James Rifles, Part IV – The Type 3

The previously mentioned “True James Rifles,” Type 1 and Type 2 shared, beyond a common bore size, bronze construction.  Both types also saw active service during the first half of the war.  However, such was not the case with the Type 3 (again a designation imposed by historians to classify the type, but not a contemporary nomenclature).   The James Rifle Type 3 was constructed of cast steel (although the lack of weathering may indicate the use of wrought iron) and was only an experimental type as far as can be determined.

The authors of “Field Artillery Weapons of the Civil War” point out the Type 3 is tied to an experimental batch of guns indicated on a purchase order of February 15, 1863.  The order called for six bronze 14-pdr rifles, six bronze rifled Napoleons, and six cast steel rifles from Ames Manufacturing Company.  The six 14-pdrs were probably the last batch of James Type 2, Series 4 produced.  The six rifled Napoleons have been discussed in another blog post.  That leaves the six weapons described as cast steel.  Collectively the six weighed 5,581 pounds, or a shade over 930 pounds each.  No other details are known from the documentary evidence.

With no leads, historians have never definitively identified examples of this type.   But speculation has centered on three weapons on display at Shiloh National Military Park.  Two of the three represent Terrill’s Battery (Battery H, 5th U.S. Artillery) just south of the Sunken Road line, at a second day fighting position.

Terrill's Battery Position
Terrill's Battery Position (Second Day, 2nd Position)

Neither weapon has any markings to note.  But the form is the familiar Ordnance Shape of 1861.  The form, fittings, and rifling all indicate these weapons are James Rifles.

James Type 3 Profile
James Type 3 Profile

Yes, these feature a unique trunnion band instead of the conventional rimbase attachment.  This type of mounting, while uncommon among American guns, was used on Blakely, Whitworth, and Armstrong guns imported from England during the war.  In most cases, the trunnion band was used where the gun tube was produced with a composite construction, particularly early steel weapons.  The presence of the trunnion band caused many historians to identify these pieces on display at Shiloh as Blakely Rifles (Warren Ripley tentatively labeled it the Blakely Type 8 in his tally).

Trunnion Band on James Type 3
Trunnion Band on James Type 3

Blakely guns often used hook-slant rifling.  However where the English gun-maker used flat lands and grooves, Blakely preferred seven grooves.

Seven Groove Blakely Rifling
Seven Groove Blakely Rifling

These two guns have ten flat lands and grooves, very much like that used on the Type 3, Series 2,3,4 Bronze James Rifles.  My measurements indicate the bore is about 3.78-inches between the lands (raised portion), clearly putting the projectile size in line with the preferred “true James” types.

Bore of James Type 3
Bore of James Type 3

At the breech are the familiar slot and retaining screw socket for a James tangent sight. However, no front sight arrangement is apparent.

Sight Mounts for James Type 3
Sight Mounts for James Type 3

Perhaps the sight sockets are the best evidence for these pieces’ identification as James Rifles.  However the profile of the breech also indicates some commonality in form with the James Type 2.

James Type 3 Breech Profile
James Type 3 Breech Profile

The knob and neck form match closely that used on the bronze pieces from Ames Manufacturing.  The logical presumption is these were all Ames products using either the same set of molds or lathe patterns.

I’d stress the lathe pattern presumption a bit.  The guns on display at Terrill’s Battery have the same level of weathering seen on the familiar 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.  Such implies the weapon was produced with a wrought iron technique (and then turned down on the lathe).  At the same time, one would expect “cast steel” as indicated on the invoice cited above would not stand up to 100 plus years of exposure outdoors at Shiloh.  Thus these weapons might be cast iron, cast steel, or wrought iron.  Presumably the trunnion band was of different construction and slipped on while hot and “sweated” on.  The only way to tell for sure would be destructive testing, which I would not recommend.

Thus the look at the “True James” Rifles ends with a speculative footnote.  The preponderance of physical evidence shows the weapons flanking Terrill’s tablet at Shiloh are indeed James Rifles, showing lines in common with contemporary Ames products.  However with no summary of the testing or notations, the assumption must be these types offered no advantage over existing 3-inch Ordnance Rifles, 10-pdr Parrott Rifles or 20-pdr Parrott Rifles (whose caliber the James Rifles is closest in size).


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

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.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

5 thoughts on “James Rifles, Part IV – The Type 3

  1. Please help. Where is the Blakely tube you used for your comparison of rifling with the James rifling? We’ve been working on a “Blakely” here (but made by Fawcett Preston). It is #136 and we have its sister #138 from the Roanoke River at Fort Branch.


    • What are the markings on it? We’re trying to track a shipment that came in prior to 1863, almost certainly via Wilmington. #136 and #138 were in the same order (#66-April 62) but we don’t know what ship. Because these two guns have definite NC connections, we suspect they came in (with 137 and 139) at Wilmington.

    • The registry numbers are their original factory serial numbers or the NPS/Fed Gov’t numbers? The rule of thumb for the western battlefields is that those guns came from the ANV or AoP whilst most of the eastern battlefields have AoT and the western Union armies.

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