Confederate 12-pdr Field Howitzers – Part 1, Bronze Types

While the Confederates made widespread use of any Federal 12-pdr field howitzers which came their way, several manufacturers in the South produced weapons in the class during the war.  The southern 12-pdr howitzers fit into four basic categories:

– Bronze copies of the Federal Model 1841 design, with minor deviations.  Likely Confederates chose the pattern due to simple form which eased issues when dealing with new and inexperienced gun-founders.

– Bronze types with major deviations from the Model 1841 form.

– Iron types borrowing from the Model 1841 form.

– Iron types with a clean appearance, usually with some form of reinforce over the breech.

I’ll look first at the bronze types in an overview in this post, later covering the iron types in part two.  I intend to offer detailed looks at each manufacturer and sub-type at some point in the future.

The first category is perhaps best represented by pieces produced by the Tredegar Foundry in Richmond.  In 1861-2 the foundry delivered over forty bronze field howitzer closely matching the Federal Model 1841 in size, form, and details.  One of these Tredegar bronze 12-pdr field howitzers was on display at the old Gettysburg Visitor Center on the artillery wall.   Two other Tredegar 12-pdrs help represent Trigg’s and Swett’s Batteries along Ruggles’ Line at Shiloh.  Both of these Shiloh pieces have a slot and what appears to be the weathered ghost of a sight bracket on the breech.  Otherwise the weapons conform to the Model 1841 pattern.

12-pdr Tredegar Howitzer at Trigg's Battery

Other Confederate manufacturers who copied the Model 1841 include Leeds & Co. of New Orleans; Quinby & Robinson of Memphis, Tennessee; the Washington Foundry in Richmond; Noble Brothers of Rome, Georgia; and Columbus Iron Works in Columbus, Georgia.    Two of the nine 12-pdrs produced by Leeds before New Orleans fell are cataloged as survivors.  One of which was last reported at Fredericksburg.

The Memphis foundry of Quinby & Robinson cast 42 howitzers (twelve of which were completed by other vendors after the fall of the city).  Two of these represent Bankhead’s Battery at Shiloh along Ruggles’ Line.  (Others may be seen at Gettysburg)

12-pdr Q&R Howitzers at Bankhead's Battery

Washington Foundry, Owned by W.J. Hubbard and better known for pre-war casting of bronze statues of George Washington, produced a handful of howitzers.  Hubbard sent the pieces to the firm of Sampson & Pae for finishing.  One of these rare weapons represents Rutledge’s Battery at Shiloh.  (Another is at Gettysburg)

12-pdr Washington Howitzer

The Noble Brothers howitzers are about an inch shorter than standard Model 1841.  Otherwise from a distance, these are easily mistaken for the Federal type. Receipts indicate the brothers delivered five bronze howitzers along with nine more iron types.  Two of the bronze pieces are on display at Gettysburg representing Poague’s Howitzers (along with another example from Quinby & Robinson).

12-pdr from Noble Brothers at Gettysburg

Columbus Iron Works produced at least one 12-pdr Howitzer, conforming to the Model 1841 pattern.  The weapon used metal donated by the citizens of Columbus, and bore the name “Ladies Defender.”  After capture at Shiloh, the piece ended up as a war trophy in Chicago.  Eventually the weapon was returned and is now on display in Columbus.

Prior to instructions to limit production to 12-pdr Napoleons and Parrott Rifles, Macon Arsenal had plans to produce 12-pdr Field Howitzers.  No survivors today exhibit the foundry’s stamps.  Likely any produced were later melted for Napoleon production.

Representing the second type, John Clark & Company of New Orleans delivered a number of 12-pdr Howitzers featuring a muzzle swell.  I covered these types in detail in another post.

Another New Orleans vendor, Samuel Wolff, produced three 12-pdr howitzers which also differed from the standard Model 1841 pattern.  Wolff’s howitzers feature a recess over the breech, making the piece resemble a smaller version of the 24-pdr Howitzer.  The only known survivor represents the Washington Artillery at Shiloh, along side one of the Clark 12-pdrs.

12-pdr Wolff Howitzer

Among the bronze 12-pdr Howitzers in the parks and at town memorials, a fair number of pieces defy proper identification due to a lack of markings.  Most conform to the Model 1841 form.  The absence of even a single stamp required by Federal regulations somewhat implies a Confederate origin, though obviously such cannot be confirmed. One example is an unmarked howitzer along Ruggles’ Line at Shiloh representing Swett’s Battery along side the Tredegar howitzer mentioned above.  Aside from the slightly larger fillet at the knob, the piece matches well to the battery mate.  However the patina of the unknown piece is noticeably darker.  Tradition attributes this to the melting of bells to produce guns, but may also indicate Southern foundries were adding traces of iron or lead to the bronze mix.

12-pdr Howitzer of Unknown Origin

Another piece with an unknown origin falls into the second category of bronze howitzers.  A battery mate to the Washington Foundry howitzer at Rutledge’s Battery mentioned above, the odd howitzer features a trunnion band and a rather large breech ring.

Another 12-pdr of Unknown Origin

Perhaps this weapon came from a foundry using very rough diagrams, or maybe a casting which used forms related to other bronze implements.  But this cannon is not speaking.  Only a weight stamp of “799” appears above the knob.

In summary, at the onset of the war with the Confederacy desperate for weapons of any type, officials and gun-makers often turned to the Model 1841 12-pdr Field Howitzer pattern as a conservative option.  Foundries throughout the South turned out  a respectable number of the weapons.  Today many of the survivors stand on the National Parks representing battery positions, often side by side with regulation Federal types.  Battlefield stompers should pay careful attention to markings and subtle differences in the form.

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

Daniel, Larry J., and Riley W. Gunter.  Confederate Cannon Foundries.  Union City, Tennessee: Pioneer Press, 1977

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.

Olmstead, Edwin, Wayne E. Stark, and Spencer C. Tucker. The Big Guns: Civil War Siege, Seacoast and Naval Cannon. Alexandria Bay, NY: Museum Restoration Service, 1997.

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

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