James Rifles, Part II – The Type 1

As mentioned in the previous post on James rifled guns, historians of artillery have defined a “true” James rifle as having a 3.80-inch diameter bore.  Charles T. James preferred that caliber for his work.  While other larger and smaller projectiles were produced, it was the 3.80-inch that best identifies the type.

Why 3.80-inch?  That bore size is odd when considering the “standard” bore diameters in use during the muzzle loading days – 6-pdr was 3.67-inch; 9-pdr was 4.2-inch, 12-pdr was 4.62-inch.  The James standard fell somewhere between a 6-pdr and a 7-pdr (3.86-inch) bore size.  And the later was not much more than a gauge for sizing, certainly not used for any issued field piece.  The only lead I have is a citation indicating the caliber was chosen as it allowed the gun-makers to ream out damaged and worn 6-pdrs and apply the rifling.  Makes sense, but implies the Army had a program in place to re-utilize and refurbish old field pieces.

Following successful trials of rifled guns, the Army did order a portion of the existing field gun stocks converted.  Later day historians have labeled this the “James Rifle, Type 1.”  All Type 1s, except one, have 15-groove rifling, 3.80-inch bore, and were either converted from or cast as Model 1841 6-pdr bronze field guns.  An example of this conversion is a field piece on display at Manassas National Battlefield Park, the southernmost of the field guns opposite Henry House Hill.

Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun Rebored to James Rifle Type 1

Model 1841 6-pdr Field Gun Bored to James Rifle

A date on the left trunnion indicates the piece was cast in 1845.  And on the left trunnion is the stamp of N.P. Ames, of Springfield, Massachusetts.  The registry number 176 and the inspector’s initials J.W.R. (John Wolfe Ripley) is on the muzzle.

Muzzle of #176

Muzzle of #176

And a closer examination of the bore shows fifteen lands and grooves.

Fifteen Grooves - Count 'em!

Fifteen Grooves - Count 'em!

Certainly positive proof that at least some of the existing field pieces were taken in hand and bored out for James 3.80-inch projectiles.  Based on the tally of 22 other similar survivors, a handful of the older production Model 1841 from Cyrus Alger and Ames were modified in this manner.   Several of those survivors were later, in the post-war, taken in hand by the War Department at Gettysburg for conversion to false Napoleons, making identification tricky for cannon hunters today!   Still figure of over 600 Model 1841 6-pdrs produced before 1861, and around 250 of those cataloged as survivors, to find only 23 means the conversion was not too common.

Slightly more common are series of James Type 1 rifles which were delivered as new production.  Both Ames and Miles Greenwood of Cincinnati, Ohio produced such after 1861.  Fittingly, on display at Manassas also, but on the north end of the Confederate gun line, is one of Greenwood’s James Type 1 rifles from their lot of 51 delivered.

Greenwood James Rifle Type 1, Registry #47

Greenwood James Rifle Type 1, Registry #47

Barely visible on the battered trunnions are the manufacturer’s “M. Greenwood” and “Cincinnati O.” circling the year of manufacture – 1861.  The same 15 groove rifling was applied.  And clear at the twelve o’clock position is the number “47.”

Muzzle of Greenwood James Type 1

Muzzle of Greenwood James Type 1

Of course when mentioning the James rifles, one must recognize that Shiloh National Battlefield Park has the largest collection.  The Ames James Type 1 below is one of seventeen examples there.

Ames James Type 1 at Shiloh

Ames James Type 1 at Shiloh

This particular piece stands in a line of guns representing Ross’s Battery at the Peach Orchard.  On the left trunnion, barely visible, is the year 1861.  Clearer on the right trunnion is the manufacturer’s stamp – Ames Co. // Founders // Chicopee, Mass. Yes, the firm’s name changed after the death of Nathan P. Ames in 1847.  Chicopee and Springfield are adjacent, so the change likely did not indicate the foundry moved, but rather the preference of the new owner James T. Ames with regard to his mailing address did.

And yet another of these James Type 1 “new production” stands outside the Antietam National Battlefield Park visitor center.  It was featured in a post by Mannie Gentile last year.

Greenwood James Type 1, Registry #69

Greenwood James Type 1, Registry #69

The tactical impact of these bronze rifles was arguably negligible.  At 4 degrees of elevation, a standard 6-pdr could fire a shell to 1200 yards and solid shot to 1500 yards.  Based on field reports from the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, the James Type 1 rifles could fire a shell to 1400 yards.  (And defying the definition of the “James System” the recorded range was using Schenkl and Hotchkiss shells, not the James type designed for the gun!)  But the rifle did offer more accuracy.  And of course there was the unsolved problem with bore erosion on the bronze guns.

Regardless , the James Type 1 saw wide service early in the war when both armies were short of gun tubes.  Even as late as Chickamauga, in 1863, Confederate reports of captured ordnance list nine James rifles, which based on the recorded weight some would logically be James Type 1.  In service  the weapon was referred to by many names to include 12-pdr, 13-pdr Rifle, and the confusing “6-pdr Bronze Gun Rifled on James System.”  Enough variation in the primary sources to drive a researcher to drink!

There are two oddities within the James Type 1 set accepted by historians.  Neither of two I can say I’ve seen first hand.  The first is an iron field gun, with the same 15 groove rifling and 3.80 bore.  This interesting piece is said to be in Newport, Rhode Island and is similar in form to several experimental smoothbores produced by Cyrus Alger in 1854.  The other is likely the one and only Confederate James, produced by Scates & Co. of Mobile, Alabama in 1861.   It was reported in Ridgefield, New Jersey.  And it conforms to the dimensions and form of the Federal bronze James Type 1, to include the Model 1841 exterior lines.

In conclusion, the James Rifle, Type 1 was a derivative type matching the new technology with existing gun forms.  The type served to transition the armies, using existing stockpiles and production tooling, until the more advanced designs using iron, with cleaner lines, and advanced construction techniques were available.  At a time when artillery pieces were desperately needed, these were at least serviceable options.

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Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

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.

Muller, John.  A Treatise of Artillery.  Reprint of the 1780 edition.  Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1977.  (Used to reference the standard artillery bore sizes.)

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

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8 responses to “James Rifles, Part II – The Type 1

  1. Just visited Manassas this past weekend and left wondering about the Six Pounder rifles when I noted the composition of one of the rebel batteries listed one of these guns. I was told long ago the rifling was post-war, and the “fake” Napoleons at Gettysburg only added more confusion! Thanks for clearing this up.

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  6. Thanks Craig…great research and a real help in answering some questions I have for accurately portraying the guns atop Henry House Hill.

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