Question about Mountain Howitzers

pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Messages
7,338
Location
Pennsylvania
#1
I was just watching Antiques Roadshow, and someone brought in a mountain howitzer made in 1853. The antiques dealer said that it was made of bronze rather than brass, and that the cavalry tended to like to use them.

I realized that I don't know much about mountain howitzers. Because they are short and weigh little (the one on the Roadshow was 224 pounds) I can see how they would be good for mountainous terrain. Were they used mostly by cavalry, as the dealer said? Were they effective as an artillery piece? Were they used the entire war? Are there any accounts of battles where they were an important and effective piece of artillery used?

So many questions--any bit of information would be terrific! :smile:
 

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
6,001
Location
Hoover, Alabama
#2
They were often broken down and carried by pack animals because wheeled vehicles couldn't travel where horses could. Bronze is a combination of tin and copper which makes for a stronger and more durable alloy. They were relatively accurate, but were limited in their range because of their short barrels and were used primarily by light cavalry units. The one on the Roadshow appeared to be a 12#er and could fire the same ammunition as the 12# Napoleon. The same concept of the Mountain Howitzer was carried over into WW II with the Pack Howitzer. Also, according to Hazlett,Olmstead and Parks, there is no evidence of any Mountain Howitzers having been manufactured in the North during the Civil War.
 
Last edited:
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Messages
4,064
Location
Aledo, IL
#3
Many Confederate units had "mixed guns"....a battery with a combination of rifled guns and howitzers, depending on which were issued to them or captured and issued to them.....Their range was less than the riffled gun, about 1,005 yards at 5 degrees elevation...A rifled 10 pound Parrot had a range at 5 degrees of 1,850 yards, and a 3 Inch Ordnance Rifle of1,830 yards......
 

AUG

Brigadier General
Moderator
Forum Host
Joined
Nov 20, 2012
Messages
7,371
Location
Texas
#5
There were some used by Henry Hopkins Sibley's men during the New Mexico Campaign. During the retreat back to Texas after Glorieta Pass, artillery commander Major Trevanion T. Teel buried eight mountain howitzers in Albuquerque to keep them from being captured and lighten the load. Maj. Teel came back to Albuquerque 27 years later and dug up the howitzers.

On August 19, 1889, all eight barrels were excavated from a chili pepper patch, formerly a corral, some 500 feet northeast of San Felipe de Neri Church, near the present day Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. The guns were put on display in Albuquerque, but were later replaced with replicas and taken to the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History for preservation, where they still remain.
 

ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
34,452
Location
Near Kankakee
#6
They threw a 12 pounder. But they were not used all that much. Two mules could haul the gun on their backs. That's not sayin' that a few more might be needed for ammo chests and such, but that is why they were called "mountain" howitzers.

And yes. They were bronze, not brass. With deference to a valued member, I will not again bring up that Napoleons were also bronze.
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Messages
32,917
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
#7
They threw a 12 pounder. But they were not used all that much. Two mules could haul the gun on their backs. That's not sayin' that a few more might be needed for ammo chests and such, but that is why they were called "mountain" howitzers.

And yes. They were bronze, not brass. With deference to a valued member, I will not again bring up that Napoleons were also bronze.

They prove their value in the Indian Wars. Easier to haul, and since mobility was everything (and I'm sure there were plenty left over from the ACW....the government was notoriously chintzy when it came to supplying the postwar army!) when you're chasing Apaches and Comanches, one of the weapons of choice for guys like Crook.
 

ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Messages
34,452
Location
Near Kankakee
#8
It may be important to note that these were mountain howitsers, not just howitzers, which were something else.

A howitzer was designed to lob shells at a high arc. Other categories were more direct. which is not to say that a howitzer could not be direct. And so the distiction becomes more indistinct.
 

Nathanb1

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Dec 31, 2009
Messages
32,917
Location
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
#9
It may be important to note that these were mountain howitsers, not just howitzers, which were something else.

A howitzer was designed to lob shells at a high arc. Other categories were more direct. which is not to say that a howitzer could not be direct. And so the distiction becomes more indistinct.
Okey-dokey. Now that we've solved that.....
 
Joined
Dec 27, 2011
Messages
966
#10
I used to be on the crew of a replica Mountain Howitzer as Old Fort Jackson on the South East side of Savannah, GA and by the river. We would fire them with blanks.

Mountain Howitzers are a B * *ch to load because during the ramming part of the loading cycle you have to keep your body (except for your left hand-which is doing the ramming) BEHIND the muzzle. The barrel is so short it is almost impossible for a normal size man to keep behind the muzzle although it can be done.
 
Joined
Jun 23, 2013
Messages
987
Location
Connecticut
#12
I know that the 12#ers were used extensively by naval landing parties throughout the CW. I know there are some pixs available showing gun crews but I don't have time to look them up. The navy used types with wooden wheels and with iron wheels.
 
Joined
Feb 18, 2013
Messages
6,001
Location
Hoover, Alabama
#13
I know that the 12#ers were used extensively by naval landing parties throughout the CW. I know there are some pixs available showing gun crews but I don't have time to look them up. The navy used types with wooden wheels and with iron wheels.

These were a variation and were called Dahlgren Boat Howitzers. They came in 12# smoothbore, 12# rifled and 24# smoothbore and fired a shell from 3.4" to 5.82". The 24# was the most popular size with over 1,000 being manufactured and they were used both as fixed guns on ships and boats and on wheeled carriages on land and water. They were used by the Army, Navy and Marine Corps during the Civil War.
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
10,525
Location
East Texas
#14
I will add that one "major" battle ( of the trans-Mississippi, that is ) where they were used to effect was Prairie Grove, Arkansas, where Union General Blunt had a battery of them that went into action late in the day supporting his assault.
 
Joined
Dec 27, 2011
Messages
966
#15
Then there is the old story/legend about the group of "Mountain Men" in the 1840's (?) that went all the way back to St. Louis and acquired a Mexican War surplus Mountain Howitzer complete with ammo and pack saddles for the tube and carriage at a cheap "war surplus" price.

When they returned to the mountains with their artillery piece, they sent out the word to all the local tribes to come and watch and amazing demonstration of "the Power" of the "White Men."

Our heroes in the mean time had come up with the idea that since the Mountain Howitzer's barrel was pointed in the same direction of the mules rear end when the barrel was strapped to the pack saddle, why not shoot the barrel from the pack saddle! All that would be necessary would be to park the mule in the right direction and shoot!

So, with a group of Injuns assembled, sitting on one edge of the clearing, to watch the demonstration of the "Power of the White Men" the mule was led out with the barrel of the Mountain Howitzer strapped to his back.

The barrel was loaded and a fuse ran down the vent of the barrel to the powder charge in the barrel.

The mule was led to the edge of the clearing, with his rear end pointed in the direction of a mountain pasture and the fuse lit.

That is where everything went wrong. The mule could hear the sound of the fuse sputtering on his back and smell the odor of the burning fuse. The mule did what was "logical" for a mule...he started bucking and twisting in circles.

The Mountain Men, having no desire to become casualties of their new cannon, all ran off, while the Injuns remained seated, thinking the antics of the Mountain Men were part of "the demonstration."

When the Mountain Howitzer barrel finally went off, by pure luck, the cannon ball went flying into the distance, fortuntely missing not only the Injuns but everything else.

The mule, now terrorized, took off running and has never been found, even to this day.

The Injuns were impressed by the White Men....they thought that the whites were CRAZY!
 

Arioch

Sergeant
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Joined
Dec 24, 2010
Messages
679
#16
I was just watching Antiques Roadshow, and someone brought in a mountain howitzer made in 1853. The antiques dealer said that it was made of bronze rather than brass, and that the cavalry tended to like to use them….
HA!!!….I was watching that one too!….I was chuckling to myself at how clueless the guy was as to what he had….I would have, at least, generally recognized it right away once I pulled it out of the ground like he described doing….

Why can't I find goodies like that in my backyard?….I only find beer bottle caps, pull tabs and clothespins….or, at least,..my lawn mower does….
 
Joined
Dec 27, 2011
Messages
966
#17
About twenty years ago a fella in a suburb of Atlanta was digging the foundation for a garage/storage shed he was going to build in his back yard. About a foot into the ground his shovel struck a "pocket" of gold coins-all dating from the 16th Century. Also found was the remains of a leather bag they were in when buried.

How and why they got there is anyone's guess, but when the home owner realized he had a LOT of gold coins (over a million dollars worth), he called the local TV station and came out and did a news story that they ran on the local 6 O'clock news about the homeowners good fortune.

The next day two IRS agents showed up at his home, to remind him that he now had a hefty tax bill to pay, plus his neighbours (or whoever) started showing up at night to dig up his back yard.

So the rule is clear...if you dig up something valuable, keep quiet about it!!!
 

James N.

Lt. Colonel
Forum Host
Civil War Photo Contest
Annual Winner
Featured Book Reviewer
Joined
Feb 23, 2013
Messages
10,525
Location
East Texas
#19
Good\'s Battery at Pea Ridge, 1978sepia.jpg

Our reenactment group, Good's Texas Battery at the first living history event ever held at Pea Ridge NMP, in 1978. Unlike most replica mountain howitzers, this one had a full-scale 12-pounder bore ( almost ). Unlike their "big brothers", the 12-pounder field howitzers and Napoleons, because of their short range mountain howitzers used a smaller powder charge. The last few inches of the bore were made smaller in diameter to accomodate the smaller powder bag. This replica is made like that too, but the powder chamber is even smaller than on an original to accomodate the blank charge used for reenacting, a fact which made loading it tricky and requiring special care. The tube ( barrel ) is iron or steel painted brass and is on a correct carriage made by my friend Glen Smith who owned it. When last I visited Prairie Grove State Park, Ark., it still occupied a place of honor inside the museum where Glen had donated it now many years ago. There is also a replica with full-sized bore in the visitor center at nearby Pea Ridge.
 

Poor Private

First Sergeant
Joined
Sep 6, 2009
Messages
1,422
#20
I used to be on the crew of a replica Mountain Howitzer as Old Fort Jackson on the South East side of Savannah, GA and by the river. We would fire them with blanks.

Mountain Howitzers are a B * *ch to load because during the ramming part of the loading cycle you have to keep your body (except for your left hand-which is doing the ramming) BEHIND the muzzle. The barrel is so short it is almost impossible for a normal size man to keep behind the muzzle although it can be done.
I guess I am not a normal sized man. I have no problem doing any of the positions on a Mt. Howitzer. My favorite is the #2 man.- You can keep the gunner position, it's boring to do.
 

Similar threads




(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Top