Bands on the Guns: Southern Rifled-Banded 42pdrs

Normally I start out discussing the background, manufacture, and history of a particular cannon type, and offer one of my charts to back up the particulars.  In this case, let me start out with some photos to establish the presence of a “family resemblance.”

Start with banded 42-pdr at Fort Sumter.

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 312

Banded 42-pdr at Fort Sumter

This weathered piece came to was part of the fort’s armament during the Confederate’s defense of Fort Sumter.  The muzzle moldings and chase ring indicate this is a Model 1840 or 1845 pattern gun.  Most likely the later. No markings allow positive identification, but the rifling and banding were certainly done under Confederate contracts.

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 154

Bore of Fort Sumter Gun

The bore reveals only traces of rifling.  Look to the three- and nine-o’clock positions.  There are broken ridge lines there, with a contour similar to that seen on Brooke rifles.  If the spacing is correct, there are seven grooves there.

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 314

Band of Fort Sumter Gun

The band is much larger in proportion to the gun than Federal Parrott bands.  Indeed the band extends to the base ring, fully covering all but the breech face.  At the front of the band is a bevel, of the type seen on Confederate Parrott rifles.

Now let me move to a gun on display in Richmond, Virginia outside the Confederate Memorial Chapel.

26 Feb 11 098

Banded and Rifled 42-pdr in Richmond

A storm brought this gun and a similar weapon to the surface.  Note the muzzle, which lacks any swell, giving the appearance of a “single banded Brooke” at first glance.  Speculation says this gun was intended for use on ironclads, and Confederates turned off the swell in order to fit firing ports.  In any case, the gun came from Fort Sumter and likely was part of the Confederate armament there at the end of the war.  Note the reinforcing band.

26 Feb 11 099

Band of Richmond Gun

Again, longer than Federal Parrotts and with a bevel on the front edge.  Seams appear where the rings for the band were butt welded.  Such practice, while used by vendors around the world, was widely used by southern vendors.

26 Feb 11 109

Bore of Richmond Gun

And a look down the bore reveals, like at the Fort Sumter gun, faint traces of rifling.  And again, similar to that seen on Brooke rifled guns.

What of the similar weapon found with the Richmond gun?  Today it sits on the courthouse lawn in Kingwood, West Virginia.

Kingwood 24 Jul 10 351

Banded 42-pdr Seacoast Gun in Kingwood

The Kingwood gun uses the same pattern as the Model 1845 guns.  But markings indicate this weapon is not “Federal.”  Cast in 1861 by Tredegar, this is the only surviving example of Confederate 42-pdr production.  As such, I’ll take up a detailed examination in another post.  But a look down the bore provides no trace of rifling.

Kingwood 24 Jul 10 355

Bore of Kingwood Gun - Close Up

I’ll save you the “down the bore” photo, with a lot of trash.  Instead look closely at the edges of the bore.  Are those deteriorated rifling grooves?  You make the call.  Most sources cite this gun as a banded smoothbore.  And banded it is.

Kingwood 24 Jul 10 362

Band of Kingwood Gun

Again, we see a beveled front.  The rear contours more with the breech.  And also markings on the band indicate the firm that did the banding.

Kingwood 24 Jul 10 358

Markings on Breech

“J.M.E. Bro.” which identifies the firm of Eason Brothers (James M. Eason, owner) of Charleston, South Carolina.   (The number below the band is the weight stamp of 8449 pounds.)  The Citizens Files on Eason are full of contracts for banding and rifling of guns.  And the firm produced large quantities of shot and shell for rifled 42-pdrs.

So three guns with direct ties to Fort Sumter.  The last of the three with markings to indicate a Charleston, South Carolina vendor made the modifications.  How about a fourth?

McNair 10 Apr 10 157

Banded and Rifled 42-pdr at Fort McNair

Behind the National War College building on Fort McNair in Washington, D.C. is this example.  West Point Foundry cast this gun in 1856.  The band, as the others above, has a bevel on the front.

McNair 10 Apr 10 158

Band of Fort McNair Gun

The seams of the rings that helped form the band are clear.

McNair 10 Apr 10 161

Bore of Fort McNair Gun

And rifling is more distinct, although still eroded.

Accounts of Fort Sumter’s late-war armament and post-war Army inventories mention four banded (if not also rifled) 42-pdrs.*  The first three have well known ties to Fort Sumter.  Is the Fort McNair gun a trophy brought north from Fort Sumter?  Could be. If so, I’ve no records to confirm.

The physical attributes of these guns argues for a common source for the banding (and in at least three cases rifling).  The mark on the Kingwood gun points to Eason in Charleston.  Finally three of the four are definitely Fort Sumter guns.

All add up to another Confederate wartime expediency. The southerners modified otherwise obsolete 42-pdr smoothbores for use against Federal ships and fortifications.  In line with my study, these four similar guns indicate some standardization of the process.  While not a definitive model number, this does allow attribution as “42-pdr Model 1845 Seacoast Guns, banded (and rifled) by Confederates.”

————————————————–

Notes:

*  An unpublished report by Mike Ryan, titled The Historic Guns of Forts Sumter and Moultrie, from 1997, details the existence of the 42-pdrs (pages 75-83).  While Mr. Ryan considers the Kingwood gun a smoothbore, I leave that open for investigation.  Further, Mr. Ryan states the McNair gun is a smoothbore, which clearly it is not.

About these ads