Artillery question

JHamilton

Cadet
Joined
Mar 2, 2021
I've heard a hundred times "The gunners couldn't depress their barrels enough...". There has to be a reason they couldn't just put a rock under the back. It obviously couldn't be steep enough that the recoil would send it airborne, but I don't think it would do that even if it was very steep. I'm sure somebody can clue me in.
 

JHamilton

Cadet
Joined
Mar 2, 2021
Trying to aim a arty piece with a rock under the trail would be near impossible plus having to put it under for every shot in the heat of battle was not practical.
I don't want to argue man, but I'm picturing firing double canister into the Valley of Death or from Smith's battery into the Triangular field. Point it in the right general direction, stick a rock under the back and cap it off. It beats standing there. I'm just imagining what I would do, knowing almost nothing about the subject.
 

ucvrelics

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I looked through all the US Army arty manual can't find any reference to a rock.:D
1625099020240.png
 

The Walking Dead

Corporal
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May 19, 2021
Sir:

Have you ever been to Gettysburg and walked the ground where Smith's Battery was positioned? Have you looked at any of the early photographs taken of this area of the battlefield? You might find this link of interest:

https://www.gettysburgdaily.com/gun...w-york-battery-return-to-the-valley-of-death/

Ask yourself these question:

How heavy does the trail of an artillery carriage weigh?
What size stones would you have needed to depress the tubes sufficiently?
Would the stones have been readily available?
Would the artillerymen have thought to do this in the midst of battle?
What would keep the canister rounds in the tubes if the angle was to great?

Interesting question and soldiers of all wars are well known for improvising. Perhaps this was done at a different Civil War battle. I look forward to hearing what others have to say. Thank you for asking the question.
 

WScott

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May 6, 2021
Taking into consideration that the gun is being manipulated in a manor not intended (stones under the tube), the safety of the gun crew becomes more dangerous because of the increased angel (recoil takes the gun up, not back and the stone wedge will fly in some direction), you are not aiming the gun but guessing, increased chance of hitting your own troops and putting added stress on the gun and carriage.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2019
Sir:

Have you ever been to Gettysburg and walked the ground where Smith's Battery was positioned? Have you looked at any of the early photographs taken of this area of the battlefield? You might find this link of interest:

https://www.gettysburgdaily.com/gun...w-york-battery-return-to-the-valley-of-death/

Ask yourself these question:

How heavy does the trail of an artillery carriage weigh?
What size stones would you have needed to depress the tubes sufficiently?
Would the stones have been readily available?
Would the artillerymen have thought to do this in the midst of battle?
What would keep the canister rounds in the tubes if the angle was to great?

Interesting question and soldiers of all wars are well known for improvising. Perhaps this was done at a different Civil War battle. I look forward to hearing what others have to say. Thank you for asking the question.
What would keep the canister rounds in the tubes if the angle was too great? Friction

Sorry the rest are all good points to which I would add the risk of putting the piece off its centre of gravity and potentially having it tip muzzle first into the ground. That would be awkward and embarrassing to say the least.

Anyway here is an image of a US 6 pounder canister shot

1041165.jpg
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
I looked through all the US Army arty manual can't find any reference to a rock.:D
View attachment 406574
I don't recall Gibbon referring to it in the Artillerist's Manual, either. 😎

As an aside, the inordinate fascination with canister prompted Mr. H.J. Hunt to say this in his September 1862 instructions for gunners in the A of the Potomac:

"The prevailing tendency to the use of canister is too great"
 

redbob

Major
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Location
Hoover, Alabama
What would keep the canister rounds in the tubes if the angle was too great? Friction

Sorry the rest are all good points to which I would add the risk of putting the piece off its centre of gravity and potentially having it tip muzzle first into the ground. That would be awkward and embarrassing to say the least.

Anyway here is an image of a US 6 pounder canister shot

View attachment 406701
And this perhaps gets to the heart (s) of the problem: Besides putting an undue (and undesigned for) strain on the carriage hardware and the carriage itself by having the tubes aimed downward, Civil War era artillery tubes were designed to have "windage" built into them-that is, they were at least an 1/16th of an inch larger than the rounds that they were designed to fire so that you could get the rounds down the tube (whether smoothbore or rifled) and as the tubes wore, this "windage" grew even larger. Even though the rounds were seated by the rammer, if the tube was pointed downward at too great of an angle; there was still the possibility of the round moving forward enough so that the friction primer would not set the powder charge off and preventing the piece from firing.
 

redbob

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I don't recall Gibbon referring to it in the Artillerist's Manual, either. 😎

As an aside, the inordinate fascination with canister prompted Mr. H.J. Hunt to say this in his September 1862 instructions for gunners in the A of the Potomac:

"The prevailing tendency to the use of canister is too great"
At Gettysburg, Hunt also reportedly scolded an artillery Lieutenant for firing too much by telling him that the rounds cost the Government $1.85 (or some such figure) each and to not waste the Government's money.
 

Belfoured

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At Gettysburg, Hunt also reportedly scolded an artillery Lieutenant for firing too much by telling him that the rounds cost the Government $1.85 (or some such figure) each and to not waste the Government's money.
I'm not sure if the story has ever been solidly confirmed but there's little doubt that it would have been consistent with Hunt's very strong views about efficiency, slow/"deliberate"/accurate fire, etc. He was also a stickler for AAR that stated amounts and types of projectiles expended, changes in battery position and reasons, ranges, etc. IMHO, he was a model for the proper execution of a chief in charge of a specified arm.
 

DixieRifles

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Collierville, TN
What would keep the canister rounds in the tubes if the angle was to great?
I dont think any arty round would slide back out of the barrel.
My Dad told me some scary stories about privates learning how to shoot a bazooka.

Back to the rock under the trail. Im sure you are aware the carriage has a severe recoil when fired. Maybe double the recoil with double canister. I have seen live fire{Correction: Civil War cannon competition} and notice the recoil of some guns will push the barrel muzzle down. I wonder if the trail is lifted too high that might cause the cannon to flip inverted. Possible??
 
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JHamilton

Cadet
Joined
Mar 2, 2021
Thanks everybody. I live 2 hours from Gettysburg and I've been there several times. From where Smith's Battery was down into the Triangular Field isn't all that steep. I know the trail isn't too heavy, because they lifted it to hitch to the limber and could drag the piece by the lanyard (I forget the term for it) attached to the trail for that purpose. Everybody seems to have the same thought as me- there has to be a reason but I don't know what it is. I picture running out of elevation and needing just a little more to hit people who are trying very hard to kill me, and throwing something under the trail would be my first thought. If I get a chance to ask a reenactor who fires a real artillery piece I'll ask.
 

Saphroneth

Major
Joined
Feb 18, 2017
My understanding is that the cannon is designed to absorb recoil in the normal mode of operation. It would therefore be expected to act differently, and possibly unpredictably, if the gross structure were arranged in an abnormal mode of operation.

Thinking about the vectors, if you have the gun pointing downwards relative to the ground on which it was standing (instead of horizontal/upwards) then you have a component of force which is going upwards. That upwards component of the force would be expected to lift the gun slightly, and it would rotate around the contact point formed by the trails.

This is very much just my sitting there trying to work out the vectors and the consequences, but I think you might see the gun jouncing up in the air a bit and then coming back down on the wheels - a direction of stress they would never normally deal with.



Depressing gun carriages did exist, but they were specialist kit. The simple fact that they had to be built and that the concept of dead ground existed suggests that there was some point at which "ad hoc" depression handling couldn't cope.

Or it could just be the lack of properly trained artillery officers, since there weren't many in the prewar US army and there wasn't really time to train many new ones.
 
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