Continuing with my survey of guns used at Fort Sumter in April 1861, let me move down the scale to the 24-pdr Siege and Garrison Gun. Yesterday’s trip to Fort Washington, Maryland allowed me to re-examine one of these gun again.
24-pdr Siege Gun at Fort Washington
The 24-pdr class dated back to the American Revolution, but became the favored heavy-caliber in the American Army for several of the early decades of the nation’s existence. Regulations of 1819 cited the 24-pdr as a multipurpose seacoast, siege, and garrison gun. While modern readers would simply consider these “guns in forts,” the roles carried some distinction in the 19th century. Seacoast guns defended coastlines and harbors from enemy ships. Siege guns performed offensive battering of enemy fortifications. Garrison guns mounted in the forts countered enemy siege operations. But in 1819, the Army felt one pattern of gun satisfied the needs of all three roles.
Designated Model of 1819 (retroactively I might add), the 24-pdr pattern called for a weapon 124 inches long, weighing 5790 pounds. The bore was 5.82-inches in diameter.
24-pdr Siege Gun, West Point #89
The 24-pdr Model 1819 conformed to exterior patterns of the time. The knob sat on top of a breech which had the form of a flattened cone.
Breech Profile of 24-pdr Gun
After a two inch wide base ring, the reinforce gradually tapered down to a shoulder about five inches past the trunnions. Overall the reinforce ran 57 inches from the base ring.
Trunnions of 24-pdr Siege Gun
The chase tapered out to a rather abrupt muzzle swell. The muzzle featured a flat lip facing, instead of blended sweeps. The molding looks more like a fillet than any of the other molding structures used on cannons.
Muzzle Face of 24-pdr Siege Gun
Production of the 24-pdr guns started in 1820. Bellona Foundry delivered 258 by 1839. Columbia Foundry, in Washington, D.C., produced 321, but received credit for 311 between 1825 and 1840. Fort Pitt Foundry, in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, received orders for 195 but received credit for 190 produced from 1825 to 1839. The Army credited West Point Foundry with 366 of the guns in 1825 to 1839. All told the Army received 1,125 of these guns.
Just like the heavier guns, the 24-pdr fired a variety of projectiles. By regulations in 1862, the particulars for those projectiles were:
- Solid shot 5.68 inches in diameter (0.14 inch windage), weighing 24.3 pounds.
- Shell weighing 16.8 pounds which could contain up to a pound of powder (although bursting charge was slightly less).
- Case shot weighing 12 pounds empty or 22.75 pounds when loaded. Containing 175 musket balls and a six ounce bursting charge. (Gibbon, Appendix 35)
- Grape-shot used nine balls of 2.6-inch diameter weighing 2.4 pounds each.
- canister round weighing 29 pounds filled with twenty-seven 1.85-inch diameter, 0.86-pound cast iron balls.
With such a long service life, other projectile types appeared but those listed are the common types used by the time of the Civil War.
The 1862 Ordnance manual credited the 24-pdr siege gun with a maximum of 1901 yards at 5 degrees of elevation.
Notice the designation of “siege and garrison gun” on the table. After the 1830s, the manuals only referred to the larger 32- and 42-pdrs as seacoast guns. Yet, the 24-pdrs remained in the seacoast forts, presumably pending replacement by larger types. And large numbers of the 24-pdrs remained in the Army’s siege park inventory.
Although the most prevalent, the Model 1819 was not the only 24-pdr gun purchased by the Army. In 1839 the Army ordered from Columbia foundry a single 32-pdr gun bored to 24-pdr caliber, for experimental tests. In the same year, the Army ordered single 24-pdr “new pattern” guns from both Columbia and West Point. And in 1841 West Point produced a small batch, likely just three, of 24-pdr guns of Model 1840. The Model 1840 retained the same basic dimensions of the Model 1819, but incorporated a cylindrical first reinforce, akin to the larger guns produced at the same time.
Starting in 1845, the Army ordered small batches of 24-pdrs conforming to “pattern of 1845.” Cyrus Alger of Boston provided 20. Tredegar produced fifteen (and perhaps more for state orders). West Point added 31 more. The Model 1845 featured the two reinforce pattern, a more streamlined muzzle swell, a chase ring, and a raised lockpiece block over the vent. Four guns conforming in dimensions to that type also sit at Fort Washington (but lacking marks and exhibiting some casting flaws, these may be reproductions).
Possible 24-pdr Model 1845 Guns at Fort Washington
The 24-pdr siege guns not only appeared at Fort Sumter at the start of the war, but soldiered on through the war in several roles. A battery of 24-pdrs formed on Grant’s last line at Pittsburg Landing on April 6, 1862. And 24-pdrs fired into Vicksburg the following year during that siege. The guns also appear in the armament of the Washington defensive forts. Both Federals and Confederates rifled 24-pdrs to extend their usefulness. Rifled “James” 24-pdrs, for example, fired at Fort Pulaski.
Seventy-three of the Model 1819 and at least fifteen of the Model 1845 (more if the guns pictured above are originals) survive today. Perhaps the most interesting display of a 24-pdr gun is this example at Fort Moultrie.
24-pdr Gun on a Gin at Fort Moultrie
On blocks below a garrison gun gin, the 24-pdr demonstrates the equipment used to handle a gun onto a carriage. Consider that 150 years ago at Fort Sumter and the various positions ringing Charleston harbor laborers and gun crews handled the heavy ordnance using equipment just like this. All in preparation, but perhaps hoping to avoid, the commencement of hostilities.
Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:
Ordnance Manual for Use of the Officers of the United States Army. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1862. (Google Books copy)
Bell, Jack. Civil War Heavy Explosive Ordnance: A Guide to Large Artillery, Projectiles, Torpedoes, and Mines. Denton, Texas: University of North Texas Press, 2003.
Birkhimer, William, Historical Sketch of the Organization, Administration, Material and Tactics of the Artillery, United States Army. Washington: James J. Chapman, 1884. Particularly pages 275-9 discussing the evolution of the American systems of artillery.
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.