Discussion Wrought Iron Napoleon Guns.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Aug 25, 2012
Most people seem to like to discuss bronze Napoleon guns but what about wrought iron Napoleon guns? Some of the older guns were nearing the end of thier usefulness but was wrought iron still a viable metal for Napoleon guns?
 

John Winn

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Mar 13, 2014
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State of Jefferson
There were some Confederate Napoleons made from cast iron but none of wrought iron (that I know of) and no Union cast iron guns (again, not that I know of). Parrots were made of cast iron with a band of wrought iron around the breech but a better technique (Reeve's process) later allowed the Ordnance rifles to be made of several bands of wrought iron which was lighter and not as brittle. Not too long after, steel started to become the standard.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Nov 2, 2019
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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
John Winn is correct, CSA 12 pound howitzer-cannons captured at Stones River were cast iron. The rudimentary metallurgy of the period meant that cast iron was three time’s heavier than necessary. That rule of thumb was to overcome the weaknesses inevitable from inclusions made of slag.

As a result result of the three times rule, cast iron cannon can appear to be almost comically oversized. The Stones River cast iron 12 pounders were initially misidentified as 32 pounders by their captors.

We presented Ranger Lewis with the indisputable eye witness testimony that Bragg had 32 pounders & thus our living history program simply had to have one for the sake of historical accuracy. We await an official reply, but are all too familiar with Ranger Jim’s den mother facial expression to expect the arrival of a 32 pounder anytime soon.
 

Rhea Cole

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Nov 2, 2019
Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I have a question for you: in the documents of the time, were all the 12-pdr's called Napoleons? Or is this a recent trend?
The howitzer/cannon without any bands cast into it was first created during the reign of Napoleon the 3rd of France. It had been discovered that all those pretty decorative elements generated stress. It was from the little right angle junctions that a potentially catastrophic crack would radiate. That is what led to the elegant shape identified with the Napoleon.

Confederate Napoleons look like sections of sewer pipe, especially the cast iron ones. The inelegant shape did not affect the utility of the piece.

Previous to the Napoleon, batteries contained a mix of flat trajectory cannon & howitzers firing explosive rounds in a arching trajectory.

By combining the function of both pieces onto a single tube, the hitting power of a battery was effectively doubled. An 8 gun battery armed conventionally, could only use four guns to batter a target. The howitzer / cannon battery could batter with eight guns or lob shell as needed.

The US battery combination of 6 pound cannon & 12 pound howitzer was was typical. The small diameter of the cannon’s bore meant that it could not fire explosive shells. By the same token, the spherical case (Shrapnel) round it could fire was small. Doubling the size of the round to 12 pounds at the cost of a 50% increase in weight more than quadrupled the hitting power of the round.

The Napoleon was as much a tactical revolution as it was a weapon. There was an exponential increase in lethality of each round coupled with a 100% increase in the number of guns/howitzers in a battery. It is a classic example of good design is simple design.
 
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LHR Lead

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Dec 1, 2018
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Arlington, WA
It's official title was Light 12 pound Gun Model 1857 and as it was somewhat based on a very similar gun developed in France under Napoleon III is was unofficially called that here.
I get that, although the first one ( and only one) was ordered in 1856. How do we reconcile the "Napoleon" as a bronze cannon with a bell and the cast iron cannon with no bell? In other words, did Hazlett and Olmstead (& Ripley?) start a naming convention?
 

Rhea Cole

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Nov 2, 2019
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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I get that, although the first one ( and only one) was ordered in 1856. How do we reconcile the "Napoleon" as a bronze cannon with a bell and the cast iron cannon with no bell? In other words, did Hazlett and Olmstead (& Ripley?) start a naming convention?
The Napoleon was a howitzer/cannon of 12 pounds. The elegant shape of the bronze French design was a side benefit. It was the dual propose nature of the gun, not its shape that gave it the name.
 

Leigh Cole

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Nov 9, 2016
Location
Monroe, MI
So the smooth bore 24 pounders should be bronze? I am a bit confused because I have read that too, but the painting guide with the cannon shows it in black. Just want to get this right...
 

Leigh Cole

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Nov 9, 2016
Location
Monroe, MI
I am confused. What is it you are getting at? I have never heard of bronze 24 pounders.

24 lb Bronze.jpg


24 lb Iron.jpg
 
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