Counterfeit Parrotts: Confederate 10-pdr Production (Part 1)

Having worked in the discussion of Confederate 10-pdr Parrott rifles (2.9-inch or 3-inch bore size) now by comparing the guns on Henry Hill at Manassas, I’ll share my notes about production of the weapons.  The Confederate Parrotts were not, as indicated with the breech band construction, exacting copies of West Point (Federal) Parrotts.  Nor was Tredegar the only Confederate source for Parrotts.

The story of the Confederate 10-pdr Parrott started when the state of Virginia purchased a Parrott rifle from West Point Foundry in 1860.  This gun, tested by Thomas J. Jackson at Virginia Military Institute, prompted an order for more early production Parrott rifles (2.9-inch caliber) from West Point.  While delivery of the whole Virginia order lacks proper documentation, at least a handful of these reached the state in time to serve at Big Bethel in June 1861.

These guns came into high regard on the Confederate side, but of course West Point was not going to fill any more orders due to that whole secession thing you might have heard of.  So with the original production lot to serve as patterns and a few design diagrams, Tredegar Iron Work tried their hand at a copy of the Parrott.  Identification of the Confederate Parrott’s size alludes to the confusion over designating rifled guns.  An existing production diagram identifies the type as a 3-pdr caliber rifled gun, alluding to the old smoothbore sizing designation.  Tredegar documents label the guns as “6-pdr Parrott.”  Other documents identify the gun by the bore measure – either 2.9-inch or 3-inch Parrotts.  And many military documents refer to the guns as “10-pdr Parrotts.”

Regardless of the designation, Tredegar began production of the type in November 1861.  One of those, produced in June 1862, stands on Henry Hill at Manassas today.

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Tredegar 2.9-inch Parrott #1590

I’ve discussed in detail the breech band composition and departure from the original Parrott design.  The knob on this gun is rounded, not much different than the Federal Parrotts.  However some of the Tredegar Parrotts have flattened knobs.

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Muzzle of Tredegar #1590

Tredegar opened the muzzle swell sharper than the Federal version, but retained the front sight of the early Parrotts of this caliber.  Compare to an early Federal production Parrott on the other end of the line on Henry Hill.

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Muzzle of West Point 2.9-inch Parrott #66

Later production Federal Parrotts used off-center front sights on the right rimbase, paired with a socket mounted rear sight on the breech band.

Tredegar retained the three groove rifling for these “counterfeit” Parrotts.

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Bore of Tredegar 2.9-inch Parrott

Hard to make out with the 149 years of corrosion, but the rifling is uniform twist.  Federal Parrotts used a “gain-twist” or increasing pitch twist.

Later in the production runs, Tredegar opted for unbeveled bands.  One example which greets visitors to the Gettysburg theater has an unbeveled band.

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Tredegar 2.9-inch Parrott #2119

Tredegar produced in 1864.  While retaining the muzzle sight, this gun has a more “Federal” looking band.

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Band of Late Production Tredegar Parrott

Tredegar produced more than fifty 10-pdr Parrotts during the war.  Although a far cry shorter than the hundreds produced by West Point Foundry at the same time, still a significant showing considering the situation in Richmond.

But Tredegar was not the only source for “counterfeit” Parrott 10-pdrs.  Although I’ve not personally seen them, there are reports of 10-pdr Parrotts with markings for Macon Arsenal and Noble Brothers (Rome, Georgia).  Macon Arsenal produced over a dozen during the war, but there is scant documentation for the Noble Brothers.

Other “counterfeit” Parrotts are known only from the paper records left behind.  The firm of Bujac and Bennett of New Orleans produced roughly twenty Parrott rifles of an unknown size.

Bujac and Bennett Invoice for a Dozen Parrotts

The unit price leads me to believe these are 10-pdrs.  But further invoices indicate several of these guns failed.

Another western vendor involved with Parrotts was Street, Hungerford, and Jackson of Memphis, Tennessee.  An October 1861 invoice bills for boring and rifling of three Parrott rifles.  Such billing usually indicates the firm was simply finishing work of another company’s castings.  There is no indication as to the Parrott gun sizes or the original manufacturer.

Similarly the Vicksburg, Mississippi firm of A.B. Reading & Brother bored, rifled and banded six Parrott rifles.

A.B. Reading & Brothers Invoice

A.B. Reading produced a significant number of 3-inch bronze rifles during the war, leading me to suggest the same boring equipment produced 3-inch Parrotts in this case.

While far from just a Tredegar product, the counterfeit Parrotts still numbered less than the original Federal variety.  While many of the private vendors out west ceased deliveries as New Orleans, Memphis, and Vicksburg fell, Tredegar continued to produce Parrotts right up to the end.  Many of those later Parrotts differed significantly in external form and rifling pattern.  I will look at that variation next.

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

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

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.

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