FOR FURTHER READING
- Type: Muzzleloading Rifled Gun
- In Service With:
- United States Army - Marked "U.S."
- State of New Jersey - Marked "N.J."
- Purpose: Counter-battery & Support the infantry and cavalry forces in the field
- Invented By: Samuel Reeves, with partners John Griffen, and Emile C. Geyelin; development began in August of 1855
- Final Design Requirements by: United States Army Ordnance Board, meeting on July 20th, 1861
- Capt. Alexander B. Dyer, president; Capt. Theodore T.S. Laidley, recorder; and Capt. Thomas J. Rodman, member.
- Rarity: Common
- US Casting Foundry: Phoenix Iron Company, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
- CS Casting Foundries: Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, Virginia
- (CS castings are called 3-inch Iron Field Rifles and are not true Ordnance Rifles)
- Years of Manufacture: 1861 to 1865
- Tube Composition: Wrought Iron
- Muzzle Markings: U.S. Ordnance Inspector's Initials, Registry Number, Foundry Name, Year, Weight
- Trunnion Markings: Varies - Blank (Both) / Patent Information (Left - Patented Dec. 9, 1862) / Foundry Name (Right)
- Purchase Price in 1861: $330.00 (US)
- Purchase Price in 1865: $450.00 (US)
- The 1854 Griffin Gun, Type 1 Experimental (2.9 inch smoothbore)
- The 1861 Griffin Gun, Type 2 Experimental (3.5 inch rifled)
- Singer-Nimick & Co. of Pittsburg cast Steel versions of the Ordnance Rifle Pattern, weighing 834 lbs., in 1862
- There are known post-war breechloading conversion experiments of the Ordnance Rifle Pattern
- No. Purchased During the Civil War: 956
- No. of Surviving Pieces Today: 556+
- Special Notes: Lightest and strongest rifled tube of the Era. Sometimes incorrectly referred to as a Rodman gun.
- Bore Diameter: 3.0 inches
- Bore Length: 65.0 inches, 21.6 calibers
- Rifling Type: 7 rifle grooves, right hand consistent twist (1 turn in 11')
- Trunnion Diameter: 3.67 inches
- Barrel Thickness: at Muzzle - 1.5 inches; at Vent - 2.355 inches
- Tube Length: 73 inches
- Tube Weight: 816 lbs.
- Carriage Type: No. 1 Field Carriage (900 lbs.), 57" wheels
- Total Weight (Gun & Carriage): 1,720 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 2 Crew
- Standard Powder Charge: 1 lbs. Cannon Grade Black Powder
- Projectiles Types: Hotchkiss, Schenkel, & Dyer projectiles are all suited to the rifling of this gun
- Projectiles Weights: 10 lb. Bolts, 8 to 9 lbs. Shells
- Typical Number of Projectiles Per Gun: 200 - Loaded in 4 - 50 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
- Rate of Fire: 2 rounds per minute
- Muzzle Velocity: 1,215 ft/sec.
- Effective Range (at 5°): using Case Shot...up to 1,850 yards (1.05 miles)
- Projectile Flight Time (at 5°): using Case Shot...6.5 seconds
- Max Range (at 16°): using Case Shot...4,180 yards (2.3 miles)
- Projectile Flight Time (at 16°): using Case Shot...17 seconds
Originally derived from experiments with an earlier ordnance design called the "Griffin Gun," the Ordnance Rifle was developed by Samuel Reeves under a legal agreement between himself, John Griffin, as well as Emile C. Geyelin.
Once an agreement was made, and a contract between the was three signed on December 8, 1856; soon a testing and development program followed.
Griffen had been motivated to build a better artillery platform from the memory of the 1844 ordnance accident aboard USS Princeton, where one gun exploded, and killed six people, including Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, and Secretary of the Navy Thomas Walker Gilmer. The current President of the United States at the time, John Tyler, narrowly missed injury, as he was also aboard the ship during this event.
Geyelin, who had an interest in developing hydraulic equipment, also had a hand helping to design the manufacturing process for industrial use. His design use helped Reeves broaden his patent application to differentiate it from Griffen's original patent. Geyelin would later come to be known as the authority for developing water powered turbines on the East Coast.
Reeves used his Phoenix Iron Company in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, to manufacture the Ordnance Rifle, and the first test articles were produced at that foundry in 1856.
To manufacture the original Griffin Gun, strips of wrought iron had been hammer-welded in crisscrossing spiral layers around a mandrel; this was then bored out and the finished product lathe turned into shape. Under Reeves’ updated specifications for the Ordnance Rifle, the mandrel, again either hollow or solid, was not removed after the pile was rolled. Rather the mandrel remained with the mass and became the inner-most layer of the bore. Furthermore, Reeves’ method used a heated mandrel that would actually bond and weld to the iron sheet during the wrapping and rolling process. Though time consuming and expensive to produce, the result was a singularly tough and accurate weapon.
The Ordnance Rifle design was adopted by the Federal Ordnance Department in early 1861. The design of this rifle, soon a favorite with artillerists in both armies, is recognized by the complete absence of any discontinuities in the surface of the gun. It was also a major step forward in material, being made entirely of wrought iron.
The Phoenix-made rifles were nearly free from any reported failures. Artillerymen preferred them because they didn't have a reputation for catastrophic barrel failures, unlike some of the cast iron guns of the period. The Ordnance Rifle is also one-hundred pounds lighter than the 10-pdr. Parrott Rifle (800 lbs. to the Parrott's 900) which made it a little easier to move. For these reasons, it was the preferred weapon of the fully mounted Horse Artillery.
While the Napoleon was the field artillery's piece of choice for short-range duels, the Ordnance Rifle was valued for its long range accuracy. A one pound charge of gunpowder could accurately propel a 10 pound elongated shell a distance of 2,000 yards at only 5 degrees of elevation. Longer distances, could be achieved with higher elevations at the expense of accuracy.
At its peak, the Phoenixville factory was producing fifty rifles a week, producing more than 1,000 3-inch Ordnance Rifles during the war at a cost of about $350 each. They were considered prized captures by the Southern Army.
Using lower-grade iron, and different, less precise manufacturing process, the Confederacy made some copies of the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle, known as 3-inch Iron Field Rifles. They looked somewhat similar, but didn't have the same performance as their Northern counterparts.
The U.S. 3-inch Wrought Iron Field Rifle or "Ordnance Rifle" is sometimes erroneously referred to as a "Rodman Rifle". The process used by Thomas Rodman in casting Columbiads was not used in producing the wrought iron barrel of the Ordnance Rifle. Although Rodman was on the U.S. Army Ordnance Board that gave the final design requirements to Phoenix Iron Works, his involvement in that process has not proven to be notable. As far as can be determined, aside from being present at the board meeting, Rodman had very little, if anything, to do with the design or production of the Ordnance Rifle.
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.
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