Improved guns for the forts: Confederate 4.62-inch Banded Rifles

A few months back, I discussed the 4.62-inch “Gorgas” Rifled Siege Guns produced in 1862 by Tredegar and Bellona Foundries.  The next chapter in that story was the improvement to correct deficiencies of the design.  As mentioned in the earlier post, Tredegar tested three of the “Gorgas” guns in September 1862, with three failures.  The next logical step, on a path well blazed by other gun-makers, was to apply a reinforcing band to the guns.

Apparently, the approval to band these guns came before the September testing.  Starting in August that year, Tredegar received orders to finish guns originally cast by Bellona.  The first received banding and rifling, being delivered to the government on, or about, August 3:

A second gun received similar treatment, being accounted for on August 24:

Delivery of the second gun to “Chafin’s Bluff” [sic] is noteworthy.  In his Report of Siege Artillery in the Campaigns Against Richmond, General Henry Abbot reported capturing a “one 4.6-inch Brooke rifled gun” after the battle of Chaffin’s Farm (pages 179-181).  The gun was part of the battery on the landward side of the Confederate line.  Its  employment, I would speculate, was as counter-battery against Federal guns placed to reduce the Confederate lines.  As such, the “Brooke” is more aptly identified as a 4.62-inch Siege and Garrison Gun… with the emphasis in this case on the “garrison” role.

Tredegar banded two more of the Bellona guns in November 1862.  Then they turned to producing their own version, adding at least five more.  Photographic and other anecdotal evidence indicates one of those rifled guns went to the defenses of Port Hudson, Louisiana.  Another of these guns was reportedly among the guns captured after the battle of Cedar Creek in October 1864.  Both weapons were among the West Point trophy collection but were, unfortunately for us cannon historians, scrapped during the World Wars.

But that simply shifts attention to Tredegar foundry number 1720, which appears on a March 1863 tally:

That month a “4.62 rifle & banded gun” with that foundry number went to Hamilton, North Carolina.  The gun was earmarked for the garrison at Fort Branch defending the Roanoke River.  That gun survives today, as an artifact recovered from the river by teams working at Rainbow Bend.

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Second from left – 4.62-inch Rifle

The 4.62-inch rifle’s foundry number is clear today (thanks to careful restoration).

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Foundry Number 1720

The bore has five-groove Brooke-style rifling.

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Brooke Rifling

Tredegar’s stamps (“J.R.A.” is still very clear) appear on the right trunnion.

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Right Trunnion

On the left is the year “1863″.

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Left Trunnion Stamp

However, the gun foundry book from Tredegar indicates the gun was cast in the later half of December 1862.   So this may indicate the year of proofing.

The band, which makes this weapon different from the earlier Gorgas guns, is a wrought iron composite.

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Breech Band

Although hard to determine, the band may use the “rings” as seen on Tredegar Parrotts and larger Brook rifles.  Notice also the breech profile, which is rounded as compared to the Stony Creek, Virginia gun.

Viewed from above, the casting lines remain clear on the gun.  J.R. Anderson eschewed any machining to smooth the exteriors, which he felt was merely decorative in nature.

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Tredegar 4.62-inch Banded Rifle

The history, from foundry to fortification, of this particular gun is easy to document given the Tredegar papers.  Indeed the date the gun went to the rail yard is known.  Once in place at Fort Branch, the gun was among a sizable battery that stood in the way of any Federal advance towards the rail lines at Weldon, North Carolina.  At the end of the war, the garrison dumped this gun along with most of the others into the river.  The gun remained there until 1977 when it was recovered.  The gun was still on its carriage, which is also on display today at Fort Branch:

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Top – Carriage for 4.62-inch Rifle

Odds are, that carriage is the same accounted for in the March invoice from Tredegar.  In most respects it follows the Federal siege gun patterns.

Warren Ripley, in his Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, agreed with Abbot’s identification, tentatively calling this type of gun a “Brooke” siege rifle.  But the authors of The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast, and Naval Cannons identify these banded rifles as “Gibbon & Andrews” Siege Guns.  In my opinion, the firmest designation is simply “4.62-inch Confederate banded siege rifle.”

Regardless of the name, these Confederate pieces weighed upwards of 6000 pounds each.  Comparable contemporary Federal weapons, such as the 4.5-inch siege rifle (3,575 pounds) and the 30-pdr Parrott (4,200 pounds) weighed considerably less.  The weight difference is partially explained by the improved metalworking techniques used by the northern gun-makers.  The Federal guns could follow the Army as part of a siege train.  The Confederate weapons, however, were best left in the fortifications.

And that’s where the lone survivor of the type spent its days.

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2 responses to “Improved guns for the forts: Confederate 4.62-inch Banded Rifles

  1. Pingback: 150 years ago: Arms buildup for Vicksburg | To the Sound of the Guns

  2. Pingback: Inactivity, faulty dispositions, wasted labor: Confederate preparations on Morris Island | To the Sound of the Guns

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