8-inch Parrott Rifle, Part 1

The next larger Parrott rifle to discuss is the 8-inch model.  As related on the table presented before, the Army and Navy had different designations for the weapon (bottom of the third data column from the left).

The Army rated the gun based on the weight of the long projectile preferred for land use.  The Navy preferred a shorter, lighter projectile to achieve higher velocities at short range.  Hence the different “pounder” designation.  To avoid confusion, I prefer to use the identification based on the bore diameter – 8-inch Parrott.  Not only a nice round number, the 8-inch diameter matched to the 64-pdr smoothbore gauge (although Americans seldom used that designation).

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8-inch Parrott Rifle - Fort Moultrie, S.C.

If you have followed the discussion of smaller Parrotts, no surprises here.  The 8-inch Parrott used the same form, which generally followed the “ordnance shape.”

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Breech Band of 8-inch Parrott

The distinctive Parrott breech band was 34 inches long and 4 inches thick.  A socket for the rear sight was on the upper right of the breech.

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Right Trunnion - 8-inch Parrott

Trunnion dimensions on the 8-inch Parrott were similar to 10-inch Columbiads and Rodman guns (and for what it is worth the 10-inch Parrotts also).  Thus the 8-inch Parrott used similar carriages.  The right trunnion rimbase supported a  mount for a blade sight.

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Bore of 8-inch Parrott

Eleven groove rifling increased in pitch from zero at the breech out to 1-in-23 feet at the muzzle.

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Muzzle Markings on 8-inch Parrott

The Muzzle markings conformed to standard Ordnance Department practice.  In this case, working clockwise from the twelve o’clock around clockwise, this gun was produced in 1864; by West Point Foundry (W.P.F.); is an “8 IN” gun; inspected by Richard Mason Hill (R.H.M.); weighed 16,487 pounds; and is registry number 56.

Yes, the 8-inch Parrott weighed nearly three and a half tons more than the smaller 6.4-inch.

West Point Foundry produced 91 of the 8-inch Parrotts for the Army and 87 for the Navy between March 1862 and July 1865.   After 1863 orders specified the use of hollow casting and water cooling production techniques.   As with the 6.4-inch Parrotts, the Army used the 8-inch rifles in seacoast forts and for siege operations, particularly around Charleston.  The Navy used the 8-inch Parrotts on pivot mounts or in monitor turrets.

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8-inch Parrott at Fort Sumter

Of those produced, only eight Army examples survive today.  A battered registry number 58 sits on display at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.   Another is on display at Trenton, New Jersey.

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The Swamp Angel in Cadwalader Park, Trenton, N.J.

Missing its band, this gun is the most famous single artillery piece of the Civil War – the “Swamp Angel.”  In a later post I will detail that weapon’s employment outside Charleston.  Before that, let me first detail some other features and discuss the use of the 8-inch Parrotts.


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.