Gunades

A direct relative of the carronade was the the gunade (or gunnade in some contemporary accounts).  The history of the gunade is not documented to the degree of the carronade.  And to be fair, the term “gunade” took on a broader definition over time, further confusing any formal definition from a historical standpoint.  The name is noted by some as a cross between “gun” and “carronade” alluding to the “gunade” as a mix of qualities from both types.  For purposes of discussion here, I will restrict scope to carronade-like naval artillery which featured trunnions instead of underloops.

Much as carronades, gunades spawned from requirements for light-weight, easily handled weapons to arm merchant ships.  All indications are the gunade evolved from the carronade, or at least in parallel.  As noted above, the major distinguishing feature on gunades was the trunnions.

Why trunnions?  Generally trunnions offer better angles for sighting, depression, and elevation.  And the weapon, sited on its mount, stood shorter.  (The later point I derive from one source, an article in The Canadian Monthly and National Review, titled “The Royal Navy,” dated 1878. And while it makes perfect sense, is not documented in pre-Civil War instructions, so I consider it “secondary” pending other discoveries.)   Some gunades apparently used quoins for elevation, while others used an elevating screw through the knob like the carronades.   Sketches of gunade mountings show a sled with high “cheeks” supporting the trunnions.

Regardless of the reason for trunnions, gunades appeared on merchant ships and saw limited military use.  Accounts note gunades in 6-, 12-, 18-, 24-, and 32-pdr sizes.  But most common were the lighter models.   Nothing close to a standardized form appeared.  And very little, either markings or written records, indicate who produced gunades.  Most appear to be of English origin, however Denmark and Sweeden produced gunades.  There is some indication of American manufacture.   And as with carronades, all known gunades are iron.

Two of these “unknown” gunades is are on display at the Fort Leslie J. McNair, in Washington, D.C.

Gunade at Fort McNair

This example, and its companion, are basically 12-pdr class.  Notice the form very similar to the carronade shown in my previous post.  The trunnions are low mounted, below the bore centerline.  I cannot speak definitively about the caliber, as the bore of one is very rusty and the other is plugged.

Bore of Gunade

Notice the lip, or pan, at the muzzle, very much like the carronade discussed earlier.

Ring and Open Knob

This particular piece featured a ring over the knob for breeching tackle, and a flat knob, with a hole for an elevating screw.

"Plugged" Gunade at Ft. McNair

Second Gunade at Ft. McNair

These gunades feature sighting brackets over the trunnions and just short of the muzzle.

Other surviving gunades are displayed in the West Point collection and at Fort Ticonderoga, both in New York.  None conform to any single standard form.

The U.S. Navy acquired many gunades around the time of the War of 1812.  Given the shortage of proper, military-specification ordnance, no doubt naval officers issued what they could lay their hands on.   Gunades found their way onto frigates and other warships, placed on the upper works, mounted as field pieces for landing parties, or as boat guns.   But like the the carronades, by the 1840s, the Navy had placed its gunades in storage, opting for more modern weapons to fill those roles.

To my knowledge, neither side used gunades in the Civil War.  As such, the main interest for those studying artillery of the Civil War era is the evolutionary step the gunade represented in naval ordnance.  When John Dahlgren began designing his boat howitzer system in the late 1840s, he considered and reviewed both carronades and gunades, among other weapons.  Since both types had seen service as boat armament, and possessed some useful qualities, Dahlgren had a proper starting point.

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

Chapelle, Howard I.  The History of the American Sailing Navy:  The Ships and Their Development.  New York:  Konecky & Konecky, 1949.

Tucker, Spencer.  Arming the Fleet:  U.S. Navy Ordnance in the Muzzle-Loading Era.  Annapolis, Maryland:  Naval Institute Press, 1989.

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2 responses to “Gunades

  1. Mark
    Interesting coverage of the gunade. There are quite a few in NZ, and I would be interested to compare notes. What for instance is the length of the pieces (muzzle to base ring) of the two 12pr at Fort Leslie J. McNair?
    Cheers
    Peter Cooke
    Defence of NZ Study Group