Captain Bigelow's Retreat on July 2 to the Trostle Farm

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rbellamy

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On the afternoon of July 2 at Gettysburg, Captain Bigelow withdrew his 6 Napoleons "by prolonge." How exactly was this done? Descriptions in histories are vague - even Bigelow's own account. I know how the prolonge is attached and that the cannon is fired and pulled back on the recoil, but how was each cannon withdrawn to the next firing position? By manpower? Attached to the limbers?
 

Belfoured

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On the afternoon of July 2 at Gettysburg, Captain Bigelow withdrew his 6 Napoleons "by prolonge." How exactly was this done? Descriptions in histories are vague - even Bigelow's own account. I know how the prolonge is attached and that the cannon is fired and pulled back on the recoil, but how was each cannon withdrawn to the next firing position? By manpower? Attached to the limbers?
Generally it was by the crew pulling on it. The recoil itself accomplished part of the task.
 

rpkennedy

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Generally, the prolongs would be tied to the limber and the recoil would drive the gun back towards the limber. The driver of the limber would walk his team forward until the rope was taut while the gun crew would be reloading the gun. Now the gun could either be fired immediately and start the process over or the gun could be walked to the rear a bit further before firing (although I personally wouldn't want to walk beside a fully loaded cannon).

In extreme circumstances, the gun could be dragged by hand which would be a slower process since the gun crew couldn't load until they stopped their movement.

Bigelow would later write that his men retreated about 400 yards by prolong, using the recoil of the guns to push them to the rear and the men using the prolong ropes to realign the cannon as they loaded.

Ryan
 
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rbellamy

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Thank you. This description helps a lot. I had assumed the prolong was pulled back and attached to the limber. That seems to be what Bigelow suggests though he doesn't directly say it.
 

Belfoured

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Generally, the prolongs would be tied to the limber and the recoil would drive the gun back towards the limber. The driver of the limber would walk his team forward until the rope was taut while the gun crew would be reloading the gun. Now the gun could either be fired immediately and start the process over or the gun could be walked to the rear a bit further before firing (although I personally wouldn't want to walk beside a fully loaded cannon).

In extreme circumstances, the gun could be dragged by hand which would be a slower process since the gun crew couldn't load until they stopped their movement.

Bigelow would later write that his men retreated about 400 yards by prolong, using the recoil of the guns to push them to the rear and the men using the prolong ropes to realign the cannon as they loaded.

Ryan
Yeah - mine is missing a "not". IIRC, there are a few instances in the OR of the crew dragging by prolonge in the extreme circumstances you mention - they don't mention what was done to move the limber in those cases (since it presumable was facibng forward at the start), but it may be that the limbers had already been told to move back.
 

rpkennedy

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Thank you. This description helps a lot. I had assumed the prolong was pulled back and attached to the limber. That seems to be what Bigelow suggests though he doesn't directly say it.
It's likely that Bigelow's men did a bit of both. Moving back towards the Trostle House, they probably used the limbers but we know that his men dragged some of the guns by hand towards the end of the withdrawal.

Yeah - mine is missing a "not". IIRC, there are a few instances in the OR of the crew dragging by prolonge in the extreme circumstances you mention - they don't mention what was done to move the limber in those cases (since it presumable was facibng forward at the start), but it may be that the limbers had already been told to move back.
I assume the limber stayed "ahead" of the guns so that the men could still reach the ammunition but the limbers weren't being used to pull the cannons.

Ryan
 
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Bigelow, in his letter to J.B. Batchelder - ( Batchelder Papers, vol 1 pg 173 ), stated “ I say my battery retired by prolonge, I should perhaps more properly say by the recoil of it’s guns, for the prolonges were only used to straighten the alignment and for keeping an effective front, to both skirmishers as line of battle.” He went on to say that he used this method “thus for a quarter of a mile”
 

W117Monte

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Bigelow, in his letter to J.B. Batchelder - ( Batchelder Papers, vol 1 pg 173 ), stated “ I say my battery retired by prolonge, I should perhaps more properly say by the recoil of it’s guns, for the prolonges were only used to straighten the alignment and for keeping an effective front, to both skirmishers as line of battle.” He went on to say that he used this method “thus for a quarter of a mile”
I wonder if anyone has ever done the math and figured out how many shots it took to go a 1/4 mile.
 
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