Lt.Arty 12-pdr. Mountain Howitzer

The 12-pdr. Mountain Howitzer was a mountain gun used by the United States Army during the mid-Nineteenth Century, from 1837 to about 1870. It saw service during the Mexican–American War, the American Indian Wars, and during the American Civil War (primarily in the more rugged western theaters.)

  • Model: 12-pdr. Mountain Howitzer
  • Type: Lightweight and Highly Portable Smoothbore Howitzer
  • In Service With:
    • U.S. Army
    • C.S. Army
  • Purpose: Highly mobile and easy to transport artillery for use where typical field artillery wouldn't be practical
  • Rarity: Common to Uncommon
  • Special Notes: Referred to as a Model 1835 or a Model 1841 depending on the source, they were nicknamed 'Bull Pups' by many gunners.

  • US Casting Foundry:
    • Cyrus Alger, Boston, Massachusetts
    • Ames, Chicopee, Massachusetts
  • CS Casting Foundry:
    • Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia
    • Columbus Arsenal, Columbus, Georgia
  • Years of Manufacture: 1835 to 1870
  • Tube Composition: Bronze
  • Purchase Price in 1861: $ $165.00 (US)
  • No. Purchased/Used During the Civil War: approx. 400 to 500
  • Bore Diameter: 4.62 inches
  • Powder Chamber: 3.3 inches
  • Bore Length: 30.9 inches
  • Rifling Type: no grooves
  • Trunnion Diameter: 2.7 inches
  • Tube Length: 38 inches
  • Tube Weight: 220 lbs.
  • Carriage Type:
    • Pack Carriage (280 lbs.)
    • Prairie Carriage (720 lbs.)
  • Total Weight:
    • (Gun & Pack Carriage): about 500 lbs.
    • (Gun & Prairie Carriage): about 940 lbs.
  • Horses Required to Pull: With Prairie Carriage, 2
  • Pack Animals Required to Move: With Pack Carriage, 3 - one for the Carriage, one for the Barrel, and one for the Ammunition
  • No. of Crew to Serve:
    • 6 men on Pack Carriages
    • Up to 8 men on Prairie Carriages

  • Standard Powder Charge: 0.5 lbs. Cannon Grade Black Powder
  • Projectiles Types: explosive shells, spherical case, canister
  • Projectiles Weights: 8.9 lb. round explosive shells or spherical case shot
  • Muzzle Velocity: Shells - 1,054 ft/sec.
  • Effective Range (at 5°): up to 900 yards ( miles)
  • Projectile Flight Time (at 5°): 3 seconds


The 12-pdr. Mountain Howitzer is a type of bronze smoothbore, optimized for firing explosive shells as well as spherical case and canister. Its range was 1,005 yards at 5° elevation with a charge of 1/2 pounds of black powder when firing shell. The original carriage design allowed the piece to be broken down into three loads for pack animal transport: the tube carried on one animal, carriage and wheels by another, and ammunition on the third.

The Mountain Howitzer was designed to be light weight and highly portable. Because of this and its ease of disassembly it did not require roads for transportation making it well suited to Indian fighting and mountain warfare.
They were used by artillery and infantry units, but their lightweight and mobility also made them well suited for cavalry units.

In addition to the pack carriage, a prairie carriage was also created for traditional draft using only two horses. This versatility permitted their use with mounted forces in areas where roads were little more than paths.

These small Howitzers provided artillery support for forces where it would otherwise be unavailable. However, their shorter range made them unsuitable for dueling with other field artillery. During the Civil War the Howitzer earned the nickname of the Bulldog, giving the impression it would not back down from a fight. The Indians also had a nickname for it: “The Gun that Booms Twice,” referring to the fact that Spherical Case shot exploded a certain distance after it was fired, causing another explosion after the initial one which launched the round.

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Member of the Year
Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Mar 22, 2009
Collierville, TN
Oh, yeah, let me pull that until I can find that info, so far I don’t have it, but I need to dig back into my books..
Its not important but now you got me wondering.
Love the Formatting skills.

Effective Range 900 yards !! That is much less than I expected. I guess that is typical for a smoothbore.


Lieutenant General
- ★★★ -
Managing Member & Webmaster
Apr 1, 1999
Martinsburg, WV
Effective Range 900 yards !! That is much less than I expected. I guess that is typical for a smoothbore.
That and the gun is so light, it ends up recoiling quite a bit, and that's all energy lost from the ball going downrange. Actually that range is pretty generous, it's been speculated that's it's max range INCLUDING ricochets off the ground.

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Apr 8, 2018
Coffeeville, TX
I remember my first exposure to CW artillery was the Mountain Howitzer. I thought it to be the neatest gun around, that it until I started reenacting and seen it next to 6-Pounders, 3-Inchers, and Parrotts. Still holds a place in my heart, though not as much as it did when I discovered the Tredegar 2.25in Mountain Rifle.

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Nov 2, 2019
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
At Hoover's Gap on the first day of the Tullahoma Campaign, Eli Lilly's battery was assigned to Wilder's Brigade. After punching through a gap in the hills in a couple of hours rather than the couple of days anticipated, Wilder fought off repeated attacks by Bate's infantry. Lilly''s battery had two sections of 3" rifles & the "Jackass Battery" of 12 pound mountain howitzers. Wilder's Spencer repeating rifles established fire superiority that stymied Bate's attempt to drive him back through Hoover's Gap. While the rifles provided counter battery fire, the Jackass Battery's mountain howitzers supported the mounted infantrymen from the other flank. It is curious that this engagement involved the first battle fought with modern repeating rifles supported by miniature technically antique smoothbore muzzleloading artillery.

The unexpected opening of Hoover's Gap was exploited immediately. Rosecrans issued orders that sent the 14th Corps through the gap & flank Bragg. As far as I know, it was the only engagement in which mountain howitzers played a significant part in the Army of the Cumberland's advance & capture of Chattanooga. Does anybody know of another engagement where mountain howitzers played an essential role?


Regtl. Staff Shiloh 2020
Feb 18, 2013
Hoover, Alabama
The Mountain Howitzer's Cannister Round was also different from a regular Napoleon round .69" lead musket balls (148) vs. 1.5 iron balls (27).


2nd Lieutenant
Aug 3, 2019
Based on my research I believe that Hubert Dilger commanded a battery of these in the (West) Virginia Light at Cross Keys while he was asssigned to Fremont from the 1st Ohio. Unfortunately the WV Archives records don't confirm but the model sand type is anecdotal.

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Nov 2, 2019
Murfreesboro, Tennessee

mountain howitzer deer hunt.jpeg

How to Hunt Wisconsin Whitetail Deer with a 12 pound Mountain Howitzer Cannon by Buck Stix
This website is unique. The author built his own 12 pound mountain howitzer. He did comprehensive research that anyone interested in mountain howitzers will find interesting. I don't know of any other website that includes detailed plans & instructions on how to build your own cannon.
mountain howitzer deer hunt firing.jpeg

mountain howitzer build.jpeg

The author uses a nom de plume for good reason. He really did go hunting for whitetail deer with his 12 pound mountain howitzer. It isn't exactly illegal to hunt with a cannon, but why not err on the side of caution?

Mountain howitzer deer.jpeg

I will not spoil Buck Stix's ten step instructions for hunting with a mountain howitzer by quoting from it, but it certainly is tempting. The writing is very droll. He scored six hits on his target.

Images used with permission of the author.


Brian L

Jun 15, 2020
Anyone know the max angle of elevation for the 12 pdr Mountian Howitzer?

I haven't see a table of fire over 6 percent elevation which isn't much different that what I see for like a Napoleon or 3 inch ordinance rifle. However if one of the key features of the howitzer is a higher angle of elevation I would expect to see a table of fire for a higher angle of elevation. Any thoughts? Any references?