Featured Book Reviewer
- Feb 23, 2013
- East Texas
Part I - Cannoneers Post!
We're all familiar with the roar of the guns and maybe even the smell of the gunpowder, but exactly how was it that Civil War artillery was manned and the guns were fired, according to regulation and the period drill employed by the armies of the North and South? Above is only the final act of what was an involved routine adopted for safety and efficiency. The following examples are taken from a period 1861 manual written by George Patten. (NOT that George Patton!) The gun in this case is a full-scale replica 12-pounder mountain howitzer, the smallest gun utilized during the war other than the Dahlgren boat howitizer, a naval gun generally found aboard ship, and a few experimental types never in general service. Regardless, the drill as demonstrated here is the same as used for larger field guns such as the six- and twelve-pounder guns, 12-pounder Napoleons, 3" ordnance, and 10-pounder Parrott rifles.
For drill the gun crew forms up at attention at the trail of the limber; in this case, the howitzer is on what was known as a prairie carriage. This small gun was capable of being carried by mule-back through rough terrain, hence its designation mountain howitzer. However, the carriage and wheels were smaller and built differently; one mule carried the gun tube or barrel in a special saddle on its back, while another mule carried the disassembled trail and wheels, and still another carried ammunition chests. The prairie carriage was just a smaller version of the regular carriage for the larger field guns. The crew is assembled so that by merely performing a right face - march they can march to their positions on the gun.
These first photos appear to scramble the members of the gun crew and should not be considered sequential; in point of fact ALL members of a battery were instructed thoroughly in every position on the crew and were able to "switch out" even while in combat in order to keep the guns firing. Normally there were nine members of each gun crew, not including drivers of teams, officers, etc. The positions were numbered except for the gunner who was often a corporal and effective commander of the gun crew. Number one rammed the charge and sponged out the barrel after each fire; number two was the loader; number three aimed the gun at the direction of the gunner; number four actually fired the gun using a friction primer; number five brought ammunition charges from the limber to number two; numbers six, seven, and eight stood behind the limber an prepared each round by setting and cutting fuses and stood ready in case it became necessary to relieve or replace one of the others.
In the photo above, from left to right, are: No.s 6, 7, and 8 - in no particular order - standing behind the limber; No. 5 wearing the pass-box (or more correctly, a gunner's haversack) in which the charge was carried from limber to gun; the Gunner; No. 3; an officer section commander lieutenant not part of the crew looking through binoculars; No. 4 (partially hidden); No. 1 with rammer; and no. 2.
Next, Part II - Gun Drill
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