano, Governor of Antwerp,
watched a gun crew at work about 1500:

"The piece having arrived at the battery and being provided with all
needful materials, the gunner and his assistants take their places,
and the drummer is to beat a roll. The gunner cleans the piece
carefully with a dry rammer, and in pulling out the said rammer gives
a dab or two to the mouth of the piece to remove any dirt adhering."
(At this point it was customary to make the sign of the cross and
invoke the intercession of St. Barbara.)

"Then he has his assistant hold the sack, valise, or box of powder,
and filling the charger level full, gives a slight movement with the
other hand to remove any surplus, and then puts it into the gun as far
as it will go. Which being done, he turns the charger so that the
powder fills the breech and does not trail out on the ground, for when
it takes fire there it is very annoying to the gunner." (And probably
to the gentleman holding the sack.)

"After this he will take the rammer, and, putting it into the gun,
gives two or three good punches to ram the powder well in to the
chamber, while his assistant holds a finger in the vent so that the
powder does not leap forth. This done, he takes a second charge of
powder and deposits it like the first; then puts in a wad of straw or
rags which will be well packed to gather up all the loose powder. This
having been well seated with strong blows of the rammer, he sponges
out the piece.

"Then the ball, well cleaned by his assistant, since there is danger
to the gunner in balls to which sand or dirt adhere, is placed in the
piece without forcing it till it touches gently on the wad, the gunner
being careful not to hold himself in front of the gun, for it is silly
to run danger without reason. Finally he will put in one more wad, and
at another roll of drums the piece is ready to fire."

Maximum firing rate for field pieces in the early days was eight
rounds an hour. It increased later to 100 rounds a day for light guns
and 30 for heavy pieces. (Modern non-automatic guns can fire 15
rounds per minute.) After about 40 rounds the gun became so hot it was
unsafe to load, whereupon it was "refreshed" with an hour's rest.

[Illustration: Figure 48--LOADING A CANNON. Muzzle-loading smoothbore
cannon were used for almost 700 years.]

Approved aiming procedure was to make the first shot surely short, in
order to have a measurement of the error. The second shot would be at
greater elevation, but also cautiously short. After the third round,
the gunner could hope to get hits. Beginners were cautioned against
the desire to hit the target at the first shot, for, said a celebrated
artillerist, "... you will get overs and cannot estimate how much

As gunners gradually became professional soldiers, gun drills took on
a more military aspect, as these seventeenth century commands show:

  1. Put back your piece.
  2. Order your piece to load.
  3. Search your piece.
  4. Sponge your piece.
  5. Fill your ladle.
  6. Put in your powder.
  7. Empty your ladle.
  8. Put up your powder.
  9. Thrust home your wad.
  10. Regard your shot.
  11. Put home your shot gently.
  12. Thrust home your wad with
  three strokes.
  13. Gauge your piece.

Gunners had no trouble finding work, as is singularly illustrated by
the case of Andrew Ransom, a stray Englishman captured near St.
Augustine in the late 1600's. He was condemned to death. The
executional device failed, however, and the padres in attendance took
it as an act of God and led Ransom to sanctuary at the friary.
Meanwhile, the Spanish governor learned this man was an artillerist
and a maker of "artificial fires." The governor offered to "protect"
him if he would live at the Castillo and put his talents to use.
Ransom did.

[Illustration: Figure 49--A SIEGE BOMBARD OF THE 1500's.]

By 1800, although guns could be served with as few as three men,
efficient drill usually called for a much larger force. The smallest
crew listed in the United States Navy manual of 1866 was seven: first
and second gun captains, two loaders, two spongers, and a "powder
monkey" (powder boy). An 11-inch pivot-gun on its revolving carriage
was served by 24 crewmen and a powderman. In the field, transportation
for a 24-pounder siege gun took 10 horses and 5 drivers.

Twelve rounds an hour was good practice for heavy guns during the
Civil War period, although the figure could be upped to 20 rounds. By
this date, of course, although the principles of muzzle loading had
not changed, actual loading of the gun was greatly simplified by using
fixed and semi-fixed ammunition. Loading technique varied with the
gun, but the following summary of drill from the United States _Heavy
Ordnance Manual_ of 1861 gives a fair idea of how the crew handled a
siege gun:

In the first place, consider that the equipment is all in its proper
place. The gun is on a two-wheeled siege carriage, and is "in
battery," or pushed forward on the platform until the muzzle is in the
earthwork embrasure. On each side of the gun are three handspikes,
leaning against the parapet. On the right of the gun a sponge and a
rammer are laid on a prop, about 6 feet away from the carriage. Near
the left muzzle of the gun is a stack of cannonballs, wads, and a
"passbox" or powder bucket. Hanging from the cascabel are two pouches:
the tube-pouch containing friction "tubes" (primers for the vent) and
the lanyard; and the gunner's pouch with the gunner's level,
breech-sight, pick, gimlet, vent-punch, chalk, and fingerstall (a
leather cover for the gunner's second left finger when the gun gets
hot). Under the wheels are two chocks; the vent-cover is on the vent,
a tompion in the muzzle; a broom leans against the parapet beyond the
stack of cannonballs. A wormer, ladle, and wrench were also part of
the battery equipment.

The crew consisted of a gunner and six cannoneers. At the command
_Take implements_ the gunner stepped to the cascabel and handed the
vent-cover to No. 2; the tube-pouch he gave to No. 3; he put on his
fingerstall, leveled the gun with the elevating screw, applied his
level to base ring and muzzle to find the highest points of the
barrel, and marked these points with chalk for a line of sight. His
six crewmen took their positions about a yard apart, three men on each
side of the gun, with handspikes ready.

_From battery_ was the first command of the drill. The gunner stepped
from behind the gun, while the handspikemen embarred their spikes.
Cannoneers Nos. 1, 3, and 5 were on the right side of the gun, and the
even-numbered men were on the left. Nos. 1 and 2 put their spikes
under the front of the wheels; Nos. 3 and 4 embarred under the
carriage cheeks to bear down on the rear spokes of the wheel; Nos. 5
and 6 had their spikes under the maneuvering bolts of the trail for
guiding the piece away from the parapet. With the gunner's word
_Heave_, the men at the wheels put on the pressure, and with
successive _heaves_ the gun was moved backward until the muzzle was
clear of the embrasure by a yard. The crew then unbarred, and Nos. 1
and 2 chocked the wheels.

[Illustration: Figure 50--GUN DRILL IN THE 1850's.]

_Load_ was the second command. Nos. 1, 2, and 4 laid down their
spikes; No. 2 took out the tompion; No. 1 took up the sponge and put
its wooly head into the muzzle; No. 2 stepped up to the muzzle and
seized the sponge staff to help No. 1. In five counts they pushed the
sponge to the bottom of the bore. Meanwhile, No. 4 took the passbox
and went to the magazine for a cartridge.

The gunner put his finger over the vent, and with his right hand
turned the elevating screw to adjust the piece conveniently for
loading. No. 3 picked up the rammer.

At the command _Sponge_, the men at the sponge pressed the tool
against the bottom of the bore and gave it three turns from right to
left, then three turns from left to right. Next the sponge was drawn,
and while No. 1 exchanged it for No. 3's rammer, the No. 2 man took
the cartridge from No. 4, and put it in the bore. He helped No. 1 push
it home with the rammer, while No. 4 went for a ball and, if
necessary, a wad.

_Ram!_ The men on the rammer drew it out an arm's length and rammed
the cartridge with a single stroke. No. 2 took the ball from No. 4,
while No. 1 threw out the rammer. With the ball in the bore, both men
again manned the rammer to force the shot home and delivered a final
single-stroke ram. No. 1 put the rammer back on its prop. The gunner
stuck his pick into the vent to prick open the powder bag.

The command _In battery_ was the signal for the cannoneers to man the
handspikes again, Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 working at the wheels and Nos. 5
and 6 guiding the trail as before. After successive _heaves_, the
gunner halted the piece with the wheels touching the hurter--the
timber laid at the foot of the parapet to stop the wheels.

_Point_ was the next order. No. 3, the man with the tube-pouch, got
out his lanyard and hooked it to a primer. Nos. 5 and 6 put their
handspikes under the trail, ready to move the gun right or left. The
gunner went to the breech of the gun, removed his pick from the vent,
and, sighting down the barrel, directed the spikemen: he would tap the
right side of the breech, and No. 5 would heave on his handspike to
inch the trail toward the left. A tap on the left side would move No.
6 in the opposite direction. Next, the gunner put the breech-sight (if
he needed it) carefully on the chalk line of the base ring and ran the
elevating screw to the proper elevation.

As soon as the gun was properly laid, the gunner said _Ready_ and
signaled with both hands. He took the breech-sight off the gun and
walked over to windward, where he could watch the effect of the shot.
Nos. 1 and 2 had the chocks, ready to block the wheels at the end of
the recoil. No. 3 put the primer in the vent, uncoiled the lanyard and
broke a full pace to the rear with his left foot. He stretched the
lanyard, holding it in his right hand.

At _Fire!_ No. 3 gave a smart pull on the lanyard. The gun fired, the
carriage recoiled, and Nos. 1 and 2 chocked the wheels. No. 3 rewound
his lanyard, and the gunner, having watched the shot, returned to his

_The development of heavy ordnance through the ages is a subject with
many fascinating ramifications, but this survey has of necessity been
brief._ _It has only been possible to indicate the general pattern.
Most of the interesting details must await the publication of much
larger volumes. It is hoped, however, that enough information has been
included herein to enhance the enjoyment that comes from inspecting
the great variety of cannon and projectiles that are to be seen
throughout the National Park System._


Most technical phrases are explained in the text and illustrations
(see fig. 51). For convenient reference, however, some important words
are defined below:

*Ballistics*--the science dealing with the motion of projectiles.

*Barbette carriage*--as used here, a traverse carriage on which a gun
is mounted to fire over a parapet.

*Bomb, bombshell*--see projectiles.

Breechblock--a movable piece which closes the breech of a cannon.

*Caliber*--diameter of the bore; also used to express bore length. A
30-caliber gun has a bore length 30 times the diameter of the bore.

*Cartridge*--a bag or case holding a complete powder charge for the
cannon, and in some instances also containing the projectile.

*Casemate carriage*--as used here, a traverse carriage in a fort
gunroom (casemate). The gun fired through an embrasure or loophole in
the wall of the room.

*Chamber*--the part of the bore which holds the propelling charge,
especially when of different diameter than the rest of the bore; in
chambered muzzle-loaders, the chamber diameter was smaller than that
of the bore.

*Elevation*--the angle between the axis of a piece and the horizontal

*Fuze*--a device to ignite the charge of a shell or other projectile.

*Grommet*--a rope ring used as a wad to hold a cannonball in place in
the bore.

*Gun*--any firearm; in the limited sense, a long cannon with high
muzzle velocity and flat trajectory.

*Howitzer*--a short cannon, intermediate between the gun and mortar.

*Lay*--to aim a gun.

*Limber*--a two-wheeled vehicle to which the gun trail is attached for

*Mandrel*--a metal bar, used as a core around which metal may be
forged or otherwise shaped.

*Mortar*--a very short cannon used for high or curved trajectory

*Point-blank*--as used here, the point where the projectile, when
fired from a level bore, first strikes the horizontal ground in front
of the cannon.

*Projectiles*--_canister or case shot_: a can filled with small
missiles that scatter after firing from the gun. _Grape shot_: a
cluster of small iron balls, which scatter upon firing. _Shell_:
explosive missile; a hollow cast-iron ball, filled with gunpowder,
with a fuze to produce detonation; a long, hollow projectile, filled
with explosive and fitted with a fuze. _Shot_: a solid projectile,

*Quoin*--a wedge placed under the breech of a gun to fix its

*Range*--The horizontal distance from a gun to its target or to the
point where the projectile first strikes the ground. _Effective range_
is the distance at which effective results may be expected, and is
usually not the same as _maximum range_, which means the extreme limit
of range.

*Rotating band*--a band of soft metal, such as copper, which encircles
the projectile near its base. By engaging the lands of the spiral
rifling in the bore, the band causes rotation of the projectile.
Rotating bands for muzzle-loading cannon were expansion rings, and the
powder blast expanded the ring into the rifling grooves.

*Train*--to aim a gun.

*Trajectory*--curved path taken by a projectile in its flight through
the air.

*Transom*--horizontal beam between the cheeks of a gun carriage.

*Traverse carriage*--as used here, a stationary gun mount, consisting
of a gun carriage on a wheeled platform which can be moved about a
pivot for aiming the gun to right or left.

*Windage*--as used here, the difference between the diameter of the
shot and the diameter of the bore.

[Illustration: Figure 51--THE PARTS OF A CANNON.]


The following is a listing of the more important sources dealing with
the development of artillery which have been consulted in the
production of this booklet. None of the German or Italian sources have
been included, since practically no German or Italian guns were used
in this country.

*SPANISH ORDNANCE.* Luis Collado, "Platica Manual de la Artillería"
ms., Milan 1592, and Diego Ufano, _Artillerie_, n. p., 1621, have
detailed information on sixteenth century guns, and Tomás de Morla,
_Láminas pertenecientes al Tratado de Artillería_, Madrid, 1803,
illustrates eighteenth century material. Thor Borresen, "Spanish Guns
and Carriages, 1686-1800" ms., Yorktown, 1938, summarizes eighteenth
century changes in Spanish and French artillery. Information on
colonial use of cannon can be found in mss. of the Archivo General de
Indias as follows: Inventories of Castillo de San Marcos armament in
1683 (58-2-2,32/2), 1706 (58-1-27,89/2), 1740 (58-1-32), 1763
(86-7-11,19), Zuñiga's report on the 1702 siege of St. Augustine
(58-2-8,B3), and Arredondo's "Plan de la Ciudad de Sn. Agustín de la
Florida" (87-1-1/2, ms. map); and other works, including [Andres
Gonzales de Barcía,] _Ensayo Cronológico para la Historia General de
la Florida_, Madrid, 1723; J. T. Connor, editor, _Colonial Records of
Spanish Florida_, Deland, 1930, Vol. II., Manuel de Montiano, _Letters
of Montiano_ (Collections of the Georgia Historical Society, v. VII,
pt. I), Savannah 1909; Albert Manucy, "Ordnance used at Castillo de
San Marcos, 1672-1834," St. Augustine, 1939.

*ENGLISH ORDNANCE.* For detailed information John Müller, _Treatise of
Artillery_, London, 1756, has been the basic source for eighteenth
century material. William Bourne, _The Arte of Shooting in Great
Ordnance_, London, 1587, discusses sixteenth century artillery; and
the anonymous _New Method of Fortification_, London, 1748, contains
much seventeenth century information. For colonial artillery data
there is John Smith, _The Generall Historie of Virginia, New-Englande,
and the Summer Isles_, Richmond, 1819; [Edward Kimber] _Late
Expedition to the Gates of St. Augustine_, Boston, 1935; and C. L.
Mowat, _East Florida as a British Province_, 1763-1784, Los Angeles,
1939. Charles J. Foulkes, _The Gun-Founders of England_, Cambridge,
1937, discusses the construction of early cannon in England.

*FRENCH ORDNANCE.* M. Surirey de Saint-Remy, _Mémoires d'Artillerie_,
3rd edition Paris, 1745, is the standard source for French artillery
material in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Col. Favé,
_Études sur le Passé et l'Avenir de L'Artillerie_, Paris, 1863, is a
good general history. Louis Figurier, _Armes de Guerre_, Paris, 1870,
is also useful.

*UNITED STATES ORDNANCE.* Of first importance is Louis de Tousard,
_American Artillerist's Companion_, 2 vols., Philadelphia, 1809-13.
For performance and use of artillery during the 1860's the following
sources are useful: John Gibbon, _The Artillerist's Manual_, New York,
1863; Q. A. Gillmore, _Engineer and Artillery Operations against the
Defences of Charleston Harbor in 1863_, New York, 1865; his _Official
Report ... of the Siege and Reduction of Fort Pulaski, Georgia_, New
York, 1862; and the _Official Records of Union and Confederate Armies
and Navies_. Ordnance manuals of the period include: _Instruction for
Heavy Artillery_, U. S., Charleston, 1861; _Ordnance Instructions for
the United States Navy_, Washington, 1866; J. Gorgas, _The Ordnance
Manual for the Use of the Officers of the Confederate States Army_,
Richmond, 1863. For United States developments after 1860: L. L.
Bruff, _A Text-book of Ordnance and Gunnery_, New York, 1903; F. T.
Hines and F. W. Ward, _The Service of Coast Artillery_, New York,
1910; the U. S. Field Artillery School's _Construction of Field
Artillery Matériel_ and _General Characteristics of Field Artillery
Ammunition_, Fort Sill, 1941.

*GENERAL.* For the history of artillery, as well as additional
biographical and technical details, there is the Field Artillery
School's excellent booklet, _History of the Development of Field
Artillery Matériel_, Fort Sill, 1941. Henry W. L. Hime, _The Origin of
Artillery_, New York, 1915, is most useful, as is that standard work,
the _Encyclopedia Britannica_, 1894 edition: Arms and Armour,
Artillery, Gunmaking, Gunnery, Gunpowder; 1938 edition: Artillery,
Coehoorn, Engines of War, Fireworks, Gribeauval, Gun, Gunnery,
Gunpowder, Musket, Ordnance, Rocket, Small arms, and Tartaglia.


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing
Office Washington 25, D. C.


America's Oldest Legislative Assembly and Its Jamestown Statehouses
(25 cents).

Artillery Through the Ages (35 cents).

The Building of Castillo de San Marcos (20 cents).


Robert E. Lee and Fort Pulaski (15 cents).

Wharf Building of a Century and More Ago (10 cents).

Winter Encampments of the Revolution (15 cents).


Abraham Lincoln: From His Own Words and Contemporary Accounts (35

The History of Castillo de San Marcos and Fort Matanzas From
Contemporary Narratives and Letters (20 cents).

"James Towne" in the Words of Contemporaries (20 cents). Yorktown:
Climax of the Revolution (20 cents).

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