Old Cannon – Old Scar

Another short break from the Civil War.  This time to look at a field piece which dates to the time of the Revolutionary War, and likely back to the French and Indian Wars.

Overlooking the parade field at Fort McNair, in Washington, D.C. is this British field howitzer.

McNair 10 Apr 10 050
British Field Howitzer, produced in the 1740s

The howitzer, somewhat weathered with time, displays a few marks from which to determine part of the weapon’s history.  British practice at the time required the royal monogram over the chase, that of the ordnance master over the breech, and the date of manufacture in Roman numerals on the breech ring.  The monogram on the chase is that of King George II.

McNair 10 Apr 10 052
King George II's Monogram on the Chase

Over the breech, difficult to make out, is what might be the monogram of the Duke of Montague who served as a Master-General of Ordnance from 1740 to 1749.

McNair 10 Apr 10 053
Monogram on Breech

Furthermore the Roman numerals, while weathered, on the base ring indicate the howitzer was cast in 1744.  The plaque next to the howitzer offers only a few details of the piece’s history.

McNair 10 Apr 10 049
Plaque behind Howitzer

This piece was cast in 1744 in England, the deep depression on the chase behind the right trunnion, indicates a “cannon ball hit” which probably killed the entire gun crew.

Here’s a close up of the scar:

McNair 10 Apr 10 051
Scar on Howitzer

The form of the gun tube matches that described by John Muller in his Treatise of Artillery, from 1780.  And the rather wide bore allows easy examination of the chamber.

McNair 10 Apr 10 055
Bore and Chamber

The weapon is of vintage to have seen action in the French and Indian Wars, and likely was in America at the time of the Revolution.   By the War of 1812, the British Army had largely discarded the mid-1700s ordinance in favor of newer models.  But the American army used many of these colonial-era field pieces until the 1820s.

How did the howitzer get that scar?

Was it while defending some remote frontier fortification?  Or perhaps while laying siege to a French fortification?

Perhaps while serving on the British or Continental Army gun line during one of the great battles of the Revolution?

Or was it, contrary to the plaque, a scar due to mishandling?

If only this cannon could talk.

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Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “Old Cannon – Old Scar

  1. Can someone with expertise give me information on mortars, artillery, and cannons used during the French and Indian war. Looking for the size, caliber and where the guns were made. Also the type of ammunition for these weapons used..

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