How to Fire a Civil War Cannon


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byron ed

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#44
When the round is rammed, #3 moves their thumb from the vent to the rim - the appearance is the same but keeps #3's hand out of harms way when the round is being rammed
There's sure no consensus about that among reenactment batteries. Many, if not most, keep the vent stopped by thumb until the split-second before the primer is inserted. It's the same reason it's kept stopped at other times in the drill: to limit the re-energizing of any remaining embers* during ramming, before the charge is fully seated.

In other words, what's the point of stopping the vent at any stage of the drill if it's going to be left uncovered for several extra seconds near the end of the drill?


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*
highly unlikely by then, but still a remote possiblility
 
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#46
'I remember around thirteen years ago I had the choice of going to see "reenactment" in Jefferson, or go to a "school of the piece" being run by a friend of my neighbor's in Jefferson at the time. I went and spent the whole day learning how to drill on Mountain Howitzer and 3 in. Ordinance Rifle. I spent the whole day being instructed by guys in uniform as I heard the "battle" from the reenactment in the distance, and I got hooked for life! I was schooled in every position, and when I tried for the gunner's position commanding the piece I got the orders down right, but the "instructor" standing directly in front of the piece, (we were drilling, not firing at the railroad depot in Jefferson), I would give the order to fire, and that old fart would shout every time "Failed primer! What do you do?" and I after I'd freeze for a few seconds I'd hear "Your crew is waiting for your orders! Give the proper command!" I was fifteen at the time, and those old farts were hard on me, and the lessons stuck. But I was hooked, and I joined that unit, and stayed with them for three or four years before I went over to the Infantry.

By the James, I don't want to say it, but I don't think the M1835 Mountain Howitzer, (MH) was the smallest gun of the War. The 2.25in Tredegar Mountain Rifle of which either 19 or 21 were made, (different sources say different things about them) with all but one being rifled bronze guns with a smaller bore than the MH and the barrel was small enough that it could be carried easier than the MH. The Tredegar Mountain Rifles apparently saw wide service for so few guns to have been made: One going to Mosby, (that gun supposedly survived and is on display at the Artillery museum in Oklahoma City)

Four guns going to Arkansas right before the Prairie Grove Campaign, in Shoup's Battery
Apparently one of the guns carriages was destroyed at Cane Hill and the crew carried the barrel away with them to keep it from being captured, and it seems two of the guns ended up as Texas property and were used in "Lee's Texas Battery" in the Indian Nations. I'm still tracking down the fate of these guns, because they are not listed anywhere after the Trans-Mississippi's disbanding/surrender.

And the rest were split up to various units in the AoT and ANV.

I don't want to contradict you James, but I just wanted to point out that there was a smaller gun than the MH. The Tredegar Rifles might have had a longer barrel, (not by too much), but their diameter was a lot smaller.

(Tredegar Mountain Rifles have been a favored study area of mine for a while now, and if I'm ever able, I really, really want to get a repop of one for reenactments. Who knows I might make a return to the Artillery.)

EDIT: Just went and compared the two guns, the Tredegar weighed 190 pounds compared to the I think it was near 230 or 240 pounds of a MH. Plus the bore size was way smaller than the MH.
 
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byron ed

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#47
...somewhat faster ramming with only one hand - keeping the hand away from the muzzle as much as possible. we are only seating a blank charge in foil, not a 6-pd round with a cartridge bag in a fouled bore.
... and in more safety-focused reenactment units, there's an insistence on an "artillerist's grip" on the implements -- that is, to keep the thumb folded back along the shaft (on both and either hand). Otherwise with a normal grip the hand reflexively locks should an implement accidentally propel from the bore. (You can easily confirm this by challenging someone to unexpectedly grab a dowel or rake handle from you). Consequence is it could make the difference between losing an entire hand or forearm vs a bad sprain and/or a finger or two.

Still most units I've watched, though perhaps aware of the danger, are not willing to make it a requirement of their drill. Artillerist's grip pretty much has to become second nature, meaning one or two pre-event drills won't effectively establish it. I've chuckled to notice the way I grab an automobile steering wheel anymore.
 
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James N.

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#49
… By the James, I don't want to say it, but I don't think the M1835 Mountain Howitzer, (MH) was the smallest gun of the War. The 2.25in Tredegar Mountain Rifle of which either 19 or 21 were made, (different sources say different things about them) with all but one being rifled bronze guns with a smaller bore than the MH and the barrel was small enough that it could be carried easier than the MH. The Tredegar Mountain Rifles apparently saw wide service for so few guns to have been made: One going to Mosby, (that gun supposedly survived and is on display at the Artillery museum in Oklahoma City)...

I don't want to contradict you James, but I just wanted to point out that there was a smaller gun than the MH. The Tredegar Rifles might have had a longer barrel, (not by too much), but their diameter was a lot smaller.
Do notice what I said in the OP: " 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." I'd say your Tredegar with only 19 - 21 made falls into that category, although I wasn't thinking of it or any other specific gun type when I wrote this - I was just aware of the existence of oddballs that fall outside the norm. My main point was that since my photos show the drill being performed on a small gun like the mountain howitzer that the drill used was nevertheless still the same as that for larger and more common fieldpieces like Napoleons, Parrotts, etc. I don't know if that would be the case with the Tredegar which sounds like it might've been quite a bit smaller.
 
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#50
Do notice what I said in the OP: " 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." I'd say your Tredegar with only 19 - 21 made falls into that category, although I wasn't thinking of it or any other specific gun type when I wrote this - I was just aware of the existence of oddballs that fall outside the norm. My main point was that since my photos show the drill being performed on a small gun like the mountain howitzer that the drill used was nevertheless still the same as that for larger and more common fieldpieces like Napoleons, Parrotts, etc. I don't know if that would be the case with the Tredegar which sounds like it might've been quite a bit smaller.
Oh the "general service" part is why I didn't mention the Hugh's breechloading cannons, or the oddball smaller experimental breechloader from Kentucky, (Wilson?), but I brought up the Tredegars because even with so few, it seems they were meant to compete with the MH's ,(some sources believe so, I'm not completely convinced), but while there were so few, they were in almost every theater, (New Mexico Theater exempted), and were seeing combat from there invention in 1862 till the end of the War, so while not in a general service category, they really can't be in experimental either. Oh and I think they still had the same crew compliment as other pieces.
No matter, only thing I don't like about the MH's is they are WAY over-represented at reenactments, they are fun guns to play with.

But amusing account concerning the Tredegar Mountain Rifle's ammunition from a Union point of view at the Battle of Cane Hill from the First Kansas Battery suffered their only casualties of a driver and two horses from one shot from one of those guns:
"It was about the size and shape of an old-fashioned clock weight".

I'm sorry, I don't like contradicting you, I was just spouting off.
 

James N.

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#51
… No matter, only thing I don't like about the MH's is they are WAY over-represented at reenactments, they are fun guns to play with.

But amusing account concerning the Tredegar Mountain Rifle's ammunition from a Union point of view at the Battle of Cane Hill when a driver and two horses in the First Kansas Battery suffered their only casualties from one shot from:
"It was about the size and shape of an old-fashioned clock weight".
Speaking of that particular campaign that ended in the Battle of Prairie Grove, I was surprised when I learned that at least one of the Union columns - Herron's I believe - included at least one battery of the little mountain howitzers. I agree about the over-proliferation of them in many reenactments though.
 
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#52
Speaking of that particular campaign that ended in the Battle of Prairie Grove, I was surprised when I learned that at least one of the Union columns - Herron's I believe - included at least one battery of the little mountain howitzers. I agree about the over-proliferation of them in many reenactments though.
I think the Prairie Grove Campaign might have had the largest proliferation of mountain howitzers on both sides in the War. Herron had one battery, I'm not gonna swear to it but I think Blunt had a battery of them, and with the Confederates Shoup's Arkansas Battery had some mountain howitzers along with the previously mention M1862 Tredegars, and I want to say there was another battery somewhere in the mix with the little guns.

As far as I know that was a lot of proliferation for those guns
 

byron ed

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#53
...I was schooled in every position, and when I tried for the gunner's position commanding the piece I got the orders down right, but the "instructor" standing directly in front of the piece, (we were drilling, not firing ...that old fart would shout every time "Failed primer!..."Your crew is waiting for your orders! Give the proper command!" ...
In other words, the guy was a jerk, and not an expert (whoever he convinced that he was). First of all, there's no excuse for the old fart to be directing the gun from in front of the muzzle just because it was a drill. A drill is a drill. He wasn't the gunner or even a section commander, so no. Secondly, the muzzle area is an exclusion zone, period. A drill is a drill. Thirdly, it's not an observer's place to declare "failed primer!" That is totally, and only, the provenance and duty of any crewman actually servicing the piece - to include the Corporal, Gunner (you) or Gun Sargent. A drill is a drill: either it's training in mode or it isn't.

A legitimate observer vetts the drill after completion of the cycle, at "piece ready."

Unfortunately many reenacting Artillery newbys have had to endure the bluster of a particular puffed-up, self-pronounced "master of the piece." It's not until those newbys muster in with another unit on occasion that they realize how much of their own drill was based primarily on unit preference, and not at all on a bottom-line, authentic period drill in detail (which just about all units avoid as being needlessly risky). Every newby deserves to have that explained to them before having to be jerked around by some self-righteous "grizzled veteran" of the unit. Oh yeah, imho.
 
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#55
In other words, the guy was a jerk, and not an expert (whoever he convinced that he was). First of all, there's no excuse for the old fart to be directing the gun from in front of the muzzle just because it was a drill. A drill is a drill. He wasn't the gunner or even a section commander, so no. Secondly, the muzzle area is an exclusion zone, period. A drill is a drill. Thirdly, it's not an observer's place to declare "failed primer!" That is totally, and only, the provenance and duty of any crewman actually servicing the piece - to include the Corporal, Gunner (you) or Gun Sargent. A drill is a drill: either it's training in mode or it isn't.

A legitimate observer vetts the drill after completion of the cycle, at "piece ready."

Unfortunately many reenacting Artillery newbys have had to endure the bluster of a particular puffed-up, self-pronounced "master of the piece." It's not until those newbys muster in with another unit on occasion that they realize how much of their own drill was based primarily on unit preference, and not at all on a bottom-line, authentic period drill in detail (which just about all units avoid as being needlessly risky). Every newby deserves to have that explained to them before having to be jerked around by some self-righteous "grizzled veteran" of the unit. Oh yeah, imho.
Well I wouldn't say he was jerking me around, it was just his way of teaching, and it stuck after about twelve different times of "stuff going wrong" so to speak, but it stuck.

There is always the types that do that kind of stuff just to be a jerk, he wasn't and still isn't one of them, it was just his way of teaching someone who was on his first day on a piece. I had spent the day learning, and he was testing me, and I'll admit one should be ready for something to wrong, I had everything down right for when thing were going right, and he tested me with what to do when something goes wrong and he got me dead to rights lol. Everyone has their own way of teaching, some unconventional, and I'd say he was in that category, rather than the jerk one, he was second in command of the battery he was one of the "instructors" and while he drove me bonkers doing it, he complimented me after I learned it, and this was all on the first day I ever saw a cannon.

If I represented him as a jerk that was not my intention, because he really isn't, or hasn't been one to me, he just has his own way of teaching I reckon, even if ain't my way, or most folks way.

On a side note, he would holler "Your Primer failed" and other things that happen on a gun from time to time after, I gave the order to fire, so it was technically at "piece ready "after I thought I done everything went proper, he'd trip me up, which taught me I still had stuff to learn.

Sorry if I mis-represented anything to you like he was a wannabe gunny sgt.
 

drezac

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#58
There's sure no consensus about that among reenactment batteries. Many, if not most, keep the vent stopped by thumb until the split-second before the primer is inserted. It's the same reason it's kept stopped at other times in the drill: to limit the re-energizing of any remaining embers* during ramming, before the charge is fully seated.

In other words, what's the point of stopping the vent at any stage of the drill if it's going to be left uncovered for several extra seconds near the end of the drill?


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
*
highly unlikely by then, but still a remote possiblility
when sponging, the sponge is ( at least it should be ) a tight fit in the bore, forcing air out the vent during sponging. During ramming the charge, it Is a loose fit, and most of the air will escape around the charge through the bore. By not stopping the vent during ramming, it adds safety for #3 in the event of a discharge. I have seen a premature discharge on a gun next to the one i was a gunner on. Had #3 not moved her thumb off the vent, she most likly would have had a serious injury. Instead, she just had the sleeve of her jacket singed.
 

byron ed

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#59
when sponging, the sponge is ( at least it should be ) a tight fit in the bore, forcing air out the vent during sponging. During ramming the charge, it Is a loose fit, and most of the air will escape around the charge through the bore. By not stopping the vent during ramming, it adds safety for #3 in the event of a discharge. I have seen a premature discharge on a gun next to the one i was a gunner on. Had #3 not moved her thumb off the vent, she most likly would have had a serious injury. Instead, she just had the sleeve of her jacket singed.
Brings up the question then: why stop the vent at any stage of the drill? Let's explore the "logic":

- Before loading perhaps there's a burning ember left behind but since it poses no risk to any position, why thumb stop at this stage?

- During ramming #3 is at risk, so why thumb stop at this stage? (as pointed out)

- After the charge is seated and static, the charge might yet spontaneously blow from the stored heat of several previous firings, so why thumb stop at this stage? (#3 is still at risk!).

This is only to point out all the grand, wise and scientific logic to drills that I've heard over the years. One unit justifies a particular procedure for safety, and another unit justifies avoiding the very same procedure for safety.

Few will admit it (not to bruise egos) but a lot of the time it's only backyard physics or farmer engineering that drives the logic. There's a few "old wives tales" thrown in.

My favorite example is that some units require a 2-second pause as part of their drill, during which all positions on the gun listen for escaping air from the vent. Believe it or not, that applies as a full battle is underway with adjacent cannons booming and rifle fire crackling. It's to laugh, imho (though I understand that detecting a hiss or escaping gas is valid when conditions allow).
 
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James N.

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#60
Of course all this is precisely WHY #3 is supposed to wear a thumbstall!
 



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