Experimental 1-pdr. Williams Gun

The Williams Gun was a Confederate gun that was classified as a 1-lb cannon. It was designed by Capt. D.R. Williams, of Covington, Kentucky, who later served as an artillery captain with a battery of his design. It was a breech-loading, rapid-fire cannon that was operated by a hand-crank. The barrel was 4 feet long and 1.57-inch caliber. The hand crank opened the sliding breech which allowed the crew to load a round and cap the primer. As the crank was continued, it closed the breech and automatically released the hammer. The effective range was 800 yards but the maximum range was 2000 yards.

  • Type: Breechloading Smoothbore Gun
  • In Service With: C.S. Army
  • Invented By: Capt. David R. Williams
  • Patent: Confederate Patent No. 121, Nov. 5, 1862
  • Rarity: Very Rare
  • Manufactured By:
    • F. B. Deane Jr. & Son, Lynchburg, Virginia
    • Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia
    • Skates & Co, Mobile, Alabama
  • Years of Manufacture: September 1861 to 1863
  • Tube Composition: Wrought iron
  • Cost in CS Dollars: $325.00 (1862), $900.00 (1863)
  • No. Purchased During the Civil War: 21

  • Bore Diameter: 1.57 inches
  • Tube Length: 4 feet, 0 inches
  • Tube Weight: unknown
  • Standard Powder Charge: unknown
  • Projectiles: unknown
  • Rate of Fire: 20 to 65 rounds per minute
  • Effective Range: 800 yards; maximum range: 2000 yards


Approximately 40 were made to supply 7 different Confederate batteries. These were made at F. B. Deane Jr. & Son, Lynchburg, Virginia, Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia, and Skates & Co, Mobile, Alabama. At the end of the war, 4 examples of this gun were captured and sent to West Point. The West Point Museum retained one gun. Other examples are now located at Kentucky Military History Museum the Virginia Museum of the Civil War at the New Market Battlefield State Historical Park, and the Watervliet Arsenal Museum.

During the early trials of the gun, the Richmond Daily Exchange dated May 20, 1862, reported that: “General Floyd attended a trial of the Williams’ mounted breech-loading rifle, which is claimed will throw twenty balls a minute a distance of fifteen hundred yards". Some sources say it could fire 65 rounds per minute but accuracy was greatly reduced due to the manual loading. The Union troops did not know what the gun was. Some describe it as a rifled cannon. Others reported that it fired nails, probably on account of the noise the projectile made as it tumbled. The Williams Gun was not perfect and the Union had much better rapid-fire weapons than the Confederacy.
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