The other day I mentioned this rifled gun currently resting outside the Old Powder Magazine in Charleston, South Carolina:
There is little doubt as to the weapon’s vintage. The royal monogram on the top is that of either King George II or King George III . In other words, likely a weapon that pre-dated the Revolution and therefore the United States.
The gun appears to have several bands welded together. Such was common practice among Confederate shops, both in Charleston and Richmond.
However the knob was removed from the gun, either during the alterations or later handling.
The gun’s muzzle remained unaltered.
A look down the bore shows the other alteration done by the Confederates – rifling.
I count seven grooves, but with all the deterioration that’s more of a guess. The bore is a bit larger than standard 12-pdr gauge. But that may be explained by the machining required for rifling.
Also at the Old Magazine is a similar 12-pdr that remained, at least on the exterior, unaltered.
The breech of this gun retains the knob and ring. Although proper fitting for naval use, the practice from the 18th century into the 19th century called for similar fittings on seacoast guns.
An obstruction blocks the bore. So while certainly not “banded” this gun could be “rifled” … or not.
Neither gun has trunnions. Those may have been broken off to disable the guns or damaged during handling. Since markings on the trunnions often provide additional details of the gun’s origin, that leaves a gap in the precise identification.
The guns measure around nine and a half feet long. That places them in the 34 cwt class for the caliber. While comfortable identifying Civil War artillery, I’m more of a dabbler when it comes to colonial era weapons. So I’ll save the exact designation for those who know that time period well. However, the tally of a “12-pounder old English siege (rifled)” in the list of guns at Charleston in January 1863 certainly makes this a Civil War piece. In April of that year, another report indicated one 12-pdr “Old English siege, rifled, banded” and four “Old English siege, rifled, not banded” were among the weapons deployed in the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
Apparently the Confederates found modification of these old guns acceptable. On August 15, 1863, one of the unbanded but rifled guns was sent back to the Charleston Arsenal to receive a band. At the same time a smoothbore of the same type was at the arsenal, presumably for modification. The old English 12-pdrs appear again in correspondence dated that October, with favorable mention from Colonel Ambrosio J. Gonzales:
The rifled 12-pounder gun [Major John Barnewll] mentions at Royal’s is very old, but reported as a very good gun. It is one of those long 12-pounder English siege guns, recommended by me to the commanding general to be banded, which was then approved.
So at least the artillery chief and his commander, General P.G.T. Beauregard, saw value in the old guns. At the time, the ordnance officers may have held these guns in higher esteem as they were cast using older methods. The “hot blast” techniques introduced in the 19th century left many questions about iron guns. In some eyes, the “older” guns were indeed “better”. These guns, perhaps veterans of earlier wars, were therefore selected for modification – rifling, and in some cases banding.
While not anti-ironclad guns, they were dispersed to the outer fortifications around Charleston to cover waterways and other approaches to the city. Proving once again even an old gun can have some “bite” left in it.
(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 415.)