Unlike the smaller Parrott rifled cannon used during the Civil War, the larger models – 5.3 inch, 6.4-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch – had no significant design evolutions during the course of production. The Navy used a 5.3 inch (or 60-pdr) model but did not use the 10-inch model. But the Army and Navy shared a standard pattern for both 6.4- and 8-inch models. These monsters, largest of rifles to see active service for the Federals, were designed for seacoast, garrison, and naval roles. In service, the big Parrotts punched holes in fortifications and served as deterrent against Confederate ironclads.
As the Army and Navy used different “pounder” designations for some of their guns, I opt to identify the weapons by the bore diameter to avoid confusion.
The 6.4-inch model followed the basic Parrott form. Just like the smaller weapons, it had a plain, tapered external form, generally complying with the “Ordnance shape” in profile. Over the breech was a wrought iron band.
(The Parrott shown above is on display at Fort Pulaski, Georgia. According to markings it is a Navy model. But the registry number corresponds to a gun last reported on display in Lisbon, Ohio.
Either Fort Pulaski acquired the weapon from the city, or It is a rather well done reproduction!)
The manufacturing method for these large-caliber Parrotts generally followed that of the smaller rifles. As indicated on the chart above, the 6.4-inch Parrott’s band was 22 inches long. The band was formed by coiling a hot iron bar around a mandrel, then mechanically hammering the stack to form the band. While still hot the band was slipped over the barrel. The entire assembly then cooled while being turned to prevent the hot band from sagging, and thus creating a weak point.
While the early 6.4-inch production batches were cast solid then bored in the traditional manner, later production was cast hollow. The hollow casting allowed the “Rodman” water cooling method. Some guns are thus stamped “Water Core.” (See photo from Waymarking.com)
Trunnions for the 6.4-inch rifles were technically compatible with carriages used for 8-inch Columbiads or Navy guns. However, it seems both services produced carriages specifically for the Parrotts.
While looking at the trunnions, note the markings. The Army marked the guns in the manner prescribed in the Ordnance manuals, and familiar from the smaller bore Parrotts. On the left trunnion, is “100 Pdr” and on the right, barely visible are the familiar initials of Robert P. Parrott (R.P.P.).
Muzzle markings on the Army guns conformed to standard practice. In this case, despite corrosion, registry 183 was inspected by Richard Mason Hill (R.M.H.).
Navy markings conformed to that service’s standards. On the left trunnion was a “P” for proofed along with the initials of the inspecting officer and year of manufacture. On the right were stamps for the caliber, in this case “100 Pdr” and “6.4” to avoid any ambiguity.
At the base of the reinforce band of Navy Parrotts were the foundry name (oddly in most reported weapons this is simply “R.P.P” instead of “W.P.F.”), the registry number, and recorded weight.
6.4-inch Parrott production, all from West Point Foundry, the only source for Parrotts, totaled 233 for the Army and 352 for the Navy. The Army credited the first example in October 1861, with the last credited in June 1865. Such numbers made the caliber the most prevalent heavy rifle at the end of the war. The 100-pdrs remained in the inventory for quite some time.
Today over fifty Army 6.4’s and thirty Navy examples survive. The largest grouping is at Fort Sumter, where eleven of the rifles were buried in 1898 when the fort was reconfigured for modern seacoast guns. Recovered in 1959, the collection provides a window to the past in the casemate displays at Fort Sumter.
In a later installment I will look at the operational aspects of the 6.4-inch, or if you prefer the 100-pdr, Parrott Rifles.
Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:
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.