Artillery Hell: In the Line of Fire

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019

Artillery Hell: In the Line of Fire​

by Eric A. Jacobson

Originally published in the Battlefield Dispatch Vol. 1 No. 3 Fall 2013 -

https://boft.org/artillery-hell-in-the-line-of-fire
Thanks. I wasn't aware of this source. I assume by "3-inch" guns he is referring to just Ordnance Rifles and not also to 10 lb Parrotts. My only "nit" would be whether those guns could "easily" hit targets at 6,000 feet (2,000 yards). That was considered the maximum "effective" range at 5 degrees elevation. For several reasons that would not be routine practice on a battlefield - or even necessary at Franklin in order to wreak havoc on Hood's attack.
 
Joined
May 18, 2005
Location
Spring Hill, Tennessee
Thanks. I wasn't aware of this source. I assume by "3-inch" guns he is referring to just Ordnance Rifles and not also to 10 lb Parrotts. My only "nit" would be whether those guns could "easily" hit targets at 6,000 feet (2,000 yards). That was considered the maximum "effective" range at 5 degrees elevation. For several reasons that would not be routine practice on a battlefield - or even necessary at Franklin in order to wreak havoc on Hood's attack.
Yeah, most of the 3" guns were firing canister. We found a 3" lead canister sabot with some of the tin still attached in 1994 when they were excavating the outer line in front of the Carter smoke house. It had to have been fired by the 1st Kentucky at an angle to the west at Confederates in the outer ditch. Pretty cool find.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Yeah, most of the 3" guns were firing canister. We found a 3" lead canister sabot with some of the tin still attached in 1994 when they were excavating the outer line in front of the Carter smoke house. It had to have been fired by the 1st Kentucky at an angle to the west at Confederates in the outer ditch. Pretty cool find.
That sounds like an excellent discovery.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
That sounds like an excellent discovery.
They also fired dummies. A captain who ordered his 3” ordinance rifles filled to the muzzle with rifle bullets said that there was a distinct sound of the report followed by, “…the sound of the bones.” My friends at Kennesaw have found several reports of dummies, i. e. Socks or bags of bullets, being fired during the Atlanta Campaign.

Perhaps the most memorable use of the Captain’s dummies narrative, which was given to a veteran’s gathering, is in Winston Groom’s Shrouds of Glory.

Spanish forts had barrels of scrap metal readily at hand for the same purpose.
 

limberbox

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2020
Thanks. I wasn't aware of this source. I assume by "3-inch" guns he is referring to just Ordnance Rifles and not also to 10 lb Parrotts. My only "nit" would be whether those guns could "easily" hit targets at 6,000 feet (2,000 yards). That was considered the maximum "effective" range at 5 degrees elevation. For several reasons that would not be routine practice on a battlefield - or even necessary at Franklin in order to wreak havoc on Hood's attack.
I would think at that stage of the war a good gunner on a 3" Parrott or Ordnance rifle could fairly readily lay fire on the lines of an advancing division at that range. Estimating range would be the most difficult part and by then they were likely pretty good at it. The weapons were quite accurate. There are a number of recorded instances of such weapons hitting targets the size of a barrel head and larger at one mile, and of course there is the Fifth Indiana's snipe of Gen. Polk at Pine Mountain at a similar range.

My live fire experience is with crewing the similar 2.9" or 10-pdr Parrott on the ranges at Ft Sill and Ft Hood. We had a good gunner and hitting man-size or squad-size targets at the distance is realistic.

In the Western Theater the challenge to such fire frequently was having sight lines that extended that far. At Franklin they had them, and it would have made sense to use them to advantage.
 

Rhea Cole

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
There certainly were some gunners capable of astonishing accuracy with 3” rifles. However, on a CW battlefield, actually seeing a target at any range could be problematic. While the guns in the trench line at Franklin continued to blast away into the smoke, the guns of Fort Grainger on a bluff above had to cease fire. There was so much smoke & dust backlit by the setting sun that they could not acquire a target. After sunset, all they could see was a swirling cloud lit up by flashes.

There were numerous instances of artillery fire controlled by dismal flags. On that case, such as gunners cutting fixes for 22 seconds from Moccasin Point, the gunners could not see their target at all.
 
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