Daily Archives: 6 November 2009

Confederate 24-pdr Howitzers

As mentioned in the posts concerning the 24-pdr Field Howitzers and Flank Howitzers, the Confederate Army also employed these weapons.  Confederate howitzers in the 24-pdr caliber fit into three categories –  Federal types acquired from arsenals in the south at the start of the war or captured on the battlefield; Examples, both bronze and iron, produced by Confederate foundries; Examples imported from foreign sources.

With the seizure of arsenals and forts, the Confederates took possession of many weapons including examples of the 24-pdr howitzers.  Captain William Maynadier, of the U.S. Army’s Ordnance Department, listed four 24-pdr flank howitzers at Fort Moultrie and five “24-pdr field howitzers, old iron” at the U.S. Arsenal in a report dated December 21, 1860 detailing weapons in the Charleston, South Carolina area (OR, Series I, Vol. 1, Serial No. 1, p. 130).  The later likely were the stubby Model 1819 type.  Presumably all nine were among the weapons turned on their former owners in the spring of 1861.  While certainly useful to defend the main batteries from land attack, likely none fired upon Fort Sumter.

Returns and dispatches from the early war period indicate the Confederates made use of the 24-pdr Howitzers acquired elsewhere.  The defenses of Fort Brown, Brownsville, Texas included a “24-pdr brass howitzer” in January 1862 based on a description from Captain H. Walke (OR, Series I, Vol. 4, Serial 4, p. 167).   A report from Major George Randolph indicated the state arsenal at Richmond, Virginia provided four 24-pdr howitzers (type unstated) on field carriages to support the defenses outside Williamsburg, Virginia (OR, Series I, Vol. 4, Serial 4, p. 638).  And there is this howitzer, mentioned earlier, captured on Morris Island outside Charleston, South Carolina:

Alger No. 11 at Washington NY

Alger No. 11 at Washington NY

Like the Federals, the Confederates continued to use the 24-pdrs in fortifications up to the end of the war.   Several 24-pdr howitzers remained in the lines around Richmond and Petersburg, and particularly in the James River forts up to the end of operations in that sector (OR, Series I, Vol. 46, Serial 96, p. 1198).  The Federals captured one 24-pdr Flank Howitzer at Fort Alexis, Alabama in April 1865 (OR, Series I, Vol. 49, Serial 103, p. 231).

At least one Confederate officer rated the 24-pdr Field Howitzer highly.  Edward P. Alexander described the employment of a 24-pdr Field Howitzer in Moody’s Madison (La.) Battery at Fredericksburg in Fighting for the Confederacy:

…we discovered that quite a little body of the enemy were lying down in a shallow depression about 400 yards from another of Moody’s 24pr. howitzers, which were my favorite guns.  Partly to make the enemy unhappy, & partly to show my companions how effective the gun was, I carefully aimed & fired four shrapnel (each of which contained 175 musket balls) so as to burst each one about 15 feet above the ground & about as many yards in front of the little hollow.  While we would not see into it, the bullets & fragment would probe it easily.  From the very first shot, we saw, at the far end, men helping three wounded to get out to the rear, but our infantry sharpshooters opened on them & ran them back.  The next day, Baldwin & Johnston visited the spot together to study the effects, & told me they found 13 dead which they were sure from the fresh wounds & blood were killed by those four shrapnel. (p. 182)

Moody’s Battery, in particular, used the 24-pdrs for much of the war, likely Model 1841 24-pdr Field Howitzers.  The Battery used two howitzers along with two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles at Antietam to good effect.  The same battery brought four of the heavy howitzers to Gettysburg.  But the experience of Moody’s Battery was the exception, as most Confederate field batteries were equipped with lighter weapons.  I have seen references to the use of Confederate 24-pdr Field Howitzers in an indirect mode both at Cold Harbor and Petersburg, but I am not familiar with primary source accounts for such.

Confederate production of the 24-pdrs reflected the dissatisfaction with the heavy howitzers.  Quinby & Robinson, of Memphis, Tennessee, produced a handful of bronze 24-pdrs.  One of which is on display at Shiloh National Military Park, representing Robertson’s Alabama Battery along Ruggles’ Line.

Ruggles bty 382

24-pdr Confederate howitzer (left) and 12-pdr Napoleon (right)

Note that Robertson’s Battery used four 12-pdr Napoleons during the battle of Shiloh, so the representation is only partially accurate, but allows for a proper comparison of the types.  Quinby & Robinson used the Federal pattern, but omitted the handles, but retained the recess over the chamber.

Recess on Q&R Howitzer

Recess on Q&R Howitzer

Only two of the Quinby & Robinson 24-pdrs exist today, and these are the only known Confederate bronze weapons in the caliber.

However records indicate both Tredegar and Bellona Foundries in Virginia produced iron 24-pdr howitzers during the war.  In the case of Bellona, two examples dated 1861 exist conforming to the Federal Flank Howitzer pattern.  Interestingly, contemporary newspaper accounts state the 1st Battery, Washington (La.) Artillery received issue of two 24-pdr iron howitzers from Bellona in the fall of 1861 while at Centreville, Virginia.  Likely Confederate authorities issued two of Bellona’s flank howitzers on modified field carriages to cover equipment shortfalls.

Tredegar, on the other hand, produced 24-pdr iron howitzers to a pattern closer to that of the Federal 1861 models.  These lacked the base, chase, and muzzle rings of the Model 1844, and had no step for the reinforce in front of the trunnions.  The Tredegar howitzers were 69 inches long overall, and retained the same trunnion size and rimbase spacing as the standard flank howitzers.  Four weapons produced averaged 1505 pounds.  These were shipped to Fort Morgan, Alabama in 1861 to reinforce the defenses of Mobile Bay.

One other Confederate gun-maker delivered a 24-pdr Howitzer.  Alvin N. Miller of Savannah, Georgia produced at least one weapon in the class, which was issued for use on the CSS Georgia.  Archeologists recovered such a weapon from the sunken wreck in the Savannah River, and it is now on display at Fort Jackson.

Fort Jackson

24-pdr Confederate Howitzer – Fort Jackson

Again, sorry for the fuzzy old 35mm photo (see the Fort Jackson page at Civil War Album for more recent photos).  But even on the poor photo, the overall form is clear.  The piece has a chase ring and a step for the reinforce, but lacks the muzzle and base ring as on Federal flank howitzers.  The breech has a rounded appearance.  The trunnions are 4.67 inches in diameter, with rimbases spaced at 13 inches – slightly more than the Federal carriage standards, but easily modified.  Regardless if it would fit such a carriage, the weapon was employed for close defense on the spar deck of the ironclad, and thus should be considered a naval weapon.

I will save the discussion of foreign 24-pdr Howitzers for my next installment.  But in summary for this post, the Confederates, much like the Federals, used the 24-pdr Howitzers without much fanfare.    Tallies of survivors and production records indicate less than a dozen weapons produced of all classes in the caliber.   Aside from Alexander’s story, the weapons served well but largely without note.

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Aside from on site notes, inline citations, 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.

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.