Noble Brothers 12-pdr Field Howitzers

Back when I summarized Confederate 12-pounder field howitzer production, I mentioned Noble Brothers & Company from Rome, Georgia.  As noted in a post a few weeks back, Noble Brothers produced a handful of cast iron 12-pdr howitzers (of which two examples might be the only survivors).  The firm also produced, according to records, five bronze 12-pdr field howitzers.  Of four cataloged survivors, two sit today along Confederate Avenue at Gettysburg, representing Poague’s Howitzers.

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Poague's Howitzers

Poague’s Howitzers does not reference a normal tactical formation, but rather the temporary grouping of 12-pdr howitzers from several batteries at Gettysburg.  Since the howitzers lacked the range to offer support for Confederate offensive maneuvers, Poague’s Battalion, supporting Pender’s Division in Hill’s Corps, detached howitzers from several batteries to serve as a reserve.  These cannon provided little to the battle, but traces of the lunettes built for the howitzers remain on the field to this day.

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Noble Brothers 12-pdr Bronze Howitzer - The "September 1862" Piece

As mentioned before, the Noble Brothers’ 12-pdr howitzers were about an inch shorter than the regulation Federal Model 1841.  The Noble howitzers were also lighter as a result.

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Muzzle of Noble Brothers Howitzer

Externally, one easy distinguishing feature is the size of the chase band.  Compared to the regulation Model 1841 howitzer, Noble Brothers featured a wider chase ring and a thicker muzzle ring about a quarter-inch back from the muzzle face.  Noble Brothers also dispensed with the fillets around the muzzle ring. Note the differences between the muzzle profile above and that of a regulation Model 1841 below  – an Ames produced example, also representing Poague’s Howitzers.

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Model 1841 12-pdr Muzzle

But be warned, Quinby & Robinson, of Memphis, Tennessee, also produced howitzers with somewhat similar muzzle variations.  One of their makes is also among “Poague’s Howitzers” today.

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Breech of Noble Brothers Howitzer

On the breech, the Georgia-based foundry used a thicker fillet for the knob, similar to that seen on the iron howitzers.  Unlike the tentatively attributed iron model, the knob of the bronze howitzers lack the flat face.  Otherwise Noble Brothers conformed to the standards set for standard 12-pdr howitzers.

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Right Trunnion Markings

Markings on the right trunnion confirm the origin of the howitzers – “Noble Brothers & Co.”  and “Rome GA.”

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Left Trunnion with Date

On the left trunnion, Noble Brothers stamped the month and year of manufacture.  In this case December 1862.  The other Noble Brothers howitzer at the display shows September of the same year.

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The "December 1862" Noble Brothers Howitzer

While fitting to have Confederate manufactured howitzers displayed where Grey-clad artillery-men occupied the field of battle, likely the Noble Brothers’ pieces saw service in the western theater.  A report from Captain O.T. Gibbes, ordnance officer for the Army of Tennessee, noted one “12-pounder bronze howitzer, with carriage and limber, Rome, Ga., Noble & Bro., 1862.” in his tally of stores captured at the battle of Chickamauga (OR, Series I, Volume 30, Part II, Serial 51, page 41).  This implies that Federals had captured the piece in earlier actions, and gave up the howitzer in the September 1863 battle.  Potentially an interesting story, should sources ever emerge offering a paper trail of the howitzer and positive identification.

The Noble Brothers (there were six at the foundry) themselves also offer a potentially interesting story.  The facility delivered a respectable 58 field pieces between April 1861 and October 1862 for Confederate contracts.  However, the facility ceased making cannon in the fall of 1862.  The brothers had several disputes with Confederate ordnance officials.  That, along with some unionist sentiment among the brothers, contributed to a reluctance on the part of Confederate officials to issue more contracts.  In 1863 the Confederate government confiscated some of the company’s equipment.  After the war, the Nobles rebuilt and prospered again.

So two rare field pieces produced by an interesting vendor from the state of Georgia.  If only those cannon could talk!


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.