Lt.Arty 12-pdr. Blakely Rifle

Smuggled into the South by way of blockade runners, the Confederacy purchased and imported many guns during the Civil War. Of these, Blakley's guns were the most common imported type of rifled artillery. Some were also captured by Union ships that managed to capture an unlucky cargo ship attempting to run the blockade. However, much of the documentation of the use and service history of Blakely rifles has been lost to history.

In the 1960's, Warren Ripley assigned type numbers to all surviving Blakely rifles in order to simplify the classification and identification of these guns. His type numbers are still the standard for identification used today.

ARTILLERY PROFILE
  • Model: 12-pdr. Blakely Rifles
  • In Service With:
    • Confederate States Army
    • United States Army (at least 2 batteries, 12 guns)
  • Type: Muzzleloading Field Rifle
  • Purpose: Lightwieght Ordnance for Field Artillery Use
  • Invented By: Royal Artillery Captain Alexander Theopilis Blakely
  • Rarity: Very Rare
:CSA1stNat:
MANUFACTURING
  • Casting Foundry: Blakely's Contractor - Fawcett, Preston & Company, Liverpool, England
  • Years of Manufacture: 1860 - 1863
  • Tube Composition: Wrought Iron or Steel
  • Variants: At least seven different varieties of Blakely Field Rifles have been discovered in the many battlefields and museums across the country, most with variations on banding and breech designs. Five and perhaps as many as six of the seven varieties are 3.5 inch 12-pounders.
    • Type 1 - The Galena Blakely, bore as current measurements run, 3.75 inches, with low profile breech reinforcing band
    • Type 2 - Most common variant with breech reinforcement
    • Type 3 - This variant has a heavy breech reinforcement band
    • Type 4 - This variant has a small trunnion ring seated against the breech reinforcement
    • Type 5 - These are actually Type 2 guns, with a 6" repair collar band in front of the trunnions
    • Type 6 - "Blakely Pattern" Rifle made without a Blakely license by Fawcett & Preston, has a large center trunnion ring but no obvious breech reinforcement unlike any other Blakely 12-pdr. gun.
  • No. Purchased During the Civil War: Unknown
  • No. of Surviving Pieces Today: 17 (3.5 inch)
  • Purchase Price in 1861:
    • Sold to Union Army for £230 each
    • Sold to Confederate Agents for £110 each
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WEIGHTS & MEASURES

  • Bore Diameter: 3.5 inches
    • Exception Type 1: 3.75 inches after heavy use
  • Tube Length:
    • Type 1: 84 inches
    • Type 2: 58 inches
    • Type 3: 60.34 inches
    • Type 4: 66 inches
    • Type 6: 67.15 inches
  • Rifling Type:
    • Type 1: hook-slant rifling
    • Type 2: 7 groove hook-slant rifle grooves, with a right hand twist
    • Type 3: 6 groove saw-tooth rifle grooves, with a right hand twist
    • Type 4: 6 groove saw-tooth rifle grooves, with a right hand twist
    • Type 6: 7 groove hook-slant rifle grooves, with a right hand twist
  • Tube Weight: Between 600 & 800 lbs.
  • Carriage Type: M1841 No. 1 Field Carriage (900 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 1,500 to 1,700 lbs.
  • Horses Required to Pull: 6
  • No. of Crew to Serve: 8
AMMUNITION
  • Typical Number of Projectiles Per Gun: 240
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1.5 lbs. Cannon Grade Black Powder
  • Projectiles: Sixty 12 lb. Bashley Britten Patent (Imported) shot & shells per Limber box, 4 boxes total.
    • Confederate Copies & Read Patent Shells were substituted, but performed poorly compared to Genuine Imported rounds
PERFORMANCE
  • Rate of Fire: 2 rounds per minute
  • Muzzle Velocity: unknown ft/sec.
  • Maximum Range: 2,320 yards (1.31 miles)
NOTES ON THE 12-PDR. BLAKELY RIFLE

British Captain Theophilus Alexander Blakely was a prolific designer of rifled cannon, and since his own government did not adopt his designs, he sold his weapons overseas.​
Blakely, pioneered a banding system for his rifled cannon. With each experiment of his design a different cannon was developed with the end result of at least five, and possibly as many as ten, distinct types of Blakely cannons were manufactured. However Blakely had no foundry of his own, so he used contractors to produce all of his guns.​
Some of these guns were smuggled through the Union blockade for use in the Confederate armies. The guns themselves were very light, and this caused quite a shock to the carriage upon firing, causing a damaging recoil. The ammunition was also usually imported and quite expensive.​
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12-pdr. Blakely Rifles, Repaired Type 2 (Former Type 5- Left & Center Photos), Type 4 (on Right). Shiloh NMP, © rob63

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12-pdr. Blakely Rifle, "Lady Polk", Type 2.
Museum Of The Mississippi Delta in Greenwood, Mississippi, © bdtex

FOR FURTHER READING
ASSOCIATED LINKS
 
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CivilWarTalk

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Good pieces, but the carriages not so much so.
Yeah, I guess he had Iron carriages in England, but over here we just used the standard carriages we had, which really didn't stand up to the recoil to weight ratio of those barrels....

I did see a photo once, a copyright photo of an original Blakely carriage in England, but alas, nothing I was able to copy here...
 

Belfoured

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Aug 3, 2019
Yeah, I guess he had Iron carriages in England, but over here we just used the standard carriages we had, which really didn't stand up to the recoil to weight ratio of those barrels....

I did see a photo once, a copyright photo of an original Blakely carriage in England, but alas, nothing I was able to copy here...
I keep invoking Wiard's strong critique of the Ordnance Department's standard carriages. That applied to his design but it might apply to Blakely's as well.
 

redbob

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Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
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Yeah, I guess he had Iron carriages in England, but over here we just used the standard carriages we had, which really didn't stand up to the recoil to weight ratio of those barrels....

I did see a photo once, a copyright photo of an original Blakely carriage in England, but alas, nothing I was able to copy here...
For whatever reason, the Whitworth seemed to be the champion carriage killer.
 

Lubliner

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The original order for the Blakely guns can be found in the Official Records of the Navy, Series 2, Volume 2, pages 83-87. Captain James D. Bulloch had been sent to London, leaving Montgomery in early May and arriving in early June. After a month and a half of silence he notified President Davis on August 13, 1861 of his decision to purchase the Blakely guns;
"....The selection of the best great guns for these ships gave me much thought and perplexity, as it seems impossible to get any official or reliable statements of the actual results of practice with the various descriptions of rifled ordnance in use here. All such information is so closely guarded by the Admiralty that British naval officers appear to be almost totally uninformed on these points. Sir W. Armstrong's breech loading gun could not be got on any terms, as it is made solely for the Government, and as with the means of investigation at hand I could not see any advantage in the breech over the muzzle loader for sea service, and the cost of the former was far greater than that of the latter, I have selected the Blakely gun, which loads in the ordinary way. This gun is composed of a cast-iron core, which, after being accurately turned, is hooped with wrought-iron bands, shrunk over the gun from base to trunnions, and welded closely together, the trunnions being sometimes part of one of the bands....Captain Blakely's practice tables show wonderful ranges with these guns...."
Bulloch had been sent to purchase munitions, clothing, and two gun ships to be built by contract, which these Blakely guns were intended for. He also contracted for 1200 (Bashley Britten) shells for the guns, saying those for the 7-inch will weigh 100 pounds, and for the 4.5 inch calibre 65 pounds.

"A gun vessel, length, extreme, 185 feet ; breadth, 28 feet 4 [inches] ; depth, 14 feet; burthen, 695 tons; rig, bark; draft, 12. feet; battery,, two 7-ihch 82 cwt. rifled guns on pivot carriages and four smoothbore 32-pounders. ; engines, 200 horsepower; calculated speed,
11.5 knots. A second gun vessel, length, 210 feet; breadth, extreme, 32 feet; depth, 17 [ft.] 3 in.; tonnage, 1,024; deepest draft, 15 feet; engines, 300 horsepower; calculated speed 12 knots when in fair trim. Battery, two 82-hundredweight pivot guns, rifled, and four broadside guns, 4.5-inch calibre and 42 hundredweight."

Lubliner.
 

ucvrelics

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The Blakely was indeed a carriage killer due to the massive recoil which came from the design. But anytime you had that much weight and recoil on wood there are going to be problems. Carriages were expendable and a lot of guns went thru as many as 6 carriages during the war not always from recoil. A little trivia nugget. The Blakely was the first rifled cannon fired in the CW.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Coffeeville, TX
I have always heard of them, never seen one. I remember growing up in reenacting hearing one of elders talk of them having a machinist member of their artillery battery at the time (late 80's early 90's), making a replica of one for them to reenact with or the story went something like that.

Also mention of it being seen prominently in some documentary filmed during, I think, a Battle of Murfreesboro reenactment. I wonder if anyone knows of this cause I'd like to see their work.

I need to read up on these pieces they sound interesting.
 

redbob

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Hoover, Alabama
I have always heard of them, never seen one. I remember growing up in reenacting hearing one of elders talk of them having a machinist member of their artillery battery at the time (late 80's early 90's), making a replica of one for them to reenact with or the story went something like that.

Also mention of it being seen prominently in some documentary filmed during, I think, a Battle of Murfreesboro reenactment. I wonder if anyone knows of this cause I'd like to see their work.

I need to read up on these pieces they sound interesting.
Civil War era British Artillery systems tend to share the same traits that British Sport Cars have (ask the person that has one) when they work, they are great, but they can be quirkey and maintence wise,they can be a nightmare.
 
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