The largest service rifle in the Federal arsenal was the 10-inch caliber Parrott. Despite that distinction, the heaviest of the Parrott line saw limited service, confined to the Army. The Particulars for this large iron gun are on the far right column below:
The army rated the 10-inch Parrott as a 300-pdr. I’ve included a notional Navy designation of 250-pdr. Some primary sources allude to such, though the rifle saw no service with the Navy. Again, the disparity with designations was due to the different size bolts used by the services – the Navy preferring a shorter, lighter projectile. As with the other Parrotts, while primary sources offer variations, I prefer to use the bore diameter as the designation to avoid confusion and ambiguity.
A nice round number, 10-inch was also corresponded to the smoothbore 128-pdr caliber a designation seldom used on American artillery. The photo below shows a 10-inch Parrott at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina.
In profile, just a larger version of the 8-inch (one of which is in the background of the photo above) or 6.4-inch Parrotts. As with all the large Parrotts, a wrought iron band added to the plain “ordnance profile” form.
The band measured 36 inches in length, only two inches longer than the 8-inch rifle. Five-inches thick, the band added 5,540 pounds to the overall intended weight of 26,900 pounds.
The breech, like the other large Parrotts, featured a truncated cone-type breeching jaws with breech block. This fixture closely conformed with Dahlgren, as well as Brooke, weapons. Inside the block, (behind the hole for the breeching ropes) a hole allowed a fitting which engaged the elevation screw when the piece was mounted on a barbette carriage.
Still at the breech, notice the hole on the upper right of the breech band. A socket fitted there supported the rear sight. As with the other large Parrotts, the front blade sight screwed into a fixture on the right trunnion.
The 10-inch Parrott trunnions were 4.5 inches long and 10 inches in diameter. Although not stated on contemporary manuals, the 10-inch Parrott, like the 8-inch, probably used the same carriage as the 10-inch Rodman gun. However, with a rimbase face separation of 36 inches, the 10-inch Parrott required some adjustments.
The battered muzzle of this 10-inch allows basic identification. Registry number 5 appears at the upper left. The year of manufacture, 1864, on the upper right. The foundry initials “W.P.F.” for West Point Foundry appear on the right. And on the left is the recorded weight of 26,900. Worn away are the inspectors initials.
Rifling of the 10-inch Parrott increased to 15 grooves. As with other Parrotts, the rifling was rectangular, increased-gain, right-hand twist.
West Point Foundry produced forty-two 10-inch Parrotts starting in June 1863 continuing to April 1866. The first batches were bored out in the conventional production method. About half-way through production, the Army specified the use of hollow casting with water cooling, conforming to the Rodman method.
Like the other large Parrotts, the 10-inch fired solid bolts, shells, and case shot. Surviving bolts have the “bottle top” form with a broad flat top. These are 16.5 inches long and weigh 225 pounds. Shells weighed 250 pounds and measured 22 inches in length. Based on surviving examples, the 10-inch projectiles used what collectors identify as “type II” brass sabots.
During the Civil War, the 10-inch Parrotts served in the batteries bombarding Fort Sumter and Charleston, South Carolina. After the war, the Army distributed these big rifles to several seacoast fortifications, were a few remain today. Of the 42 produced, thirteen survive today. In addition to the example at Fort Moultrie pictured above, four sit at Fort Jefferson and two more at Fort Taylor in Florida.
Since the combat use of the 10-inch Parrotts overlaps the use of the 8-inch Parrotts outside Charleston, I will combine the discussions of those activities in my next “Parrott” post. Part of that will cover the story of this particular piece from the wartime photo below.
Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:
Bell, Jack. Civil War Heavy Explosive Ordnance: A Guide to Large Artillery, Projectiles, Torpedoes, and Mines. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 2003.
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.