Back in March, I described the 32-pdr seacoast guns used by the Army prior to the Civil War. The Army gradually shifted seacoast armament to the heavier columbiads during the 1850s, eventually suppressing the 32-pdrs (and 42-pdrs) on the eve of the Civil War. But quantities of the 32-pdrs, particularly the Model 1829 and 1845, remained on hand and in service. In an effort to make the most of these obsolete guns, both sides rifled some of the 32-pdrs.
Three rifled 32-pdr Model 1845 Seacoast Guns sit on display in the city of St. Augustine, Florida.
All three were originally cast by Tredegar Foundry in 1846.
The guns are registry numbers 5, 27, and 30.
They range in weight from 7204 to 7256 pounds.
All three have the same nine-groove, flat, right-hand twist rifling.
Although some rifling patterns offer hints as to the weapon’s history, in this case the pattern cannot be attributed to a specific source. And remarkably, none of the three have reinforcing bands, which also could help aid identification.
Other than the rifling, the guns conform with the Model 1845 specifications from muzzle to breech.
A plaques near the displays indicate these guns were part of the armament of Fort Marion (a.k.a. the Castillo de San Marcos) “before, during, and after the Civil War.”
But this story has several holes to fill. First off, these guns were almost certainly not rifled before the Civil War. Very unlikely that the Army would send relatively new rifled 32-pdrs to the much neglected backwater of St. Augustine (as opposed to the test ranges at Fort Monroe).
Just as unlikely that when state forces overtook the Castillo in January 1861, they would send the guns off for rifling. Not when every gun in place was a precious resource to fend off incursion by the Federal fleet. Even more unlikely that the Confederacy would later rifle the guns, then redistribute them back before the Federals retook St. Augustine in March 1862.
On the other hand, odds are rather good that Federals redistributed some of the less desirable guns, such as rifled 32-pdrs, from other forts or captured stocks, to the backwater of St. Augustine during the war.
One other 32-pdr seacoast gun is on display at St. Augustine. A battered example, missing its left trunnion sits at the water battery at the Castillo.
This gun is a smoothbore, but with no markings to indicate its manufacture or exact model. It could indeed pass for a Model 1840.
Even if the four 32-pdr seacoast guns at St. Augustine offer no great stories (that we know of), the weapons are worth examining as examples of the type.