Experimental Hughes Breechloading Cannons

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Reproduction Hughes Cannon at Ft. Shenandoah, VA
© Mike Kendra, Oct. 2009
D.W. Hughes, a native of Ohio, began making guns in the Spring of 1861 at Street and Hungerford in Memphis, Tennessee. He was an expert machinist, and was able to design and build his first gun in early 1862. It was small breechloader firing a one-pound ball six to eight times a minute.

ARTILLERY PROFILE
  • Models:
    • Smoothbore & Rifled Breechloaders
    • 1.5-inch & 2-inch Breechloaders
  • Type: Breechloading Gun
  • Purpose: Highly mobile rapid fire artillery
  • Invented By: D. W. Hughes of Arizona
  • Patented: Confederate Patent #149
    • For "Improvement in Breech Plugs", February 16, 1863
  • Rarity: Very Rare
:CSA1stNat:
MANUFACTURING
  • CS Manufacturer: Street, Hungerford & Company of Memphis, Tennessee
  • Years of Manufacture: 1862 to 1863
  • Tube Composition: Varied...
    • Some gun tubes Bronze
    • Some gun tubes Wrought Iron from "broken locomotive axles"
  • Purchase Price in 1862: $600 (CS) (based on $6,000.00 bill for 10 guns)
  • No. Purchased During the Civil War: at least 12, possibly as many as 50 were produced
  • No. of Surviving Pieces Today: 1 known
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WEIGHTS & MEASURES

  • Bore Diameter: 1.5 & 2 inch
  • Bore Length: 32 to 36 inches
  • Rifling: 15 rifle grooves (when present)
  • Overall Length: Up to 47.5 inches (Barrel & Breech Action)
  • Barrel Weight: 65 to 90 lbs. (Empty)
  • Carriage Type: Light Wooden Carriage
    • Built with shoulder boxes designed to hold ammo & tools
    • Light enough for transport by a few men alone
  • Crew Size: 2 or 3 men
  • Special Notes: Barrel includes a copper sleeve water jacket, it surrounds the barrel. When filled with water, it helps to improve cooling during rapid fire.
AMMUNITION
  • Standard Powder Charge: unknown
  • Projectiles: Lead balls (smoothbore), unknown (rifle)
PERFORMANCE
  • Rate of Fire: 6 to 8 rounds per minute
  • Effective Range: up to 3 miles (smoothbore), unknown (rifle)
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NOTES ON D. W. HUGHES AND

THE CANNON HE DESIGNED


Located in Memphis, Tennessee, the foundry of Street, Hungerford & Company, operated by Anthony S. Street and Fayette H. Hungerford, employed nearly 100 hands in the production of wagons, railroad cars, plows, and iron castings. Sensing the oncoming war, Street and Hungerford converted their business to cannon and munitions production. Prior to the war, the foundry produced a wide variety of ordinance. After the firing on Fort Sumter, activities were enlarged to include the casting of 6-pound cannon.

Hughes, who had designed a new breechloading gun mechanisim while working at Street and Hungerford, took his gun's breech-plug design to the Confederate Patent office. On February 18th, 1863 he was issued Confederate Patent No. 149.

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Patent Drawing & Article on Right from American Machinist, Vol 28, 1905.

The above illustration accompanied the patent. The patent describes a removable plug of a breach loading cannon, the plug having radially projecting lugs which turn into interlocking engagement with seats in the bore of the gun. The plug also has a rubber "gum" gas check that helps to seal the breech when locked.

Street and Hungerford's cannon casting quickly grew to include Hughes' gun design, as well as Parrott guns, and a few other heavy guns. Some of the barrels of the experimental Hughes Cannons were supposedly turned from broken locomotive axles.

In an 1862 test, different size experimental Hughes Cannons were put on trial in Memphis, and it was found that lead ball could be fired up the river a distance up to three miles. As experimenting went on, it was found that the larger bore guns performed better than the smaller ones.

Street and Hungerford's prior production of a variety of wood products made for an easy transition to the manufacture of gun carriages. The firm produced a large number of such carriages, some of which were made for the guns cast at the nearby Quinby & Robinson plant.

A Battery of Hughes Cannons was ordered for General M. Jeff Thompson of Missouri to be used around New Madrid, Mo. and South into Arkansas. Additional Hughes Cannons were constructed at Jackson, Mississippi for the State by the order of Governor Pettus.

A 2-pounder breech-loading Hughes gun is believed to have participated in the Siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana, in 1863.

One remaining example of the Hughes Cannon is known to exist, it is a smoothbore gun of 1.5 inch caliber.


Copy of Hughes' Certified Confederate Patent No. 149
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Confederate Veteran
D.W. Hughes & his Breechloading Cannon
January 1908,
No. 1, Page 44
> Click Article Image to Zoom In <
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https://archive.org/details/confederateveter16conf/page/44

VIDEO OF REPRODUCTION HUGHES GUN
RELOADING AND FIRING



FOR FURTHER READING
ASSOCIATED LINKS
Scroll to the Robinson's Battery Page Bottom to see Photos of Original Gun, & Construction of a Reproduction
 
Last edited:

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
I've never known of one supposed to have been at Port Hudson, but given where they all seem to have been made I now have a question. How many of these little things saw use in the Vicksburg Campaign?

Also this info about some making it west of the Mississippi has my mind running circles trying to remember any mentions of Confederate breechloading cannon in the Trans-Mississippi.
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Its occurred to me, that a barrel water jacket, commonplace on WW1 era belt fed machine guns such as the Maxims or Browning M1917, may have not existed on anything before this gun.

Does that mean us Southerners should get credit for forward thinking? (Like flush rivets on the Hunley that wouldn't be seen again till some decades later.) Or is there some other gun I'm not aware of that had the water jacket first?

Just a thought.
 

CivilWarTalk

Lieutenant General
- ★★★ -
Managing Member & Webmaster
Joined
Apr 1, 1999
Location
Martinsburg, WV
Do they bring it to Fort Shenandoah every year? I went on the Robinson' Battery site these guys and gals deserve a medal for the time and amount of work they put into making this.
Maybe every year, I know they do a lot of events up in the Michigan area I believe, and I think they shot at Grayling's Long Range shoot. They are very active, but we have two National events at the Fort every year, once in May, and again in October, I'm not sure how frequently they attend, we get over 30 cannons every Nationals.
 

CivilWarTalk

Lieutenant General
- ★★★ -
Managing Member & Webmaster
Joined
Apr 1, 1999
Location
Martinsburg, WV
Its occurred to me, that a barrel water jacket, commonplace on WW1 era belt fed machine guns such as the Maxims or Browning M1917, may have not existed on anything before this gun.

Does that mean us Southerners should get credit for forward thinking? (Like flush rivets on the Hunley that wouldn't be seen again till some decades later.) Or is there some other gun I'm not aware of that had the water jacket first?

Just a thought.
The water jacket, if it's truly authentic, because it's not part of the patent of course, still sort of has some logic, the company has ties to building locomotives, that sounds like the same kind of logic you'd use building a steam engine. So, I can see how the idea could have come from this shop, not sure how much credit Hughes should get, perhaps someone else in the shop suggested it to him, or maybe it was him, who knows!
 

rebelatsea

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 30, 2013
Location
Kent ,England.
The water jacket, if it's truly authentic, because it's not part of the patent of course, still sort of has some logic, the company has ties to building locomotives, that sounds like the same kind of logic you'd use building a steam engine. So, I can see how the idea could have come from this shop, not sure how much credit Hughes should get, perhaps someone else in the shop suggested it to him, or maybe it was him, who knows!
Now that is interesting and yes there are technologies in steam locomotives that can be applied to weapons. Water jacketing was /is used surrounding fireboxes to increase the heated water surface. I am intrigued by that breech lock mechanism.
 
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