Heavy Artillery And Siege Guns

MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
What happened to all of those siege guns, mortars and heavy artillery that McClellan was using at Williamsburg and throughout the Peninsula Campaign? I don't really recall hearing too much about it from Burnside to Grant.

Was it put in storage somewhere, or did it travel with the army into MD and PA and back, just idled somewhere in the rear?
 

MikeyB

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Sep 13, 2018
While not being with the main body of the army, they were usually within range of being brought up if the need arose.
Do siege guns have any use if not attacking fortifications or cities? If Lee had them at Pickett's charge would it have made sense to use them? Do they have a purpose against troops?
 

James N.

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Do siege guns have any use if not attacking fortifications or cities? If Lee had them at Pickett's charge would it have made sense to use them? Do they have a purpose against troops?
Siege guns are a rather generic term describing guns of (in the Civil War) of guns of 30# or better which are generally too heavy to take on active campaigning. An example of them being used on troops/ field fortifications was at Fredericksburg in 1862.
The behemoth in the foreground represents the 30-pounder Parrott that Confederates shipped to Lee's army at Fredericksburg. The Union had several of them on Stafford Heights across the Rappahannock too. These are too heavy and unwieldy for field armies to be trundling about, as the Federals discovered at First Bull Run in 1861. There proper place is in forts.
 

drezac

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@MikeyB , as a general rule, the siege guns are a semi-permanent placement due to their size. with the exception of the smaller ones, setting them up was rather involved, sometimes requiring construction of a platform for the guns ( even for the ones on the large carriages like the 30lb parrots) . They could not be re-deployed or pulled back easily if the battle conditions changed. Considering that the smallest siege gun ( 12-pdr siege gun, which were determined to be too small and only a few were made) weighs in at 3,500 lb ( tube only), they could quickly become a logistical nightmare for an army that must move quickly. in addition, the ammunition was more appropriate for use against fortification due to the range and longer fuse timings.
 

James N.

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Do siege guns have any use if not attacking fortifications or cities? If Lee had them at Pickett's charge would it have made sense to use them? Do they have a purpose against troops?
@MikeyB , as a general rule, the siege guns are a semi-permanent placement due to their size. with the exception of the smaller ones, setting them up was rather involved, sometimes requiring construction of a platform for the guns ( even for the ones on the large carriages like the 30lb parrots) . They could not be re-deployed or pulled back easily if the battle conditions changed. Considering that the smallest siege gun ( 12-pdr siege gun, which were determined to be too small and only a few were made) weighs in at 3,500 lb ( tube only), they could quickly become a logistical nightmare for an army that must move quickly. in addition, the ammunition was more appropriate for use against fortification due to the range and longer fuse timings.
I only suggested in my above post what happened to the 30-pounder Parrotts (a section of two guns as I remember) that were attached to McDowell's army at First Bull Run. They *may* have fired a few long-range shots at the Confederates across the creek but when fortunes turned against the Federals and they were forced to flee, the guns were abandoned in the retreat and fell into Confederate hands. Other than from fixed positions like on the Peninsula, at Fredericksburg, Vicksburg, Petersburg, etc. they didn't accompany maneuvering field armies again.
 
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May 12, 2018
I want to say I have read somewhere about siege guns being used against cities (probably Richmond at the end of the war), but I think that was generally not the intent. Siege guns proper place is assaulting forts and other static positions, and since campaigns were fast paced and mobile they tended not to see much action. I want to say Hunt & Grant did communicate about the Army's "siege train" (a separate formation that usually trailed the rest of the Army by a good deal) and it's composition. Generally how much and what they brought along depended on what the game plan for that years campaign was, which for the middle of the war was quite light since the Union was trying to slim down and be more mobile on the offense. But in the last campaigns I believe they brought along a little more of it, as the Union was approaching it's endgame and needed the heavy ordinance to break stuff up. So how much if any siege artillery would be present was very much dependent on the overall situation.

Something that gets neglected alot, I think, is artillery's role in protecting lines of supply\communication, which I think was where alot of the siege artillery spent most of the war: being part of batteries protecting roads, bridges, rivers ect. . I know for instance alor of heavy ordnance was brought in at one point to protect Northern KY and Cincinnati, for example. And even out of the way places like Johnson's Island featured some pretty heavy guns. Here, I think, the purpose was more deterrence than anything else. Nobody wants to assault the 30 lber position, even if in realty other weapons might be more effective.
 
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