John Cark and Company Field Howitzers

As mentioned on the weekly marker updates, I’m currently working on the War Department tablets and monuments found along the Ruggles’ Batteries trail at Shiloh National Military Park.  Shiloh offers one of the most diverse collections of Civil War era artillery found today.  The weapons representing Ruggles’ Batteries is in my opinion the showcase of that collection.  Two of the pieces at Shiloh are 12-pdr Field Howitzers produced by John Clark & Company of New Orleans, Louisiana.

12-pdr John Clark Field Howitzer at Shiloh

12-pdr John Clark Field Howitzer at Shiloh

Before the war, John Clark owned a foundry at the intersection of Race and Tchoupitoulas Streets in what is today the Lower Garden District, close to the Mississippi River.  At the outbreak of war, Clark announced his firm could produce bronze field pieces for interested parties.  From June 1861 to the fall of New Orleans to the Federals in April 1862 the firm produced over 100 cannons.  Most of these were for private contracts.  Many of these went to the artillery batteries from New Orleans.   For the most part, the foundry produced two types – 6-pounder Field Guns and 12-pounder Field Howitzers.  Orders by the Confederate government for Armstrong pattern guns were unfilled when the city fell.

John Clark. // Maker. // N.O.

John Clark. // Maker. // N.O.

Clark’s pattern deviated from that of the standard 12-pdr Field Howitzer (Model of 1841) somewhat.  To the casual observer, the most apparent is a bulbous muzzle swell, instead of the straight muzzles of the regulation weapons.

Clark Howitzer Muzzle Swell and Chase Astragal

Clark Howitzer Muzzle Swell and Chase Astragal

The swell is more pronounced than that of a 12-pdr Napoleon (of the same caliber).  Note also the over sized chase astragal, which replaces the plain chase ring of the regulation howitzer.  The moldings on the muzzle face are also distinctive, not conforming to the Ordnance department designs.  And as seen in the photo below, the knob joins the base of the howitzer with a shallow curve, with barely any fillet.

Knob of Howitzer at Manassas NBP

Knob of Howitzer at Manassas NBP

And the pieces are definitely howitzers, with a chamber, as seen around the debris in this photo:

Bore of a Clark Howitzer at Shiloh

Bore of a Clark Howitzer at Shiloh

All examples have defects, indications of poor casting, and general roughly handled surfaces.  This is likely due to the inexperience with bronze gun casting at the Clark foundry.

In my travels over this last year, I’ve encountered five examples of the Clark howitzers.  Two are at Shiloh.  The first (pictured in the first photo above) is on exhibit next to the 5th Company of the Louisiana Washington Artillery tablet.  The piece is paired with another 12-pdr Howitzer of Confederate origin, this one produced by S. Wolff & Company, also of New Orleans (and a story for another day).

CS Howitzers - Wolff on the left, Clark on the Right

CS Howitzers - Wolff on the left, Clark on the Right

The 5th Company was formed after the first four companies of the Louisiana Washington Artillery departed for Virginia early in the war.  The 5th served the war in the Western Theater.   With both howitzers produced in New Orleans prior to the fall of the city in 1862, there are some good odds that one or both tubes were present at Shiloh during the battle.  And there is the possibility the pieces were actually employed near the spot they now occupy during the battle.

About 300 feet away at the tablet for Stanford’s Mississippi Battery is another Clark howitzer.

Clark Howitzer at Stanford's Battery Position

Clark Howitzer at Stanford's Battery Position

Stanford’s was another long serving battery in the Western Theater, seeing action in all the major battles up to Nashville in 1864.

Moving to Virginia, a single Clark howitzer at Petersburg NBP stands on the remains of Confederate Battery No. 6, just south of the park visitor center.

Clark Howitzer at Petersburg

Clark Howitzer at Petersburg

I am unaware of any specific unit this cannon represents.   Likely it is simply an efficient use of one of the park’s quite diverse set of artillery, to depict a Confederate position.

Lastly, at Manassas NBP two Clark howitzers stand in the line of bronze cannon representing the Confederate artillery in their position opposite the Henry House on the First Manassas battlefield.  The first stands near the “…Like a Stone Wall” wayside on the Henry Hill walking trail.  The closest unit marker is one reciting various batteries assembled at that point in the battle.

Clark Howitzer at Manassas (one of two)

Clark Howitzer at Manassas (one of two)

The other howitzer stands near the Louisiana Washington Artillery Battalion marker, which means it represents in part the first four companies of the Washington Artillery.

Clark Howitzer at Manassas - Washington Artillery

Clark Howitzer at Manassas - Washington Artillery

As with those tubes at Shiloh, is it possible that this particular piece saw action at Manassas?  Well according to Harry’s Confederate order of battle, the 1st Company of the Washington Artillery brought four 12-pdrs to the battle.  But with nothing in the way of markings on either piece at Manassas, we’d be asking silent guns to speak out loud again.

So five examples of the Clark howitzers – a little something for enthusiasts from both Eastern and Western Theaters!

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Sources consulted:

Daniel, Larry J., and Riley W. Gunter.  Confederate Cannon Foundries.  Union City, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1977

Daniel, Larry J.  Cannoneers in Gray: The Field Artillery of the Army of Tennessee, 1961-1865. University of Alabama Press, 1984.

Hazlett, James C., Edwin Olmstead, and M. Hume Parks. Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War, Revised Edition. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2004.

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6 responses to “John Cark and Company Field Howitzers

  1. Dear sir , I have always been facinated with the John Clark 12 pounder field howitzer variation. Does a study in measurements exist in detail to allow a reproduction of this tube? I would be most interested in the actual deminsions . Thank you for your consideration and reply.

    sincerly, Gary Harper

    • Sorry for the late reply.

      Gary, I guess you are referring to manufacturing diagrams here. To my knowledge no such diagrams exist for the John Clark howitzers. The closest to that are some diagrams produced (usually Auto-CAD) based on the measured dimensions.

      Craig.

  2. Hello Craig,

    Thank you for your response, I do have a facination for the Clark 12pound howitzers. Is it possible the pattern he used could have been for the 1838 shorter 6 pounder gun? I believe you stated that the one you examined was slightly larger than the 1841 6 pdr gun in diam. Could the size be correct for the Clark 12pdr howitzer?
    Gary Harper

    • Gary, the dimensions are well too short to have been the whole pattern of the 6-pdr. More likely, and this has been proposed elsewhere so it is not my original thought, Clark’s casting crew lacked the full 12-pdr howitzer molds. They used the muzzle from a 12-pdr Field Gun (pre-Napoleon) instead. That said there are some form differences between Clark’s muzzle swell and the Model 1841 12-pdr gun.

      UPDATE: When I say the dimensions are too short, let me be specific – the diameter of the barrel around the chase is too narrow for the Clark howitzers to be simply rebored 6-pdr castings. If such were the case, the barrel wall would be just under 2 inches thick.

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