8-inch Columbiad Walkaround

In January I ran a post about the 8-inch Columbiad Model 1844 but unfortunately could only use photos of a battered example on display at Fort Sumter.

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 170
8-inch Columbiad Model 1844 at Fort Sumter

While fine for “talking” about the columbiad, the example does not do justice to the original form of the weapon.  I was in need of “walk around” photos of a less battered surviving example.

My pal Harry Smeltzer happened to spot one of these columbiads earlier this month while out looking at Prospect Cemetery in Brackinridge, Pennsylvania.

8-inch Columbiad Model 1844 at Brackinridge, PA

Note the pile of shot and the memorial in the background.   These cannon are part of a memorial display in the cemetery.  Compared to the battered Fort Sumter piece, the muzzle and chase ring are intact, allowing study.

Note also the un-battered trunnions.  These measured eight inches in diameter and 6.5 inches long.  The iron “carriage” mount appears to be a display cradle.  In service the Model 1844 used a wooden carriage – hence the long trunnions compared to later Rodman types.

Trunnion of 8-inch Columbiad

In spite of the frosty rain, the right trunnion stamp is clear –  R.P.P. for Robert P. Parrott and W.P.F. for West Point Foundry.

Muzzle of #51

Easier to read the muzzle marks.  One of these is registry number 51, inspected by Benjamin Huger (who later served the Confederacy).

Muzzle of #69

Huger also inspected registry number 69.  Harry reported the date stamps on the left trunnions were difficult to read.  From my reference books, these were included in 1855 production batches from West Point.

Breech of Model 1844

Saving the best for last, I was most impressed with the view of the breech, relatively intact after all these years.  This perspective shows the ratchet steps and split button type knob with good effect.  With a 635 pound preponderance on the breech, elevating the gun just a degree took some effort.  But imagine bringing the gun up to high elevation; firing the gun; lowering elevation to load the gun; then returning the gun back to desired elevation.

In April 1861, Confederates fired Columbiads like these two fired at Fort Sumter from the “ironclad battery” on Morris Island.  Photos taken after the bombardment confirm the presence of three Model 1844 columbiads in that battery.

On the defender’s side, Captain John G. Foster reported four 8-inch Columbiads on the barbette tier of Fort Sumter.  Four more 8-inch Columbiads sat on the parade ground, mounted as mortars to fire on Morris Island.  No good close up views of those guns were taken in the days after the fall of Fort Sumter.  (A few others may have lay unmounted in the fort.) From circumstantial evidence, likely the seven 8-inch Columbiads mounted in Fort Sumter were Model 1844.  However, with over three hundred of the type produced, the odds are against the two guns currently at Prospect Cemetery being part of the fort’s armament.

Again, thanks to Harry for the photos.  I’ll make a cannon-hunter out of him yet!

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

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