"Long Tom" & "Laughing Charlie" - Named Cannon at Suffolk, Va. April 1863

lelliott19

Captain
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 15, 2013
Messages
5,828
1557979070953.png

Image by goldenanchor https://www.flickr.com/photos/27454715@N04/7088344267
Many here may have heard before of the cannon known as "Long Tom." Renamed by its Confederate captors, "Long Tom" was a thirty-pounder Parrott rifle captured at First Manassas. In April 1863, we find "Long Tom" with his mate, inappropriately named "Laughing Charlie." <I'm guessing no one laughed when Charlie was fired in their direction?>

In a letter dated "Bivouac of 8th Ga. Regt., Near Suffolk, Va., April 28, 1863." and published in the Rome Tri-Weekly Courier, a member of the 8th Georgia (identified only as "M.D.") provides a description of Long Tom and Laughing Charlie:

...Gen. French, who commands all the artillery on our side, has again mounted a few cannon on the river bank, and this morning a little excitement was raised by two boats attempting to pass down the river. One succeeded but the other turned back. There was heavy cannonading for about half an hour on both sides, and a brisk rattle of small arms by the sharpshooters.- Among the famous guns mounted to command the river are "Long Tom"-- a long 32 pound rifle gun captured at first battle of Manassas -- and "Laughing Charlie," a similar one, made at the Tredegar Works in Richmond.- These boys spoke to the Yankees across the river this morning a few times, but with what effect is not known.

I'm assuming that these are the same two guns mentioned in this March 15, 1863 dispatch from Longstreet to DH Hill:
I can spare the Whitworth that I have here as soon as I can get "Long Tom" and "Charlie," as they are called, in my battery at Fort Powhatan. I have established a battery at Fort Powhatan for the purpose of intercepting transports should they attempt to pass up the James River. [OR., Series I, Volume XVIII, Chapter XXX, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1887, page 920.]

My question is this: I assume Long Tom looked like the cannon in the OP image? Can someone please post a picture of what "Laughing Charlie" might have looked like? Was it a Parrott "knock off" or was it a Brooks? @redbob @alan polk

1557976654925.png
1557976670038.png

Rome Tri-Weekly Courier. (Rome, Ga.) May 07, 1863, page 1.
 
Last edited:

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Vicksburger

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 16, 2011
Messages
1,062
Location
Saint Joseph
View attachment 307582
Image by goldenanchor https://www.flickr.com/photos/27454715@N04/7088344267
Many here may have heard before of the cannon known as "Long Tom." Renamed by its Confederate captors, "Long Tom" was a thirty-pounder Parrott rifle captured at First Manassas. In April 1863, we find "Long Tom" with his mate, inappropriately named "Laughing Charlie." <I'm guessing no one laughed when Charlie was fired in their direction?>

In a letter dated "Bivouac of 8th Ga. Regt., Near Suffolk, Va., April 28, 1863." and published in the Rome Tri-Weekly Courier, a member of the 8th Georgia (identified only as "M.D.") provides a description of Long Tom and Laughing Charlie:

...Gen. French, who commands all the artillery on our side, has again mounted a few cannon on the river bank, and this morning a little excitement was raised by two boats attempting to pass down the river. One succeeded but the other turned back. There was heavy cannonading for about half an hour on both sides, and a brisk rattle of small arms by the sharpshooters.- Among the famous guns mounted to command the river are "Long Tom"-- a long 32 pound rifle gun captured at first battle of Manassas -- and "Laughing Charlie," a similar one, made at the Tredegar Works in Richmond.- These boys spoke to the Yankees across the river this morning a few times, but with what effect is not known.

I'm assuming that these are the same two guns mentioned in this March 15, 1863 dispatch from Longstreet to DH Hill:
I can spare the Whitworth that I have here as soon as I can get "Long Tom" and "Charlie," as they are called, in my battery at Fort Powhatan. I have established a battery at Fort Powhatan for the purpose of intercepting transports should they attempt to pass up the James River. [OR., Series I, Volume XVIII, Chapter XXX, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1887, page 920.]

My question is, can someone please post a picture of what "Laughing Charlie" might have looked like? Was it a Parrott "knock off" or was it a Brookes? @redbob @alan polk

View attachment 307580View attachment 307581
Rome Tri-Weekly Courier. (Rome, Ga.) May 07, 1863, page 1.


View attachment 307579
Interesting question. I have never heard of these cannons before. I have heard of "Lady Polk" (at Greenwood Miss.) "Whistling Dick" (Vicksburg) Look forward to the feedback.
 

alan polk

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 11, 2012
Messages
2,602
Good question, and one that someone else here might be able to answer more definitively. But I suspect the picture you have as being representative of “Long Tom” is exactly how it looked. Great post and thanks for sharing!!
 

redbob

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
6,700
Location
Hoover, Alabama
According to the book "Confederate Cannon Factories" the gun “Laughing Charlie” was an exact copy of "Long Tom"
View attachment 307639
Just a Confederate version of the 30# Parrott, btw, it was a Tredegar 30# Parrott knockoff that exploded at Fredericksburg and almost took out General Lee. Also, both 30# Tredegar Parrotts engaged failed at Fredericksburg.:cannon:
 
Last edited:

BDK1066

Private
Joined
Nov 22, 2018
Messages
67
Interesting question. I have never heard of these cannons before. I have heard of "Lady Polk" (at Greenwood Miss.) "Whistling Dick" (Vicksburg) Look forward to the feedback.
Lady Polk is a name sometimes given erroneously by locals to this gun, which was purchased in the 1930's. It is a 3.4 inch Blakely rifle.

Not only was it not at the fort you mentioned during the Civil War, but is also not the kind or caliber of any piece that was there.
 

redbob

Captain
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
6,700
Location
Hoover, Alabama
I just got done reading a memoir and the soldier talked about the "long Toms." I never heard that term before. What kind of cannon is it then? I thought maybe it was some sort of long rifle, but obviously I'm wrong.
In this case they are talking about 30# Parrott Guns, but the term has been used over time to describe other weapons.
 

Vicksburger

First Sergeant
Joined
Dec 16, 2011
Messages
1,062
Location
Saint Joseph
Lady Polk is a name sometimes given erroneously by locals to this gun, which was purchased in the 1930's. It is a 3.4 inch Blakely rifle.

Not only was it not at the fort you mentioned during the Civil War, but is also not the kind or caliber of any piece that was there.
This is the first time I have heard that the Blakely (currently at the Cottonlandia Museum in Greenwood, Miss.) was not actually at Fort Pemberton. Any of you Mississippians care to weigh in on whether he is right?
 
Joined
Feb 22, 2018
Messages
70
BDK is exactly correct, if a little brief.

First, Cottonlandia Museum has reinvented itself and is now the "Museum of the Mississippi Delta"

The Blakely stood at the little park memorializing Fort Pemberton until sometime in the 1980's when Henry McCabe took it on himself to remove it to Cottonlandia. Henry died about a year ago.

The artillery piece in question was purchased circa 1932 with the help of Congressman Whittington (sorry, but right this moment I don't recall if he was a Senator or a Representative). A ladies' group, I believe the UDC, wanted a Civil War cannon to be placed at the site of Fort Pemberton. Whittington was able to help them locate and arrange the purchase of one (the Blakely.) I don't know from whom the piece was purchased. I would "guess" Bannerman's, but who knows.

There is nothing, I repeat nothing, to connect this piece with the Greenwood area before the 1930's.

There were no cannon of the 3.4 or 3.5 inch caliber (as the Blakely is) at Fort Pemberton.

Now it is true that since the piece was at the little park at Fort Pemberton for so many years that residents of the area eventually became convinced that the gun actually was used at Fort Pemberton during the war. In fact I am sure you can some who would be adamant about the matter. I suppose they think the gun was found in an old barn or some such baloney. But the facts tell a different story.

See the recent CWT thread about Port Gibson Ms. being saved from destruction because Grant said it was too beautiful to burn dfor an object lesson in how factually false local myths become "facts."

I could give more evidence of BDK's being correct, but it would just be "beating a dead horse."

If you need more, post such a request.

Incidentally, the true Lady Polk was a large caliber (128 pounder is is the size usually given) heavy gun at Columbus, Ky.
It burst a day or so after the Battle of Belmont in November 1861. The explosion came near killing General L. Polk (the piece was named for his wife) and did kill several officers and men and wounded several others (I believe there about a dozen casualties - the museum at Columbus has a list of the casualties posted).

How the name Lady Polk came to be associated with the piece at Greenwood is beyond me. My guess would be some local heard some there was a famous Confederate cannon by that name and "naturally" assumed it was the gun Whittington helped the ladies acquire.
Can you think of a better scenario?

This Mississippian has weighed in.
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
11,415
Location
East Texas
DSC05810.JPG

Just a Confederate version of the 30# Parrott, btw, it was a Tredegar 30# Parrott knockoff that exploded at Fredericksburg and almost took out General Lee. Also, both 30# Tredegar Parrotts engaged failed at Fredericksburg.:cannon:
Here's a thirty-pounder Parrott that's currently at Fredericksburg NMP representing the gun that was there during the battle:

DSC05809.JPG
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
11,415
Location
East Texas
I just got done reading a memoir and the soldier talked about the "long Toms." I never heard that term before. What kind of cannon is it then? I thought maybe it was some sort of long rifle, but obviously I'm wrong.
As noted in other posts, "Long Tom" was just a popular name for large cannons; another famous Long Tom was a gun the Confederates emplaced at Cumberland Gap, Kentucky. It was so big that when a Federal force approached and the Gap was abandoned, Long Tom had to be pushed off the ridge into a ravine because it couldn't be moved.
 


Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top