The Model 1857 12-Pounder "Napoleon" Light Field Gun, officially called the “light 12-pounder gun” by the United States Army, was the most popular smoothbore cannon used during the American Civil War. The cannon was named after French president and emperor, Napoleon III, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte.
FOR FURTHER READING
- In Service With:
- French Army
- United States Army
- Confederate States Army
- Type: Muzzleloading Smoothbore gun-howitzer
- Purpose: Support the infantry and cavalry forces in the field
- Invented By: French Army in 1853
- Patent: N/A
- Years of Manufacture: In the U.S. - 1857 to 1863
- Tube Composition: Bronze or cast iron
- Bore Diameter: 4.62 inches
- Rarity: Common
- Rate of Fire: 3 to 4 rounds per minute
- Standard Powder Charge:
- 2.0 lbs. Cannon Grade Black Powder (Shell & Canister)
- 2.5 lbs. Cannon Grade Black Powder (Solid Shot & Case Shot)
- Muzzle Velocity: 1,485 ft/sec.
- Solid Shot Effective Range (at 5°): up to 1,619 yards (0.91 miles)
- Common Shell Projectile Effective Range (at 5°): up to 1,300 yards (0.73 miles)
- Common Shell Projectile Flight Time (at 5°): 5 seconds
- Projectiles: 12.3 lbs. solid round balls, 11.0 lbs. spherical case, common shell, & 13.5 lbs. canister
- Typical Number of Projectiles Per Gun: 128 - Loaded in 4 - 32 Round / Mixed Ammo Chests
- 2 Limbers, each carrying a Chest; 1 to pull the Cannon, and 1 to pull the Caisson, which carried 2 additional Chests
- Typical US Napoleon Limber Chest Load-out:
- 12 solid shot
- 4 common shell
- 12 spherical case shot
- 4 canister rounds
- Tube Length: 66 inches
- Bore Length: 13.76 calibers, or 63.6 inches
- Tube Weight: Bronze - 1,227 lbs.; Iron - 1,249 lbs.
- Carriage Type: No. 2 Field Carriage (1,125 lbs.), 57" wheels
- Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 2,350 lbs.
- Horses Required to Pull: 6
- No. of Crew to Serve: Typical - 9, 1 Gunner, 8 Numbered Crew Positions
- Could operate at a reduced rate with as few as 3 Crew
- No. in North America from 1861 to 1865: approx. 1100 in the North and 600 in the South.
- No. of Original Pieces You Can See in the Field Today: ???
- Cost in 1862 Dollars: $ 490 (US); $ 565 (CS)
- Cost in 1865 Dollars: $ 614 (US); $1840 (CS)
- US Casting Foundries:
- Ames Manufacturing Co., Chicopee, MA (103 copies produced)
- Cyrus Alger & Co., Boston, MA (170 copies produced)
- The Revere Copper Co., Boston, MA (461 copies produced)
- Henry N. Hooper & Co., Boston, MA (370 copies produced)
- Miles Greenwood & Co., Cincinnati, OH (52 copies produced)
- CS Casting Foundries:
- J. R. Anderson Co. of Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, VA (226 copies produced)
- Leeds & Co. in New Orleans, LA (12 copies produced)
- Quinby & Robinson, Memphis, TN (6 copies produced)
- Augusta Arsenal, Augusta, GA (130 copies produced)
- Macon Arsenal, Macon, GA (53 copies produced)
- Columbus Arsenal, Columbus, GA (52 copies produced)
- Charleston Arsenal, Charleston, SC (20 copies produced)
- Variants: 3 main versions
- The first two U.S. prototypes in 1857 had "Dolphin" style handles above the trunnions, as per the original French design. That would be eliminated to save weight.
- The second variant is the "Classic" M1857 Napoleon of the U.S. Army, with a slight swell at the muzzle.
- The third is the Confederate copy, with a tapered look and no muzzle swell.
- Special Notes: The French Army officially called this gun, "Canon obusier de campagne de 12 livres, modèle 1853" and named it after French Emperor Louis Napoleon III, who was in power as this piece entered service, and saw extensive service during the Crimean War.
FOR FURTHER READING
- Civil War Artillery at Gettysburg, Cole, Philip M, Da Capo Press, New York, N.Y., 2002.
- Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, by Olmstead, Hazlett, & Parks, Univ of Delaware Press, 1988.
- Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, by Warren Ripley, Battery Press, 1984.