The “Western” Napoleon

Continuing with the theme of artillery displays at Petersburg and adding to the discussion of Napoleons, just outside the visitor center is a 12-pdr Field Gun Model 1857 “modified” which stands apart from the usual lot.  Napoleons were made by five manufacturers during the war.  Most of these were from Massachusetts, (and all but one in Boston) – Cyrus Alger, Ames  Manufacturing of Chicopee, Henry N. Hooper, and Revere Copper.  The “odd ball” in the set was Miles Greenwood of Cincinnati, Ohio.

A Greenwood Napoleon
A Greenwood Napoleon

At first glance, this is a plain old “late model” Napoleon (without handles of course!).  But the markings stand out as decidedly different.

Greenwood Muzzle Markings
Greenwood Muzzle Markings

These read “M.G. Cin. O 1862 // J.R.E. 8 1215 lbs.”  Translated “M.G. Cin. O” is for Miles Greenwood, Cincinnati, Ohio.  “1862” is of course the year produced.  “J.R.E” are the initials of John Rufus Edie, the inspecting officer.   The number 8 is the registry number assigned (sort of the serial number).  And of course 1215 lbs. indicates the weight.   Note the format – <manufacture> <year> // <inspector> <registry number> <weight>.

Compare the muzzle markings from this piece to that of another:

Revere Cooper Napoleon at Chancellorsville
Revere Cooper Napoleon at Chancellorsville

A bit weathered but it reads “No. 345 Revere Copper Co. 1239 lbs // T.J.R. 1863”  Translated it shows a registry number of 345, produced by Revere Copper Co., weighing 1239 lbs.  It was inspected by Thomas Jackson Rodman (my hero) in 1863.  So a slight difference here in the format – <registry number> <manufacturer> <weight> // <inspector> <year>

Now I have no idea what “font” these stampings are in, but clearly the the Greenwood markings are over sized and, for lack of a better word, thin.   Really contrasting here is the “Revere Copper” marking which is always in a small typeset (the other Bostonian foundries used initials and larger type).

The trunnions also bear the mark of the manufacturer.

Greenwood Trunions
Greenwood Trunnions

A little hard to make out with the weathering of time.  But the stamp “1862” is clear in the center.  In a half-circle over the top is “M. Greenwood”, matched by a similar half-circle “Cincinnati O”.  Most of the eastern made Napoleons lack trunnion markings.   Instructions were issued in 1861 to simplify markings, as the Ordnance Department preferred all marks on the muzzle.  Clearly the memo didn’t get out to Cincinnati until some time later.  However faint traces of a rimbase number (the foundry’s internal sequence number) match the location of other Napoleons.

One other marking 0f note, the “U.S.” reception marking over the top of the barrel for the Greenwood Napoleon is about 1 1/4 inch tall and very simple.  Interestingly, each manufacturer appears to have used a distinct style and size of  reception markings.  In some cases with badly weathered muzzles, those reception marks are the only clues to the piece’s origin.

Ok, none of this impacts performance in the slightest, you say.  Stampings won’t effect performance or interchange of the weapons.  Yes, but if you look at the breech, something on the working end does bring up a compatibility issue:

Breech of Greenwood Napoleon
Breech of Greenwood Napoleon

Notice the clean sloping from the reinforce to the breech face.  No angles, no “fixtures.”  The hausse seat, the bracket for the pendulum hausse, is “fitted” to conform to that curve.

Hausse Seat - Revere Copper No. 218<br>Winchester, Va.
Hausse Seat - Revere Copper No. 218 Winchester, Va.

Looking at this example of a Revere Copper produced Napoleon, currently in downtown Winchester, Virginia, clear is a “mounting tab” to which the hausse seat is fixed.  This tab is a feature from the casting, not welded or bolted on after the fact.  And it is a right angle off the reinforce and breech face.

Why is this a big deal?  Well that darned hausse seat is a fairly easy thing to bend or damage in a field environment.  It is also a single point of failure for the gun.  Without it, a gunner cannot properly use the pendulum hausse to sight the piece.  Sort of like having a gun with the rear sights ripped off.  Imagine if you were the poor fellow charged with upkeep of these fine weapons.  If your battery has a mix of Greenwoods and Napoleons from other sources, you’d have to have a box of both types of hausse seats.  Or, as can be seen on some “westernized” Napoleons found at Chickamauga, you might just file off that mounting tab to make a “Boston” gun compatible with a hausse seat for a “Cincinnati” piece.

Before closing, let me pass along some general notes about Miles Greenwood’s foundry.  The factory was actually listed as Eagle Iron Works, but delivered only bronze field pieces as far as I know.  Greenwood delivered four main types of artillery – 6 pdr Model 1841 Field Guns, 12pdr Model 1841 Field Howitzers, 12-pdr Model 1857 Field Guns (Napoleons), and 14-pdr James Rifles.  Of the later, there were at least three variations of rifling, and some examples even retained the 3.67 in. bore, as opposed to the normal 3.8 in. bore of a James Rifle.

In closing, next time you see an old Napoleon on the battlefield or at a town square, be sure to take a close look at it.  You might find some interesting markings or fixtures that help tell the old gun’s story.

6 thoughts on “The “Western” Napoleon

  1. For anyone who read this post earlier in the morning, I had to work some revisions. This started out as a disconnected set of notes and the “glue” was not setting properly! So I revised the text a bit. Sorry for any confusion. Cut and paste is both an enabler and pitfall!

  2. Where in Cincinnati was the Gatlin gun made? I am somewhat familiar with the Cincinnati area.

    Dale Richey,

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