Famous The Cadet Battery - The 6-pdr. "Cadet Guns" of VMI

These four "cadet" 6-pounders were designed specially for the use of the students at the Virginia Military Institute. They were slightly lighter than the regulation M1841 6-pounder and were mounted on custom designed smaller carriages.

ARTILLERY PROFILE
  • Model: 6 pdr. Smoothbore "Cadet Guns"
  • Type: Four Identical Lightweight Muzzleloading Smoothbore Guns
  • In Service With:
    • Pre-war and Post-war: Virginia Military Institute (V.M.I.)
    • Civil War Years: 1st Rockbridge Artillery, Confederate States Army
  • Under the Command of:
    • Civil War Service: Captain William N. Pendleton
  • Purpose: Training cadets in School of Artillery, without need of horses
  • Current Disposition: On display at the Virginia Military Institute
  • Location: Parade Grounds, Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Virginia
  • Map Coordinates: 37°47'26.2"N 79°26'09.9"W
  • Also Known As: The Four Apostles
:CSA1stNat:
MANUFACTURING
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The Four Apostles, pained green at the time of this photo, 2006.

  • US Casting Foundry: Cyrus Alger & Company, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Year of Manufacture: 1848
  • Tube Composition: Bronze
  • Muzzle Markings:
    • Top: Registry No.
    • Bottom: R.L.B. (Ordnance Inspector Initials)
  • Registry Numbers: 86, 87, 88, and 89
  • Foundry Numbers: n/a
  • Trunnion Markings:
    • Right: C. & A. CO. / BOSTON
    • Left: 1848
  • U.S. Ordnance Inspector: R.L.B. - Rufus L. Baker
  • Purchase Price in 1848: About $228.00 (US) each gun barrel.
    • Price was set at $0.40 per pound for these gun barrels.
    • The cost for engraving the "Seal of Virginia" was extra.
  • Special Markings: Large "Seal of Virginia" between trunnions
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
  • Bore Diameter: 3.67 inches
  • Bore Length: 43 inches
  • Rifling Type: no grooves
  • Trunnion Diameter: 2.8 inches
  • Tube Length: 51 inches
  • Tube Weight: 576, 562, 568, & 568 lbs. (300 lbs. less then the typical 6 pdr.)
  • Carriage Type: Down-scaled No. 1 Field Carriage (in 2016 the Wood Carriages were replaced with Cast Aluminum ones)
  • Special Note: On the old marker near the site where the Battery is on display, it explains that the guns were made by Watervliet Arsenal in New York, but we know the barrels were all cast by Cyrus Alger in Boston. One might wonder if the carriages were built by Watervliet, and the person who wrote the first plaque just made an error when examining the completed guns and assumed the name on the carriage was the maker. If anyone can confirm any markings on the carriages, specifically a stamp by Watervliet on the front of the cheeks, it would explain a lot!
AMMUNITION
  • Standard Powder Charge: 1.25 lbs. Cannon Grade Black Powder
  • Projectiles Type: Solid Shot
  • Projectiles Weight: 6 lbs.
Donated to VMI by President Zachary Taylor in 1850, these four guns were christened as "The Four Apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John" by Episcopal rector Col. William Nelson Pendleton and the seminary students "because they spoke a powerful language". The Adjutant General of Virginia requested that the carriages be painted red with black metal parts so that whenever the cadets were on parade, the public would instantly identify the cannon as the V.M.I. Cadet Battery. For years, students at V.M.I. were trained, and took pride in caring for these unique field artillery pieces.

Maj. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson instructed artillery tactics with the red guns for 10 years prior to the Civil War. Many of Jackson’s most colorful moments at VMI relate to his command of the Cadet Battery.

At the start of the Civil War the guns were turned over the the 1st Rockbridge Artillery (then under the command of Pendleton). Pendleton loved working with these cannons and felt it was a "good sign from God".

The guns of Rockbridge Artillery saw their first action on July 2, 1861, in a small skirmish at Falling Waters. After first imploring, "May the Lord mercy on their souls!" battery commander Pendleton shouted, "Fire!" and a large body of charging Union cavalry was sent scurrying for safety.

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VMI Parade Grounds, Lexington, Va. ©James N, 2018.

Nineteen days later the Cadet Battery was used in the fighting on Henry House Hill at the Battle of First Bull Run, and played a part in the repulse of repeated attacks on that position. The guns also accompanied the Stonewall Brigade on the winter campaign to Romney, WV, and were heavily engaged in Jackson's famous spring 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaign.

On May 14, 1863, the guns fired every half hour as a memorial tribute to their old commander, Thomas Jackson.

Superseded by heavier guns, they were retired and were later taken to Richmond, where they were captured when Richmond fell. It is interesting to note that these guns, among the prized mementos of V.M.I., never participated in the Battle of Newmarket.

The Cadet Battery was returned in 1874 to V.M.I., where the cadets continued to train on them until official retirement ceremonies were held May 10, 1913. The guns also served for a short time in training men during World War I.

The Cadet Battery was placed at the foot of the Jackson monument on the parade ground at VMI where they can still be seen today.

FOR FURTHER READING
ASSOCIATED LINKS
 
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James N.

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A couple more photos showing Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John along with former VMI Cadet Moses Ezekiel's statue of former Professor "Tom Fool" Jackson who used them as his teaching tools.

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James N.

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There must be a pretty good story as to why the Union didn't destroy them after they were captured. Someone must have known their backstory and saved them from being scrapped.
Saving "marked" specimens like these - remember there's a large Virginia State Seal cast into the tube between the touchhole and trunions on each piece - as "trophies" is a time-honored tradition. Famous and picturesque Trophy Point at West Point was so-named because it used to be the place where guns surrendered by the British at Saratoga and Yorktown were displayed before they were removed indoors for protection. The last time I was there, Mexican guns from Vera Cruz and other Mexican War battles were still there. Until the turn of the Twentieth Century it was also the place where many Confederate guns were displayed until like with captured or surrendered flags most were returned to the Southern States.
 

cake1979

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Saving "marked" specimens like these - remember there's a large Virginia State Seal cast into the tube between the touchhole and trunions on each piece - as "trophies" is a time-honored tradition.
I was going to say the same thing. Keeping and displaying captured weapons is a time-honored tradition.

Even our little town has two old, Spanish cannon that were taken from Cuba at the end of the Spanish-American War which are prominently displayed. There is a nearly identical example in front of the Administration Building at the University of Kentucky. Think of how many other places have captured trophies on display. There’s no way those four were being destroyed.
 

major bill

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German weapons from World War Two abound around National Guard armories and VFW halls. But I do have a question. Why are the wheels and carriages red, is there some special reason?
 
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CivilWarTalk

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… But I do have a question. Why are the wheels and carriages red, is there some special reason?

Survey says:

The Adjutant General of Virginia requested that the carriages be painted red with black metal parts so that whenever the cadets were on parade, the public would instantly identify the cannon as the V.M.I. Cadet Battery.
 
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James N.

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German weapons from World War Two abound around National Guard armories and VFW halls. But I do have a question. Why are the wheels and carriages red, is there some special reason?
Survey says:
Although that's obviously the correct reason, allow me to digress a bit: Maybe a better question might be Why are Civil War gun carriages, limbers, field forge, and battery wagon painted olive? for which the answer would be Because French ones were. (Remember that so much of our military material was patterned after French prototypes from sword designs to U. S. Regulation uniforms and headgear.) On Eurpoean battlefields of the Napoleonic era there could easily be armies and their equipment from many different nations: France, Prussia, Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Saxony, Russia, Austria, Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Naples, and even England - hence the 1813 Battle of Leipzeg, also known as The Battle of the Nations. At that time it seemed each separate country adopted a distinctive color scheme for their vehicles. In the mid-1700's the French were using red like this for theirs, but around the time they adopted the Systeme Gribevaul guns they switched to olive. The guns and carriages in these photos are in Saratoga Battlefield National Historical Park, N.Y. and represent above, American guns in the older French color of the earlier Systeme Valliere, and below, the gray then used by the British.

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