A Clevis for the Parrott

In earlier posts on the Army’s and Navy’s use of the 20-pdr Parrott (or 3.76-inch rifle as I prefer), I mentioned the existence of guns originally cast for Army orders, but modified for Navy use.  Gettysburg boasts three guns which received those modifications.  A visit on Sunday allowed me to view each close up.

On Benner’s Hill, a 20-pdr Parrott represents Graham’s Battery of Dance’s Battalion.

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20-pdr Navy Parrott at Graham's Battery, Benner's Hill

The modification consisted of a “U” shaped clevis attached to the knob, and anchored with a bolt passing through the knob.  The slot cut into the knob and breech face for the clevis measured 2 inches in width.

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Measure of Clevis Slot Width

And the length from the base of the cut in the breech to the end of the knob measured 4 1/2 inches.

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Length of Clevis Slot

And if the cuts in the knob were not enough to identify this gun as “Navy,” look to the markings on and over the breech.

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Breech Markings

Unlike Army regulations, the Navy opted to inscribe the particulars on the breech instead of the muzzle.  However the layout of these markings is a bit different from other Navy Parrotts, having the registry and weight on the breech itself instead of the band. Note also the dual vents, which was a practice at the time with the Navy.  In practice the ordnance crews filled one of the vents with a zinc or other dense, but soft, metal.  The second vent might be used if the primary was obstructed, enlarged, or otherwise unserviceable.

Right trunnion marks conform to Navy standards, indicating both the pounder designation and caliber in inches.

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Right Trunnion Marks

On the left is the date.  The letter “P” verified completion of the proofing by ordnance officers.

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Left Trunnion Marks

But what did the gun look like with the clevis attached?  Well Gettysburg has two other Navy modifications to Army Parrotts.  Unfortunately both are undergoing preparations before remounting on field displays. The guns sit on the rails at the park maintenance facility.   On Sunday, one of the staff permitted me to photograph the guns close up.

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Parrotts on the Rails

A side view of the breech shows the full length of the clevis, nearly double that of the knob.  A breeching rope ran through the clevis to aid crews handling the gun on deck.

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Side View of Clevis

And note the bolt running through the knob.   The piercing for the bolt appears on most 20-pdr Parrotts produced for the Army after mid-1862.  While not documented, likely West Point Foundry adopted the practice to facilitate rapid substitution of guns cast for Army orders when the Navy came calling.

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Details of Breeching Clevis

The two guns on the rails also have dual vents.

While the clevis attachment modification did not alter the gun’s performance, the fixture provides a unique “source” for historians.  In the early days of the war, when guns were in short supply, the Navy accepted weapons intended for Army use.  Designed for different mountings, the Navy applied modifications to the guns for compatibility with shipboard installations.  Without the clevis to hold the breeching rope, crews would end up fighting a “loose cannon” on deck!

Jury rig applied (or to use a modern reference – thus MacGyvered) the guns served on Naval vessels through the war.


Aside from on site notes and links provided above, sources consulted for this post were:

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.

Ripley, Warren. Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, 4th Edition. Charleston, S.C.: The Battery Press, 1984.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

One thought on “A Clevis for the Parrott

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