Discussion Reading markings on cannons.

major bill

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We have added many new members and I do not think we have had a discussion of this in some time. Yesterday I was at the county seat and I walked over to the county green to look at this cannon. I am sure many of our new members have done this and seen that the local cannon has numbers on it. I am not sure every new forum members understands the markings. This one is easy. I am assuming most new forum members can figure out most of the markings. Would one of our cannon experts walk any new members through reading the markings on this cannon.

can 101.jpg
cannon 101 a.jpg
 

CivilWarTalk

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I don’t have my books right now, but that almost looks like a bad dremel job someone did fixing the engraving. But I could be wrong.
 

major bill

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The gun in post #1 is so common a cannon person might not even bother parking and looking at. The cannon in post #2 is about 20 miles from my house. and is not a common gun. Even real cannon people would definitely want to get out of their car and look it over. You can go to 50 Civil War battlefields and not see one just like it.
 

drezac

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in my opinion you could break down cannon markings into 2 types - Cannon purchased by the Federal Government, and Cannon purchased by States. Cannon purchased by the Federal Government will be for the most part constant in how they are marked.

During the first part of the war, the States provided arms and equipment for troops they sent into federal service. This equipment was from State Arsenals, and most likely will have variations in how they are marked.

For Example, cannons purchased by the State of Ohio will have the weight on the breech. the trunions will be marked with the foundry and foundry/rimbase number and year. The muzzle will have OHIO on the top part of the muzzle, with the inspector's initials under that ( I have not seen any other inspector initials other than SB for Ohio Guns), and a inspector's number at the bottom of the muzzle. I have a letter from the Ohio Quartermaster General to Miles Greenwood specifying how the cannons on an order were to be marked from 1864. I suspect other states would also have standards regarding how they wanted their guns marked.

I have documented that from the beginning of the war until mid 1863, 39 6-pdr field guns with these markings were issued to Ohio batteries going into Federal service, none of which were ever returned to Ohio. while the numbers are small in comparison to the number of guns purchased by the Federal government, there will be some showing up that were issued from State Arsenals that have markings different than the Federal standard.
 
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LHR Lead

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It isnt that simple. There was a third type - civilian - with little to no markings. Also there were multiple "standards" for military weapons. For instance, look at the difference between number two and this one from waymarking.com. It shows the "new" standard of using bore size for rifles versus shot size in pounds. It is still marked 100 pdr on the trunnion.

ad96bf69-347b-4b0d-a4cb-97d8181366a6_d.jpg
 

NH Civil War Gal

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in my opinion you could break down cannon markings into 2 types - Cannon purchased by the Federal Government, and Cannon purchased by States. Cannon purchased by the Federal Government will be for the most part constant in how they are marked.

It isnt that simple. There was a third type - civilian - with little to no markings. Also there were multiple "standards" for military weapons. For instance, look at the difference between number two and this one from waymarking.com. It shows the "new" standard of using bore size for rifles versus shot size in pounds. It is still marked 100 pdr on the trunnion.

I didn't even know any of this was a thing - that there was a difference between Federal, State and Civilian. What the heck were civilians doing buying cannons during the war anyhow?

For someone like me, who has no military background, break this down into simpler steps please. Btw, I'm LOVING this thread @major bill, surely I'm not the only one that doesn't understand.

1) How do you determine the bore width?
2) How do you determine the pounds of the shell?
3) When, how, and why did it change from pounds to bore width? Why does it matter?

It sounds like it is possible for the trunnion to be marked one thing and the cannon to actually take a different shell?
 

drezac

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I didn't even know any of this was a thing - that there was a difference between Federal, State and Civilian. What the heck were civilians doing buying cannons during the war anyhow?

As far as Ohio, while Ohio had state equipped Militia, there were also many private militia infantry units and artillery batteries. These batteries were considered part of the Ohio Militia, but were private organizations that provided their own equipment. Two examples are the Ravenna Artillery ( 2 guns) and Cleveland Light Artillery (6 guns). At the beginning of the war when they were taking 3 month enlistments, both the Ravanna artillery and Cleveland Light artillery enlisted for 3 months. When they went into service, they took their privately owned guns with them. at the end of the 3 months, they both returned home with their privately owned guns. In the case of the Ravenna Artillery, they reenlisted for 3 years, recruited to a full 6 gun strength and became Battery A of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery ( and were then issued Federal guns as they were now in federal service). In 1864, many members of the Cleveland Light Artillery joined the newly formed Ohio National Guard and became the 8th Independent Battery, ONG. The 8th Independent Battery actually operated both of the 12-pdrs that are on the Ohio State House Grounds.

Also, in 1864, the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce requested permission from the Ohio Adjutant General to form their own artillery battery to protect the city ( which would have had privately owned guns). The request was denied, but only due to the fact that Ohio already had a Ohio National Guard battery at Camp Denison with the intention of using it to protect the city.
 
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drezac

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@NH Civil War Gal we would like to know. So far, nobody has found out exactly what happened to these guns. no records are available since they were privately owned. there is a history of the Cleveland Light Artillery and the Ravenna artillery but I have not seen any reference as to what happened to the guns they had. most likely, as the private militias grew out of favor I would suspect they ended just sitting around in somebody's storage space and eventually were disposed of.
 

LHR Lead

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I didn't even know any of this was a thing - that there was a difference between Federal, State and Civilian. What the heck were civilians doing buying cannons during the war anyhow?

For someone like me, who has no military background, break this down into simpler steps please. Btw, I'm LOVING this thread @major bill, surely I'm not the only one that doesn't understand.

1) How do you determine the bore width?
2) How do you determine the pounds of the shell?
3) When, how, and why did it change from pounds to bore width? Why does it matter?

It sounds like it is possible for the trunnion to be marked one thing and the cannon to actually take a different shell?
In the 1600's Great Britain decided they would have cannons of standard sizes and based them on the (integer) weight of different iron solid shot (cannon ball), and they would standardize to weights such as 4, 6, 9, 12, etc.. pounds for the cannonball. France and Spain quickly got onboard and started making their own - BUT their weights did not match each other. A Frecnh pound is not a British pound nor a Spanish pound. All three have "18-pounders" but non are the same size or weight.
1. The bore of a cannon is based on what weight shot was fired. It is slightly larger in bore diameter than the shot (the difference is called windage) so the cannonball doesnt get stuck in the barrel. 2. For instance, a six pound cannon ball is approximately 3.56 inches in diameter and the bore of the 6-pounder cannon is 3.67 inches. See http://www.civilwarartillery.com/shottables.htm. The little extra room can be a problem if the cannon is fired too many times. The bore erodes and accuracy goes down.
3. Bore size was instituted when we started rifling the cannon. Rifling allowed for greater accuracy (no windage), and the different types of shells fired from the same cannon had different weights, so to differentiate the two we went to bore diameter. First in inches and today we use millimeters.
The trunnion and muzzle markings on Parrotts provide a transition from pounds to inches. A 6.4-inch bore size is a 32-pounder cannonball size. Showing that it was a 100-pounder helps the gunner get the right round.
As a side note, the Confederates did use some French cannon during the War. They were not effective because the French weights were higher so the extra windage for the US cannonballs made them a little eratic. Think of the cannonball bouncing off one wall to the other on its way out and who knows where it ends up.
 

LHR Lead

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I didn't even know any of this was a thing - that there was a difference between Federal, State and Civilian. What the heck were civilians doing buying cannons during the war anyhow?

For someone like me, who has no military background, break this down into simpler steps please. Btw, I'm LOVING this thread @major bill, surely I'm not the only one that doesn't understand.

1) How do you determine the bore width?
2) How do you determine the pounds of the shell?
3) When, how, and why did it change from pounds to bore width? Why does it matter?

It sounds like it is possible for the trunnion to be marked one thing and the cannon to actually take a different shell?
As for "what the heck were civilians doing buying cannons during the war anyhow?" - you can buy one today. In fact more than 300 civil war cannon are privately owned.
A lot of civilian cannon went to merchant ships as "insurance" guns. The insurance companies required something to scare off pirates or other nefarious types. If you had a cannon you got a better rate on your insurance.
 

LHR Lead

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Arlington, WA
I think I may have misled you so I will try to clarify (confuse you more.)
Most cannon do not have markings showing the cannonball (or rifle shell) size. If you walk up to a M1841 6-pounder, it will not have any information on it to show that it is a 6-pdr. The way you find that out is to measure the bore.
It will not tell you the model either. That is because there is a very loose system for naming models. The model numbers, more properly "pattern" numbers, are the generally years the pattern was first ordered/developed. Models do not show up in government documents until the 1860's. Date may or may not help. The M1841 was produced between 1841 and 1865.
UCVRELICS' mountain howitzer is an example of problems with that. It is known as a M1835/M1841 12-pdr mountain howitzer. The first order (Alger) was in June of 1836, with 13 delivered in the 1836-1837 time frame. The next order did not come until 1845. Most recent reference books (Olmstead, Hazlett) list it as M1835, but the 1862 Ordnance Manual lists it as M1841. There were 13 made prior to 1841, out of around 428 produced from 1836 to 1870.
Another point: There are two numbers for later government cannon, the foundry number and the registration number. When you identify a government registration number, you must also identify the maker. Until the 1860's each foundry inspector started at one and worked their way through the required number for the order. So you can have an Alger M1841 6-pdr # 10, and an Ames M1841 # 10, etc.. It is funny that they went to all this trouble as the Army never used the registration number afterwards.

Markings standards are different for the Army and the Navy. They never have been able to agree on anything.

To identify a cannon:
1. measure the bore. Is it a smoothbore or rifled? Some smoothbores were rifled after production, and in some cases the profile was altered. If rifled measure land to land (highpoint to opposite highpoint.) This will give you shot weight or rifle bore size and greatly reduce the types to research.
2. determine metal type: iron, steel, or bronze. Different models are made of different metal. For example: 6-pounder M1819 is iron, where the M1841 is bronze.
3. check for markings: muzzle, trunnion ends, base rim, base (above and below knob), upper rimbases, knob, and barrel above the trunnions. If barrel has "US" it is Army, an anchor denotes Navy. Do not think that a Navy knob means Navy, as the Army ordered several "navy models." In most cases you are looking for stampings, not cast numbers. Note: no markings may lead to false conclusions. Years of neglect, rust, paint, and original marking problems may keep you from identifying the gun. Some have not been identified until major restoration has been done. Look underneith also. Some cannon were marked at the foundry when they were upside down! Some cannon have minimal markings, such as the 4.2-inch above. It is a prototype and was not part of a government order, hence no registration number or inspectors initials.
4. use the above data to narrow down the model/pattern and confirm with outlines and matching data in reference books. May I recomment "The Big Guns" by Olmstead, Stark, and Tucker. It has the most comprehinsive listing of Civil War cannon but concentrates on the larger guns, but includes listings for smaller guns. "Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War" by Hazlett, Olmstead, and Parks concentrates on the smaller guns but has fewer listings.

5. If you need help, we are here.

good luck
 

NH Civil War Gal

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Thank you so much @LHR Lead. I was trying to figure out how to make a table out of your information and then gave up because of the variables. How did you acquire your knowledge? I'm very impressed by it.
 

drezac

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.....Note: no markings may lead to false conclusions. Years of neglect, rust, paint, and original marking problems may keep you from identifying the gun. Some have not been identified until major restoration has been done. .....

I have see this in the 24 guns I am researching. All were from the same order. The ones I posted photos of have nice, clear markings. the stamping are very deep. on another gun from the same order, none of the muzzle markings are now visible. For the Ohio State House Guns ( from the same order as the ones in the photos), the markings are nearly gone.... not from neglect, but from too much enthusiastic polishing over the last 20 years. the numbers are noticeably fainter now than when I first worked with them 20 years ago. They have now instituted a less destructive policy regarding cleaning them. It would be interesting to weigh the tubes now and see how much metal has been lost.
 
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