Lt.Arty 12 pdr. Field Howitzer

An effective, serviceable cannon before the American Civil War, the 12 pdr. Field Howitzer was a poor weapon in comparison to new weapons such as the 12 pdr. "Napoleon" Light Field Gun, and 3 inch rifles. Most howitzers in Federal service were melted down, and replaced with more Napoleons, except in the west where light and more maneuverable weapons were required. The Confederate Army, with a shortage of usable cannon, maintained them in their arsenal for most of the war.

ARTILLERY PROFILE
  • In Service With:
    • United States Army
    • Confederate States Army
    • Virginia Military Institute; Arkansas Military Institute;
    • State of Georgia; State of New York; State of Connecticut
  • Type: Muzzleloading Field Howitzer
  • Purpose: To support infantry and cavalry forces by firing explosive shells in a high trajectory over enemy fortifications for plunging and ricochet fire, and also for short range anti-personnel missions using spherical case shot and canister.
  • Invented By: Various Cannon Manufacturers at the request and specification of the US Army Ordnance Board in 1831
  • Years of Manufacture: 1841 to 1863
  • Tube Composition: Bronze
  • Bore Diameter: 4.62 inches
    • Inner Chamber Diameter: 3.67 inches
  • Rarity: Uncommon to Rare
PERFORMANCE
  • Rate of Fire: 1 rounds per minute
  • Rifling Type: none
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1 lb. Cannon Grade Black Powder, 0.75 lbs. for Case Shot
  • Muzzle Velocity: 953 ft/sec. for Case Shot; 1,015 ft/sec. for Canister; 1,054 ft/sec. for Shell
  • Effective Range (at 5°): With Shells, 1,072 yards (0.6 miles)
  • Effective Range (at 3° 45'): With Case Shot, 1,050 yards
  • Projectile Flight Time (at 3° 45'): With Case Shot, 4 seconds
  • Projectiles: 8.9 lb. Shells, 11.0 lbs. Case Shot, 9.64 lbs. Canister
    • 15 shells, 20 spherical case shot, and 4 canister rounds per limber box
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
  • Typical Number of Projectiles Per Gun: 156 rounds in 4 Limber boxes (39 ea.)
  • Tube Length: 53 inches
  • Tube Weight: 788 lbs.
  • Trunnion Diameter: 3.67 inches
  • Carriage Type: No. 1 Field Carriage (900 lbs.), 57" wheels
  • Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 1688 lbs.
  • Horses Required to Pull: 6
  • No. of Crew to Serve: 8
  • No. in North America from 1861 to 1865: about 250
    • No. of Original Pieces That Are Known to have Survived Until Today: ?
  • Cost in 1862 Dollars: about $500.00 (US)
MANUFACTURING
  • US Casting Foundries: Cyrus Alger of Boston,Massachusetts; N.P. Ames of Springfield, Massachusetts; Miles Greenwood’s Eagle Foundry, Cincinnati, Ohio; William Marshall’s Western Foundry, St. Louis, Missouri; B. F. Lemmon, New Albany, Indiana
  • CS Casting Foundries: Tredegar Foundry, Richmond, Virginia; Leeds & Co., New Orleans, Louisiana; Quinby & Robinson of Memphis, Tennessee; the Washington Foundry in Richmond, Virginia; Columbus Iron Works in Columbus, Georgia; Noble Brothers, Rome, Georgia; Quinby & Robinson, Memphis, Tennessee; T.M. Brennan, Nashville, Tennessee; and a few other small vendors.
  • Variants: 12-pdr Iron Field Howitzer, Tredegar variants looked similar to Ordnance Rifles, with a more prominent reinforce at the breech.
  • Special Notes: In companion to the 6 pdr. Smoothbore Field Gun, the 12 pdr. Howitzer was designed to fire at a higher trajectory in order to attack targets masked to flat trajectory gun fire.
1575246117901.png
The 12 pdr. Field Howitzer was by far the most effective field piece of the war for use at any range under 400 yards. Its large shells gave it firepower, while its light weight, less than 800 lbs, made it highly mobile and easy to position, even by hand.
Because of its mobility, the piece was readily adaptable for close infantry support. The 12-pdr howitzer's great weakness was its effective range, which is not much over 1,000 yards, well under that of even the 6-pdr gun. It made the piece an easy target for other artillery.​

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CivilWarTalk

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Ames M1841 12 pdr. Bronze Howitzer

IMG_0515.JPG

Antietam NB: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA
No. 112?, Cast in 1855?, Weight 785 lbs.
©Michael Kendra, November 2019

IMG_0514.JPG

Antietam NB: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA
No. 112?, Cast in 1855?, Weight 785 lbs.
©Michael Kendra, November 2019

IMG_0510.JPG

Antietam NB: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA
No. 112?, Cast in 1855?, Weight 785 lbs.
©Michael Kendra, November 2019

IMG_0511.JPG

Antietam NB: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA
No. 112?, Cast in 1855?, Weight 785 lbs.
©Michael Kendra, November 2019

IMG_0512.JPG

Antietam NB: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA
No. 112?, Cast in 1855?, Weight 785 lbs.
©Michael Kendra, November 2019

IMG_0513.JPG

Antietam NB: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA
No. 112?, Cast in 1855?, Weight 785 lbs.
©Michael Kendra, November 2019
Tredegar M1841 12 pdr. Bronze Howitzer

1575475459033.png

Shiloh NHP: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
J. R. Anderson Co., Tredegar Foundry, Richmond, Virginia
Cast in 1861, No other visible markings found.
1 of only 3 remaining of 42 total cast.
NPS Photo 2015.

1575475514193.png

Shiloh NHP: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
Breech View - Note: Unique Sight Mount

J. R. Anderson Co., Tredegar Foundry, Richmond, Virginia
Cast in 1861, No other visible markings found.
1 of only 3 remaining of 42 total cast.
NPS Photo 2015.

1575475554417.png

Shiloh NHP: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
J. R. Anderson Co., Tredegar Foundry, Richmond, Virginia
Cast in 1861, No other visible markings found.
1 of only 3 remaining of 42 total cast.
NPS Photo 2015.

1575475615693.png

Shiloh NHP: M1841 12 pdr. Howitzer
J. R. Anderson Co., Tredegar Foundry, Richmond, Virginia
Cast in 1861, No other visible markings found.
1 of only 3 remaining of 42 total cast.
NPS Photo 2015.
Confederate 12 pdr. Iron Howitzer

IMG_0285.JPG

No manufacturer, date, weight, or visible markings.
Visually larger than standard 12 pdr. Bronze Howitzer.
Antietam NB, ©Michael Kendra, November 2019

IMG_0286.JPG

No manufacturer, date, weight, or visible markings.
Visually larger than standard 12 pdr. Bronze Howitzer.
Antietam NB, ©Michael Kendra, November 2019

IMG_0288.JPG

No manufacturer, date, weight, or visible markings.
Visually larger than standard 12 pdr. Bronze Howitzer.
Antietam NB, ©Michael Kendra, November 2019
 
Last edited:

Waterloo50

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I’ve often wondered what the difference was between the 12 Pounder Howitzer and the 12 Pounder Napoleon, from looking at the various performances of both I think that the advantages of the Napoleon 12 Pdr were only slightly better, I see that the Howitzer was lighter and probably easy to manoeuvre than the heavier Napoleon and that’s obviously a good thing but other than a slightly better range than the Howitzer, I can’t really see what great advantages the Napoleon provided. whilst we’re on the subject, does anyone know what the difference is between the standard Howitzer and the Mountain Howitzer, again, the range of the Mountain Howitzer was apparently only slightly shorter than the standard 12 Pounder Howitzer.

Interesting subject by the way.
 

CivilWarTalk

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I think howitzers were liked overall, until there was a rifle on the field opposite you, then you were having a bad day.

So here are the Mountain Howitzer Stats, yet to be transferred over here:

https://civilwarwiki.net/wiki/12_pdr._Mountain_Howitzer
I think the other thing to consider, if you are thinking, why not make all 12 pound howitzer mountain howitzers, is one stability and durability in the field, and two ammunition loadout. I think the standard howitzer was much more robust, but heavier and not as easy to maneuver or haul up a mountain pass, but it still had a decent amount of firepower.

The mountain howitzer could go anywhere, but it had limited ammo, and limited applications.
 
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CivilWarTalk

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This table might also be helpful:

https://civilwarwiki.net/wiki/Principal_Characteristics_of_Common_Field_Artillery_Pieces
You can see, that having a shorter smaller barrel, and a lower powder load made for a much lower muzzle velocity, and even though the range of the projectile is somewhat similar between the mountain howitzer and the 12 pdr howitzer, the weight of the shell is lower, it's probably a thinner walled iron ball, granted than means more powder inside the ball probably, but it's probably not very accurate at that range, and it's just not performing in the same class as any of it's peers.
 

Belfoured

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I’ve often wondered what the difference was between the 12 Pounder Howitzer and the 12 Pounder Napoleon, from looking at the various performances of both I think that the advantages of the Napoleon 12 Pdr were only slightly better, I see that the Howitzer was lighter and probably easy to manoeuvre than the heavier Napoleon and that’s obviously a good thing but other than a slightly better range than the Howitzer, I can’t really see what great advantages the Napoleon provided. whilst we’re on the subject, does anyone know what the difference is between the standard Howitzer and the Mountain Howitzer, again, the range of the Mountain Howitzer was apparently only slightly shorter than the standard 12 Pounder Howitzer.

Interesting subject by the way.
The range difference between the M1841 12 lb Howitzer and the M1857 Napoleon was actually pretty substantial. Add in the Howitzer's inability to handle solid shot, etc. and there are several reasons why Henry Hunt hated them and got rid of them. One example of how they affected tactics in a mixed battery was at 2BR on August 30, 1862. When Battery I 1st NY Light (Wiedrich's) was ordered to respond to Longstreet's attack on Chinn Ridge they had to leave their 2 Howitzers behind due to their limited range.
 

Waterloo50

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The range difference between the M1841 12 lb Howitzer and the M1857 Napoleon was actually pretty substantial. Add in the Howitzer's inability to handle solid shot, etc. and there are several reasons why Henry Hunt hated them and got rid of them. One example of how they affected tactics in a mixed battery was at 2BR on August 30, 1862. When Battery I 1st NY Light (Wiedrich's) was ordered to respond to Longstreet's attack on Chinn Ridge they had to leave their 2 Howitzers behind due to their limited range.
The Howitzer apparently had a range of approximately 1,072 Yards and the 12pdr Napoleon was about 1,619 Yards that is of course if both were fired at 5 degrees elevation. Would I be right in thinking that the Howitzer was used in the same way as a mortar, steep elevation in order to gain in range.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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This is a cannon that the more I read on them, the more I like them. They were obsolete but I just like them I reckon its just a testament to my personal oddball tastes in guns, (like the my personal favorite history wise, Tredegar M1862 Mountain Rifles), and the interesting variance in markings also makes looking over different ones at parks fun.

During "CWT Invades Vicksburg" I noticed some guns marked "U.S." while the majority I looked at weren't. I don't know if all were marked and the marking wore away, or if it was applied when they felt like it so to speak. Same thing with front sites a lot have them or used to have them, a lot of them don't, looking over each gun in a park is interesting to that way. Here are some photos

At the Stockade Redan
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I noticed a lot of M1841 12-pound Field Howitzers in Vicksburg, and took a lot of photos of them...
 

Belfoured

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The Howitzer apparently had a range of approximately 1,072 Yards and the 12pdr Napoleon was about 1,619 Yards that is of course if both were fired at 5 degrees elevation. Would I be right in thinking that the Howitzer was used in the same way as a mortar, steep elevation in order to gain in range.
Not necessarily. That was essentially true of howitzers in the 18th century when they were really restricted to firing shells but this gun was used in early battles in the ACW to also fire canister (as well as spherical case). Obviously, it was not used at extreme elevations to fire canister. I think that there's a reason the Ordnance Department measured range as it did. Keep in mind also that the Howitzer's charge was relatively weak, using a semi-separate "chamber". I should add that the shorter tube also would affect the Howitzer's range, etc.
 
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CivilWarTalk

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This is a cannon that the more I read on them, the more I like them. They were obsolete but I just like them I reckon its just a testament to my personal oddball tastes in guns, (like the my personal favorite history wise, Tredegar M1862 Mountain Rifles), and the interesting variance in markings also makes looking over different ones at parks fun.

During "CWT Invades Vicksburg" I noticed some guns marked "U.S." while the majority I looked at weren't. I don't know if all were marked and the marking wore away, or if it was applied when they felt like it so to speak. Same thing with front sites a lot have them or used to have them, a lot of them don't, looking over each gun in a park is interesting to that way. Here are some photos

At the Stockade Redan
View attachment 337053

View attachment 337054

View attachment 337055

View attachment 337056

I noticed a lot of M1841 12-pound Field Howitzers in Vicksburg, and took a lot of photos of them...
Nice photos! I'm hoping to document as many cannons as I can, and I'm working on guns at Gettysburg and Antietam at the moment, planning to work on Manassas and Fredericksburg over the winter and spring.

If you'd be willing to contribute, I'd be happy to feature your photos on our profile pages! We will of course give you credit for any photos we include in the galleries above!

If that's okay with you, let me know, and we can chat in a conversation about any details. Otherwise, just post your photos as normal, and I'll feature them in the Gun profiles. If you've got photos to document the barrel number, and I can find it in the registry, then I'll list all the stats for it.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Location
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Nice photos! I'm hoping to document as many cannons as I can, and I'm working on guns at Gettysburg and Antietam at the moment, planning to work on Manassas and Fredericksburg over the winter and spring.

If you'd be willing to contribute, I'd be happy to feature your photos on our profile pages! We will of course give you credit for any photos we include in the galleries above!

If that's okay with you, let me know, and we can chat in a conversation about any details. Otherwise, just post your photos as normal, and I'll feature them in the Gun profiles. If you've got photos to document the barrel number, and I can find it in the registry, then I'll list all the stats for it.

I'd be happy to contribute! Its tough to find good photos of certain guns. I took a lot photos of different guns in Vicksburg, and elsewhere over the years, and plan on many more.
 

James N.

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The Howitzer apparently had a range of approximately 1,072 Yards and the 12pdr Napoleon was about 1,619 Yards that is of course if both were fired at 5 degrees elevation. Would I be right in thinking that the Howitzer was used in the same way as a mortar, steep elevation in order to gain in range.
The Napoleon was officially referred to as a gun-howitzer, and was supposedly a hybrid between two different types: the farther-ranged gun firing on a flatter trajectory; and the higher-elevation howitzer - this would account for the difference in their respective ranges. I would like to mention that in his excellent memoir Fighting For the Confederacy, E. Porter Alexander says his very favorite fieldpiece was the 12lber howitzer, describing how he used one at Fredericksburg to skip shots across the frozen ground a greater distance than their actual range against a house occupied by Federal sharpshooters, silencing and driving them out.
 

Belfoured

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The Napoleon was officially referred to as a gun-howitzer, and was supposedly a hybrid between two different types: the farther-ranged gun firing on a flatter trajectory; and the higher-elevation howitzer - this would account for the difference in their respective ranges. I would like to mention that in his excellent memoir Fighting For the Confederacy, E. Porter Alexander says his very favorite fieldpiece was the 12lber howitzer, describing how he used one at Fredericksburg to skip shots across the frozen ground a greater distance than their actual range against a house occupied by Federal sharpshooters, silencing and driving them out.
Hunt would probably have invited Alexander to put on gloves and step into the ring on that one. 🥊
 
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I’m really loving this series of posts! Is there any chance of other people writing installments in the series?

The 12lb Howitzer is a great gun, if I recall correctly it’s the lightest weight gun in the field gun range. I have had a lot of fun working on the 12 lb Howitzer of Battery A, 1st Ohio Light Artillery. Since it’s the first artillery piece I have worked on and also the only one I’ve fired it will always be one of my favorites.
 

CivilWarTalk

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I’m really loving this series of posts! Is there any chance of other people writing installments in the series?

The 12lb Howitzer is a great gun, if I recall correctly it’s the lightest weight gun in the field gun range. I have had a lot of fun working on the 12 lb Howitzer of Battery A, 1st Ohio Light Artillery. Since it’s the first artillery piece I have worked on and also the only one I’ve fired it will always be one of my favorites.
I'm up for volunteers taking a swing at it, right now I'm transferring my data from the wiki and updating it. If you want to take a stab at it, I can add you to our editors group!
 
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